The pandemic is having a massive impact on entertainment. The ramifications are profound.
Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have delayed the release of Dune, the big-budget sci-fi epic from director Denis Villeneuve. It will no longer premiere on Dec. 18 and is now slated to debut in theaters on Oct. 1, 2021. That date was previously held by Matt Reeves’ The Batman starring Robert Pattinson, and it will now open on March 4, 2022.
Warner Bros. announced Monday night that Black Adam, based on the DC Comics character and starring Dwayne Johnson, has been taken off the schedule. Formerly slated to hit theaters 12/22/21, the film is now undated. It was just one of several release date changes announced Monday night.
The still-untitled continuation of The Matrix series was moved up from April, 2022 to December 2021. The fourth movie in the franchise has been moved up to Christmas 2021 as part of a shuffle of Warner Bros.’ tentpole movies that has also pushed back The Batman to 2022.
No Time to Die, the latest James Bond installment, will be postponed until next year, the filmmakers announced last Friday.
The film, starring Daniel Craig in his final stint as the agent formerly known as 007, is expected to hit theaters April 2, 2021, a year later than initially planned.
Wonder Woman 1984 has now been pushed to a Christmas Day release – and finally, the Minecraft movie was also taken off the schedule. (Disney previously postponed its MCU movie “Black Widow” to next year.)
Cinema stocks plummeted after Cineworld closed due to the No Time to Die delay. The decision puts 40,000 U.S. employees out of work.
Cineworld is a British cinema company and is the world’s second-largest cinema chain, with 9,518 screens across 790 sites in 10 countries: the UK, the US, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Israel, Hungary, Czechia, Bulgaria and Slovakia.The group’s primary brands are Regal (in the US), Cineworld and Picturehouse (in the UK & Ireland), Cinema City (throughout Europe) and Yes Planet (in Israel).
AMC Cinemas also saw its share price drop, by roughly 11%. AMC is the largest theater chain in the world, it has 2,200 screens in 244 theaters in Europe and over 8,200 screens in 661 theaters in the United States. Though headquartered in Kansas, AMC is controlled by a Chinese conglomerate.
AMC is hoping that the unique deal it struck with Universal in July, which allows Universal to play a movie for as little as 17 days in theaters before being permitted to release it on premium video on-demand, will offset some of its losses. AMC gets a cut of revenue streams from those PVOD sales.
Theaters have pleaded with studios to stick to their scheduled release dates anyway, but to little avail. Releasing a $200-million movie with major markets closed and a public nervous about going to theaters is too risky a marketing move for most.
Across the country, just 56% of theaters are actually open, according to data firm Comscore. According to a September report by Nielsen’s NRG, about half of moviegoers aren’t ready to return, and about a third of the audience wants to wait until a coronavirus vaccine is available.
The National Assn. of Theatre Owners last week sent a letter to congressional leaders calling for federal financial relief. Nearly 70% of small and midsized theater companies would have to declare bankruptcy or shutter for good without government support, the group said in the letter, signed by the Motion Picture Assn., the Directors Guild of America and dozens of prominent filmmakers.
“Movie theaters are at a crisis point,” the association’s president, John Fithian, said in a statement.
The New York Governor’s office released a statement: “We understand some people are unhappy but you know what? Better unhappy than sick or worse.”
Billions of Dollars and Nowhere to Go
It’s interesting to note that while over the past month Cineworld, AMC, and Disney stocks are mostly down, Netflix and Amazon are mostly up. Netflix has already bought the historic Egyptian Theater in LA, and New York’s iconic Paris Theatre. Speculation is high that AMC may be susceptible to a buyout – though Netflix hasn’t expressed any formal interest yet. Amazon is worth $1 trillion and could buy any theater chain.
We’re going to see some profound changes in the next few months, such as more near simultaneous theatrical and online release. Perhaps the saviors of the beloved film industry will turn out to be the streamers. It would be an irony similar to TV saving the film studios in the 1960s. Or maybe federal aid and a vaccine will be the answer.
Theatrical films are a unique and irreplaceable experience that attract new fans every generation. What happens next is anybody’s guess.
SCIFI.radio will keep you in the know. Watch this space.