by Mason Kupiainen
The past few weeks have affected the movie industry in a variety of ways. Ever since stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders were put in place, theaters across the world have shut down indefinitely without any assurance of when they’ll reopen. With the closing of theaters, many films that were to be released in the months between March and July have either been assigned new release dates or pushed back indefinitely. Not only have movie studios and those who work on films been greatly affected, but theaters themselves have been taking major blows after being forced to shut down. With the quarantine put in place and no definite answer for when it will be lifted, the movie industry has had to learn how to roll with the punches and adapt to a new world.
Major films being delayed
One of the major delays to come from all of this has been of major releases. Some of the potential blockbusters that have been postponed include A Quiet Place Part 2, Mulan, Black Widow, Fast 9, Top Gun: Maverick, Wonder Woman 1984, No Time to Die, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Freeguy, and Morbius. Some of these have only been pushed back a few months like A Quiet Place Part 2 and Top Gun: Maverick, but other films have been pushed back entire years like Fast 9, Ghostbuster: Afterlife, and Morbius.
Since five months’s worth of movies have been pushed back, there is a huge potential for the last months of 2020 to be bogged down with major releases all coming at once. As of this writing, both Nov. and Dec. are filled with major releases coming out every week, and many weekends are being stuffed with two or three major blockbusters. Some films; however, have stood their ground so far in hopes of still being able to stay on their release dates. Christopher Nolan’s new film, Tenet, still has its feet firmly planted on a July 17 release.
Crowded movie seasons
No official reports have been released, but having these two crowded months filled with major tentpole movies coming out every week could cause many films to underperform. We’ve seen similar situations like this the past two years with Nov and Dec. being loaded with films, to only have many of them suffer. Looking at Nov. 2019, many major films like Terminator: Dark Fate, Charlie’s Angels, Frozen 2, Knives Out, and Doctor Sleep came out every week, with only Knives Out and Frozen 2 being successful, leaving films like Terminator: Dark Fate and Doctor Sleep to disappoint audiences.
A similar instance happened in Dec. 2018 when major releases like Aquaman, Bumblebee, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Mary Poppins Returns, and Mortal Engines came out within two weeks of each other, leaving really only Aquaman as the box office hit of the Christmas season. Granted, not all of these movies were beloved, but it shows that when you try to cram too many movies into a small window of time, there’s only so much money and time to go around so not every movie is going to be the smash hit it could have been if it had a different release date.
Future projects on hold
Looking past the effect the Coronavirus has had on movies that were to be released March through May, there are just as many movies that should be in the middle of filming right now but have been shut down indefinitely. Films like Marvel’s Shang-Chi and Eternals have had to pause their production. Along with those films, Marvel’s series like The Falcon and Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki have also halted production for the time being. Other major films like Robert Pattinson’s The Batman and Tom Holland’s Uncharted film have also halted production. If the quarantine would lift soon, everyone could return to work and planned release dates would probably be met. However, if this continues longer than we are expecting, then that will put serious doubt into when, or even if, many films will be released.
Movie theaters and studios
While studios have been pushing back many of their upcoming films, they’ve also been dropping some of their films that were released before the pandemic straight to streaming. Films like The Hunt, The Invisible Man, Emma, Onward, The Way Back, and Bloodshot have all been released straight to streaming earlier than expected, with films like Trolls: World Tour and Artimus Fowl skipping theaters altogether. Even though two major films have done this, this will likely not be a trend. The president of NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) stated in a story that no other studios have had an interest in dropping their movies onto streaming. This makes sense since at the time of this writing, Trolls has reportedly made $50 million. With a budget between $90-$100 million, that number is rather impressive for a straight-to-digital release; however, it’s not one that will likely cause a trend. Potential billion-dollar films like Black Widow, Fast 9, or Tenet can’t really risk missing out on the truckload of potential money the theaters bring to them.
Along with studios taking a hit, theaters themselves have been suffering. Theaters in general operate on a slim margin, and one of the major theaters taking a huge hit is the largest theater chain in the world, AMC. AMC theaters were deep in debt due to their subscription service A-list, but they had a goal in sight for it. At the end of last year, AMC began seeing profit from their service, only to take a major hit from the pandemic. Now, AMC is left in doubt if it’ll even be able to reopen their doors. The theater chain has had to raise its debt by $500 million and furlough more than 25,000 employees. There have also been talks about the company filing for bankruptcy.
What does this mean for the American film industry?
Before theaters began closing their doors in America, the film industry was worried about the effects of closing China’s movie theaters. Now, with everything that has happened in America, that worry has increased. In an article by Variety, they explain how the effects the industry in feeling now could carry well past 2020. Talking about how COLD-19 will affect Hollywood, they state, “top executives privately say that the one certainty on the horizon is that only the strong will survive the fallout.” Combine this with people possibly not wanting to venture out to a movie theater once this is over, and a possible resissene, this dosn’t sound good for smaller or struggling studios. This also dosn’t bode well for high profile films that are expected to fail, like Godzilla vs. Kong.
However this situation works its way out, it will be a while until things get back to the way they were. Whether or not people will rush out to the theater once they open or be more hesitant on going back to sitting in a dark theater filled with strangers, we will have to wait and see what happens.