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Hollywood says the show must go on in theaters despite COVID

hollywood-movies-theater-omicron-thefutureparty
llustration by Kate Walker

Hollywood says the show must go on in theaters despite COVID

The Future. 2022 is the first year of a 45-day theatrical window, so studios, exhibitors, and filmmakers are crossing their fingers that audiences will show up to see movies on the big screen (instead of just waiting to just catch it online). While studios juggle nine-figure-blockbusters, smaller distributors could take the opposite route and build buzz by keeping titles in cinemas for a longer… just on fewer screens and with can’t-miss, in-person events.

Mask matinees
Studios and cinemas are done with COVID closures.

  • With an upcoming slate of major franchise blockbusters, the film industry has given up on capacity limits, and closures… and are now just rolling the dice.
  • But there’s a catch: most movies will only be in theaters for 45 days before arriving on studios’ proprietary streaming platforms (it used to be 90).
  • That may not be a bad thing, with most movies making the majority of their theatrical revenue within the first few weeks of release anyway.

And in this new streaming climate, studios may be using theatrical releases as a hype generator for when a movie shows up on their services. Many studio execs and analysts point out that a theatrical release is the best way to “eventize” a movie and drive awareness… even if audiences don’t watch the movie in theaters.

Butt premium
Here’s the big but: will audiences show up to theaters if they catch wind that they can watch it at home if they just wait 45 days? That’s still up in the air, but many hopeful studio execs and producers point to the outsized success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which by now has made many, many Brinks trucks worth of gold on its way to record-breaking success.

And what drove that success? People wanted to see that title in theaters. Studios hope that will hold true for the upcoming big-screen thrills of Top Gun: MaverickJurassic World: Dominion, and Michael Bay’s Ambulance. And to put a film in theaters? Kevin Goetz, CEO of Screen Engine/ASI, says, “You better know that movie is going to deliver. That’s why people want to see superhero movies. They want to see huge action-adventure movies.”

This year will bring either a lot of big winners (but fewer movies in theaters overall) or a lot of expensive bombs… no matter how COVID spreads.