As production companies choose to postpone the release of blockbuster films expected this year, cinemas are under struggling to stay afloat.
The latest film industry victims of COVID-19 are The Batman, Dune, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, with their released rescheduled to 2021 and 2022 by Warner Bros. They join a long list of postponed releases: Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, and James Bond film No Time To Die (just to name a few) have also been pushed back. Mulan skipped a theatrical release entirely, opting for a premium digital release on Disney+. This allowed audiences to watch in the comfort and safety of their own home.
With only a few new films to present, cinemas under financial strain are beginning to close their doors. According to Variety, 70% of U.S. cinemas have re-opened since closing in March (excluding New York and LA). But as companies suffer through low ticket sales, Cineworld Group has chosen to suspend the operation of 663 cinemas across the U.S. and U.K., impacting approximately 45,000 employees in a “cash preservation and cost reduction” effort. The move leaves a massive cinema-shaped hole in the Hollywood entertainment industry. U.K. staff members reportedly learned about potential job losses not from the company itself, but the front page of a Sunday Times.
In Australia, Village Roadshow had to secure $70 million in financing from the Australian Government. The company is also waiting on border restrictions between Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland to ease in hopes of following through with a take-over deal that sees their acquisition by private equity group BGH Capital. All Aussie cinemas were ordered to close in March by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Over in Hollywood, huge industry names such as Wes Anderson, Greta Gerwig, Barry Jenkins, Jordan Peele, Luca Guadagnino, and Sofia Coppola have signed a letter by the Nation Association of Theatre Owners that asks the government to formulate a bail out fund for businesses in need during the pandemic.
“The moviegoing experience is central to American life,” the letter read. “268 million people in North America went to the movies last year to laugh, cry, dream, and be moved together. Theaters are great unifiers where our nation’s most talented storytellers showcase their cinematic accomplishments. Every aspiring filmmaker, actor, and producer dreams of bringing their art to the silver screen, an irreplaceable experience that represents the pinnacle of filmmaking achievement.”
In the meantime, Australian theatres have been doing their part to stay afloat and bring patrons back into theatres. Re-runs of classic films have been popular across the board. Event Cinemas, as well as Palace Nova Cinemas, are now offering their theatres for gamers to plug their consoles in and play, putting to use the massive movie screens and surround sound for a group of 19 fellow gamers. A session can cost anywhere between $200-$300.
Drive-In movies have also gained popularity over the last few months (and there’s a Disney+ Drive-In making its way around the country in time for Halloween). But is watching a new blockbuster in your car the way of the cinematic future? Time will tell.
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