No announcement yet.

The COVID-19 pandemic may spell the end of new movies

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The COVID-19 pandemic may spell the end of new movies

    Right about now, depending on whether you have school-age children or not, you are likely wondering what else could possibly be hiding in the nooks and crannies of your Netflix queue. The good news is that there is still much to be found in the undiscovered depths of the streaming world, with enough underrated movies and heretofore-unheard-of content to keep your household occupied these next few weeks. Or months.

    But eventually, sooner than we think, we’re going to run into a problem: There simply isn’t anything new being made. The pipeline of Hollywood production, which has been clogged with projects these past few streaming-war years, is completely dry. For now, we are stuck with whatever movies we have.

    Just as the COVID-19 crisis hit, the studio system was busy cranking out hopeful blockbusters in various stages of production. Warner Bros. had just started shooting The Batman with Robert Pattinson and was in the middle of production on the new Matrix sequel in Germany, while Universal was busy with Jurassic World: Dominion, Paramount had the next Mission: Impossible, Sony the would-be franchise-starter Uncharted with Tom Holland and Disney the next entry in its world-dominating Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, plus its gargantuan, already much-delayed set of Avatar follow-ups.

    It is not just the tentpole business that was hit, of course. A rash of mid-budget, potentially Oscar-friendly films shut down in the midst of production, too, including Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley starring Bradley Cooper, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel featuring the on-screen reunion of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis Presley biopic (the latter of which may forever and unfairly be known as the movie that allowed Tom Hanks to contract COVID-19). On the indie scale, there’s Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, the ballet drama Birds of Paradise, and on and on and on. Just as the world has pressed pause, so, too, has the movie business ground to a halt.

    Which isn’t to say that this is the very end of new movies. There is a sizable backlog of ready-to-go features, thanks to the spring and summer movie seasons effectively cancelling themselves. Already, the major studios have indefinitely scrubbed 2020 releases ranging from mega-cartoon Minions: The Rise of Gru to Marvel adventure Black Widow to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights, and it is only a matter of time before the remaining seasonal blockbusters fall, too.

    So while there is product waiting on the shelf, it is a wide and terrifyingly open question as to how confident the studios are that public anxieties will subside by late summer or fall – which is when Warner has shifted Wonder Woman 1984 and Universal/MGM moved the new James Bond entry No Time to Die – or whether Hollywood needs to further break its own business model and release more movies digitally rather than holding out hope for a theatrical premiere.

    Right now, Universal’s decision to send Trolls World Tour straight to home audiences or Disney’s capitulation to speed Onward’s Disney+ debut by months are drastic measures for drastic times – aberrations that no one in the business of showing movies on movie screens want to see repeated. But there is only so long that a studio can hold on to, say, a Top Gun sequel without a certain stench wafting over the whole endeavor.

    “Given the stay-at-home orders could be weeks or months, would Hollywood studios not organically choose to release their ‘coming soon’ projects on digital platforms as a first-run option? Seems plausible to me,” says Jim Mirkopoulos, vice-president of Cinespace Film Studios. “How long will the release of the next 007 film be mired in uncertainty, thus prolonging MGM’s return on their investment?”

    And after those inevitable releases – Ghostbusters: Afterlife debuting on, say, Hulu makes a weird amount of sense right about now – we are facing empty shelves. Studio lots are shuttered. Actors are quarantining themselves. The many hundreds of people it takes to populate a film set cannot be let near each other. Nothing is being made, and no one knows when this might change.

    “It’s going to last long, and the damage is going to be here for a good long while,” Paul Bronfman, CEO of production company giant William F. White International and chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, told The Globe last week, when wave after wave of production suspensions were announced. “Depending on how long this thing goes for, to get new series on or new movies into the theatre, there’s going to be a lag time. It depends on how much is in inventory. What’s in post-production already, and what can they get finished, perhaps with people still working from home?”

    Still, this is the movie industry – an improbable business pivoting on a constantly disrupted model, when you break it down – and so there is boundless optimism to be found, too.

    “I’m optimistic because I believe in these people and this business. I know we’re going to get through this,” says Bronfman. “There are only two constants in this crazy business: change and uncertainty.”

    All audiences can do now, then, is hold out hope for a Hollywood ending.

  • #2
    Hollywood will eventually reboot and produce new movies and if it isn't Hollywood, then someone else will make new movies. Also, there are tons of good movies that deserve a re-run on the big screen. Why not fill the gap between the reboot of Hollywood and the reboot of "social life" with showing just that? It may be THE opportunity to force the likes of Disney to relax their grip on their vast catalogue of classics. Also, DCI allows us to do just that: we can show old classics without the need of renting that one surviving copy...

    Once this is over, people want to get back to their "normal" lives, some good nostalgia might be just what people crave for.


    • #3
      Found an email this morning from Universal Studios promoting "In Theaters And Premiering At Home" access to movies. The Invisible Man rental at $20. This is going to hurt a bit I guess. Also Emma and The Hunt are advertised.


      • #4
        The article starts out strong, and then reduces itself to pandering to the default "we're gonna run out of things to watch" mentality that needs to be avoided.

        Netflix doesn't have the greatest catalog of movies. I can see where someone limiting themselves to only Netflix could run out of anything recognizable to watch in not much time at all. I would love to see a chart of the Netflix collection of non-straight-to-video movies against a variety of lists, such as Academy Award winners, AFI's America's 100 Greatest Movies, the IMDb Top 250, etc.

        Just expanding one's access to movies to Amazon Prime would open up many more possibilities, and even more if you're willing to pay to rent titles. The same with VUDU, FandangoNOW, Redbox on Demand, etc.

        The real challenge is the curation of the available movies. We have over 100 years of movies that have been made, and I'm not even sure how many that adds up to all totaled. We are not going to run out of movies to watch, but unless people are willing to go out of their popcorn Marvel action movie comfort-zone, they could run themselves into a dearth of product.

        If movie theaters could open tomorrow, and there were no new movies produced and made available for a year, there are plenty of movies that theaters could show if the DCP's are available and if audiences are willing to take a chance in seeing something that doesn't fit their familiar expectations.

        This article does more to expose the industry's dependence upon the latest and greatest attention-getting blockbuster than anything else. There is a tremendous back catalog of movies made.


        • #5
          There are a tremendous number of movies made, to be sure, but if they don't get promoted and advertised all over the place, nobody will come to the theatre to watch them. I've had many many many weeks over the years where I've had a really good movie and almost no audience -- everyone who does come to the show says "What a great movie" on the way out, but there's only three people at the show! Why? Lack of promotion by the movie company = lack of awareness = no audience.

          So even if there's great stuff available, there has to be a major promotional push by the movie company or nobody will care or come to see it.


          • #6
            One of the best ideas I've heard for getting people back into theaters after things start to lift, and a way for the studios to provide some relief to theaters (should they be so inclined), is to allow for catalog movies to be shown, with no percentage going back to the studio.

            I think this was going to happen in China, but I don't know where that sits now that things closed back up again there.

            Some of the titles being tossed around as ideas included the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises.

            I think it's a good idea, but I can't imagine that the studios are going to lift a promotional finger, so it would be up to the theaters. Similar to what theaters do now when they run a Retro Series or other limited promotion of catalog movies.

            I guess what I'm saying here is that theaters may not be able to depend wholly on studios to do all the publicity. I know that's a double-edged sword, because the studios take so much of the admission, but at some point, theaters can do some of their own publicity, because they're going to know their customers a little better than the studios. If a theater gets good at curating movies, maybe it can get people to trust that if you're running a movie, they'll stand a chance of enjoying it. Even if they don't, hopefully they'll have enjoyed the movie-going experience.


            • #7
              Well it's not that we don't have content- there is still enough circulating around. The trouble is mid-term, as many productions now came to a halt, and that could mean, autumn and winter could see no major releases. In the end I think it won't be so bad, since e.g. Bond has been postponed, so, we won't have to many releases competing, and they can stay in theatres longer.


              • #8
                We're going to be watching a whole lot of repeats very soon. Not only has production halted on movies, but it has also come to a stop for series TV. The Walking Dead is still a popular TV series and two episodes remain in the current season. One is set to air next Sunday, April 5. But there's no telling when the season finale will air because post production hasn't finished on that episode yet.

                Movie studios will have to get creative at filling the content gap once movie theaters are allowed to re-open. They have a decent number of movies ready to show. But they're still going to have a gap between movies already in the can versus those who were halted at various stages of production. The studios might be able to have some success at booking a wide variety of classic catalog titles and even more recent releases. It's too bad more efforts haven't been made on restoration projects.


                • #9
                  I tend to think streaming will not obsolete theatres when the zombie apocalypse is over. Even with theatres closed, the price point where it makes sense to skip theatrical exhibition exceeds what most people are willing to pay. While day and date may happen at some point, and that will certainly hurt theatrical grosses, it will not spur the death of theatrical exhibition.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Frank Cox View Post
                    There are a tremendous number of movies made, to be sure, but if they don't get promoted and advertised all over the place, nobody will come to the theatre to watch them. I've had many many many weeks over the years where I've had a really good movie and almost no audience -- everyone who does come to the show says "What a great movie" on the way out, but there's only three people at the show! Why? Lack of promotion by the movie company = lack of awareness = no audience.

                    So even if there's great stuff available, there has to be a major promotional push by the movie company or nobody will care or come to see it.
                    This is a once-in-a-century event (or at least, let's hope we've learned our lesson after we're done with this one) and such times require a bit of creativity to get through. One of the good things that could come out of it is that "old rules don't apply anymore".

                    Once this whole thing has blown over or at least, once it has stabilized, you'll see the intrinsic desire for people to reconnect with the physical world. Movie theaters are part of those social gathering places, even though you're supposed to keep quiet during the movie. The lack of fresh product can easily be substituted by the enormous catalogue of existing movies that haven't seen a first-run theater in years. I'd make a list of movies I'd want to show and most likely connect with the local audience. Right now is the time to give your booker some work, I don't think he/she'll be answering many calls so give him something to sink his teeth into, he/she even may appreciate it.

                    As for the advertising part... yeah, you can't rely on movie studios to advertise your "personal playlist", but there are ample opportunities to do so within your local community. I know you hate Facebook as much as I do, but now might be the time to start connecting as those social "tools" are one of the primary ways people connect during this crisis. Also, once this stuff blows over, a lot of stuff will probably be dirt cheap. Stuff like getting your ad on some local billboards or into a local paper for example. Here you can even try to play the Covid-19-pitty-card if they don't come up with reasonable prices. Do some "advertising swaps" with local businesses that are as affected as you, like pubs, restaurants, the works. You put their ad in the lobby or maybe give them some slides in your pre-show in return for free advertising on their premises. Get in touch with a local company that makes banners and put a large one on the front of your building... lots of stuff you can do to draw some attention. Sure, you need to put some time and money into it, but the good thing is: You probably have enough time now anyways and many things are a lot cheaper now, as long as the main ingredient isn't toilet paper or facial masks...