While certain theater chains are hoping to reopen their doors starting next month, things continue to look grim for the industry as a whole. It is now expected that movie theaters will lose as much as $31 billion in 2020. Aside from the closure, much of this has to do with so many big releases being pushed into 2021.
According to research conducted by Omdia, revenue is currently down 70 percent compared to last year. The global box office generated $42 billion in 2019. The firm’s best estimate is that the exhibition business will see a 58 percent decline year-over-year. Even on the low side, the expected revenue losses are expected to top $20 billion. David Hancock, director for cinema at Omdia, had this to say about it during a recent virtual CineEurope conference.
“Cinema is critically hit. Major distributors rushed to rework their film slates with knock-on effects two years down the line. The period from March to July is almost devoid of any new films being released, the most important part of the year.”
Indeed, the summer movie season has been all but wiped from the map in 2020. As theater chains look to open their doors again, the first big releases on the calendar are Disney’s live-action Mulan remake and Tenet, the latest from director Christopher Nolan. However, as we’ve seen, those release dates are very much subject to change, with Tenet recently being pushed back by two weeks, with Warner Bros. delaying other major releases such as Godzilla vs. Kong and The Matrix 4.
The good news is that, with a few exceptions such as Trolls World Tour and Scoob, studios are looking to stick with theatrical distribution for the titles that have been delayed. The major unknown in all of this is how willing people will be to return to theaters when they do open next month. David Hancock addressed that a bit, saying that the key will be making people feel safe.
“The key issue now is reassurance. At its core, cinema is a social medium that brings people out of their homes for a communal experience. This is the point that critics of cinema always miss. During this unprecedented circumstance, cinema’s strength has become its weakness. Being social is perceived as a threat today with physical distancing being labelled social distancing. Hence the public needs to be convinced that being in a social space is a safe place to be.”
Since the shutdown in mid-March, the U.S. box office has been carried by drive-ins, which have had something of an unlikely revival. Chains such as AMC and Regal will be implementing new safety measures, such as decreasing auditorium capacity, online ordering for concessions and extra sanitation. Cinemark recently came under fire online when it was revealed they would not require patrons to wear face masks. We’ll learn a lot more as theaters begin reopening throughout July.
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