by Mason Kupiainen The one-year anniversary of theaters closing has come and gone, and yet things have not gone back to normal. Many theaters have reopened their doors, but studios including Disney, Universal, and Sony have been reluctant to release their major blockbusters in the hopes of being able to have a normal theatrical release after the pandemic subsides. Two major theater markets, Los Angeles and New York, have been closed since the lockdown began, leading most of the dominant studios to hesitate dropping their major films. When theaters began opening in August of 2020, a few big releases were dropped, to quite disappointing numbers. Warner Brothers released their sizable tent-pole film, Tenet, without LA or New York theaters opening, and the film was still only able to gather $363 million at the worldwide box office. The New Mutants and Unhinged were also released both of which only reaped disappointing box office numbers.
The beginning of the endHowever, there may be light at the end of this long, dark seemingly never ending tunnel — LA and New York theaters have begun reopening. Mix this with vaccines rolling out to the majority of the population and many states beginning to loosen their COVID restrictions, it is possible theaters may be able to spark life once again. Theaters reopening are not the final piece to the puzzle for theaters reverting back to normal, but it is a major step forward. There are many more factors to come that will, hopefully, continue to steamroll the process. Nonetheless, the reopening of LA and New York is a great sign. They both are the biggest theater going markets in the United States, so their exclusion from the box office the past couple of months hurt the industry immensely. Hopefully if all goes to plan, we’ll continue to see the markets open up and a revival of the box office, along with encouraging the rest of the industry to come back to life.
Disney and SonyUniversal, Paramount, and Warner Brothers have been the leading studios dropping their blockbuster and more high-profile films in recent months. This is due in part to agreements they have with theater chains. Warner Brothers started their day and date release of dropping films in theaters, along with HBO Max (which has officially been signed to end in 2022). Universal has also been releasing major films in theaters, with the agreement to release their films onto streaming two weeks after their theatrical release. Despite the other studios releasing their films, two significant studios have been more hesitant about releasing their films, Disney and Sony. Sony has taken a drastic approach by bumping their films by great lengths at a time, with the intent of holding out until theaters have fully recovered. Disney up to this point, has taken a similar approach, tossing a few films here and there that are not that good or significant. With Raya and the Last Dragon, they tried an experiment by releasing it both in theaters and on Disney+ on the same day, and they will take this approach with Cruella and Black Widow. It’s bizarre that they would take this approach since Mulan and Raya were both failures, but perhaps a Marvel film could be the winning ticket that would make this model work. If this model does succeed by catching on with audiences, that could be a major blow for the theaters.
RegalIn August 2020, both AMC and Regal opened their doors in areas where they were allowed. However, just two months later, in October, Regal closed their doors once again due to poor attendance, with the hopes of conserving their resources for another reopening once things start to look better. That time may have finally come with the announcement that Regal is planning to restart operations on April 2. Having another major theater chain up-and-running will help stimulate the box office and its growth. This could also help studios to feel better about releasing their films, since they’ll have another major chain with their doors open to continue drawing audiences.
Films to comeOf course, theaters and studios can’t recover without films. More importantly, good films. Many of the major blockbusters that have been released since theaters reopening, have not been well-received. Tenet received a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, while Wonder Woman 1984 holds a 59%. While Tenet’s score is fairly positive, it frustrated many audience members with its sound mixing and confusing plot. Others like The New Mutants, Tom & Jerry, and The Little Things also failed to be positively received, which could potentially be a factor for low box office numbers. With films like Godzilla vs. Kong, Black Widow, F9, A Quiet Place Part II, and Mortal Kombat garnering attention and hype, they could possibly be the films that help push audiences to rush out to theaters. Many of these films are having a hybrid release that may keep audiences staying home. If they are able to entice audiences to get off their couches and show them the joys of going out to a theater, it could draw audiences to come back again the following week.
Sources: Box Office Mojo, Bounding into Comics, Business Insider, CinemaBlend, Collider, Deadline, Engadget, Fortune, IndieWire, Rotten Tomatoes, Screen Rant, The Blue and Gray Press, The New York Times, The Verge, Variety Featured Image: Variety