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Things should be better now. When Hollywood's major film studios started delaying blockbuster releases in the spring, industry decision-makers hoped the coronavirus pandemic would wane to the point that summer theater chains could welcome moviegoers again. In April, much of the United States was under strict conditions for staying at home – but if it were implemented, the infection rate would bend downward and allow companies and theaters a certain degree of normalcy. At least the film industry hoped.
It happened in some states. However, in most other cases, the number of cases has increased in the past two weeks, so the US has exceeded the undesirable milestone of a total of 4 million cases. The situation has shaken many industries, and Hollywood is no exception. Given the ebb and flow of American fall rates, studios are unable to schedule guaranteed release dates.
Last week Warner Bros. announced that the upcoming blockbuster Tenet by director Christopher Nolan would be postponed for the third time – this time indefinitely. Disney Mulan's live action remake suffered the same fate at its fourth delay after Disney had previously made three attempts to set specific dates. It was originally supposed to appear in March.
In some cases, the studios have decided to postpone films until next year. Paramount's highly anticipated sequels, A Quiet Place Part II and Top Gun: Maverick, and Universal & # 39; s Fast and the Furious 9 were released, while Sony delayed almost his entire film until 2021. At this rate, there isn't a single major Hollywood release set for August, which means it is becoming more likely that there will be no box office season. And there is no end in sight.
"Uncertainty is the safest thing we have," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at media analysis company Comscore. “If we talked in a few days, the dynamics could be different. It's really like trying to put things with crystal balls because this is a constantly changing situation. "
According to Dergarabedian, the studios are tied when it comes to releasing their biggest blockbusters, as these films are made with huge budgets that can only be amortized with theater sales – and yet are profitable on their own. For some smaller, medium budget films, the studios experimented to release them directly for streaming when needed. This was very successful on Universal's Trolls World Tour – although AMC, the country's largest theater chain, reacted violently. NBCUniversal quickly chased that any digital release would be a complement rather than a replacement for the theater experience.
Contestants are waiting for a movie to kick off at the Mayfair Theater on the first day of its reopening in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Friday July 17th. Some Canadian theaters are back in business, but most in the United States remain closed. Justin Tang – Bloomberg / Getty Images
As AMC would argue, the relationship between theater and studio is symbiotic, and this is reflected in the enormous revenue that Tentpole films have made at the global box office. Avengers: Endgame earned nearly $ 3 billion worldwide, with an astounding $ 1.9 billion, or almost 70 percent, coming from international cinemas. Given that so much money is flowing from outside the United States, it must be argued that the studios should consider premiering their finished but released films abroad.
"Every studio is wondering about internationality," said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro, the National Association of Theater Owners magazine. “We have been talking for years about how important the overseas market has become for the box office. This could be a shining example of how important they could be now. With several countries, particularly China, signaling that they may be ready to open, the studios are certainly considering this. "
China is the second largest box office in the world and is expected to overtake the United States soon. The country has drastically reduced the number of new COVID-19 infections and daily life has returned to normal – including the opening of theaters. Other well-known film markets in Europe such as Germany and Italy have also suppressed the virus. However, the risk of pirated copies reaching North America makes the decision less clear. "It could reduce demand [in the US], there are inherent risk factors," said Robbins, although he added, "We'll probably start filming internationally first, it's just a question of who's going to move." first."
Beyond sales, the success of international markets is a silver lining, even for US theaters, who may lose ticket sales when the first global releases expire. In this case, it's more about promoting signs of consumer behavior. Last weekend was the second in a row that IMAX reported $ 1 million at the box office for the first time since March. On the first weekend, the South Korean peninsula generated sales of $ 750,000 with only 45 screens in five different Asian markets. Of that, $ 365,000 came from South Korea, which is the fourth best debut of a publication in the national language in IMAX despite limited seating capacity. This is encouraging not only for the prospect of American films going overseas, but also for the willingness of cinema-goers in the United States to return to cinemas after the pandemic ends.
Dergarabedian also pointed to the resurgence of drive-in theaters as an uplifting trend for the film industry. Drive-ins, which were once considered an outdated place of entertainment, have developed as an option for the audience to enjoy a shared cinema experience while maintaining social distance. Walmart recently announced plans to take action and plans to convert 160 of its U.S. parking spaces into pop-up drive-ins.
"The increasing support for drive-ins, despite the fact that there is so much content to stream at home, shows that people have a desire to return to the stationary theater," said Dergarabedian. While the relatively small number of drive-ins across the country almost certainly means that the studios don't publish big blockbusters in them, the appetite for the big screen seems to be rising again.
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