For director Patty Jenkins, the successive closure of several American theaters as the COVID-19 pandemic lasts is an “irreversible” phenomenon.
While Wonder Woman 1984 was due for release in June and has been pushed back three times by Warner since the start of the pandemic, director Patty Jenkins is speaking out for American cinemas to alert them to their plight. At the microphone of the Reuters agency, she expresses her fears:
“[La situation] is irreversible “, she said of the successive closure of American cinemas. “I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where the only option to take our kids to a movie is in our own living room, and not have a place to go on dates.”
This reaction from the filmmaker echoes the news that the company Cineworld (which has one of the most powerful American cinema networks) has once again closed all its cinemas to economically face the shortfall. Indeed, Americans no longer travel to theaters, as recently demonstrated by Tenet’s figures in the United States ($ 45 million) and the US box office in general.
It’s the snake that bites its tail: studios postpone the release of films, theaters close because they don’t have much to release, but studios wait for theaters to reopen to release their films, etc. The solution, of course, would be for the COVID-19 pandemic to disappear so that the situation would return to normal.
The point is, it doesn’t and, from Patty Jenkins’ perspective, until theaters reopen, the most anticipated movies won’t be able to come out. It thus makes this clinical hypothesis that if the pandemic continues:
We could lose the cinema experience forever.
However, technically, 70% of cinemas are open (often with schedules adapted to attendance), but the most profitable theaters on American soil (Los Angeles and New York, in particular) are still mostly closed, making the market more than enough. ‘uncertain for the studios. The reluctance of the latter is based on the American figures of Tenet (on the contrary, it works rather well in France with 2.15 million admissions) and the presumed good results * of the blockbusters finally put directly on the platforms (like Mulan). A trend that makes Jenkins fear the worst:
This is the kind of thing that has happened to the music industry. You can bring down an industry by doing something that is not profitable.
In other words, if releasing films continues to be synonymous with financial failures, studios will no longer ask the question and put their most anticipated films on the platforms. This greatly limits costs since they can do without exhibitors, as well as divisions dedicated to theatrical release within their offices. Ultimately, this could lead to the closure of certain departments and layoffs, as is already the case. For Jenkins, without state support, cinemas are on the way out.
Towards a disrupted landscape?
If, as Patty Jenkins imagines, the major American theaters (Regal, AMC) end up going out of business, it could be that at the end of the pandemic, the major studios will favor online release and even try to have their own theaters, exclusively showing their films. Since 1948 and the “Paramount decree”, the studios cannot do it at the risk of being outlawed, but this state of affairs could change.
Indeed, in November 2019, the Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice announced that he was not closed to the repeal of this historic 1948 text, in order to allow Warner , Universal, Lionsgate and many more to be able to buy cinemas. In a context where exhibitors are subject to financial problems, one could easily imagine a studio buying a network of theaters, or part of it, and making them sites exclusively dedicated to its in-house productions. A scenario difficult to imagine last year. But the pandemic and the catastrophic situation of the sector have since passed there …
This would not bode well for independent cinema and more generally, the international circulation of cinema. This is pure conjecture, because at the time of this writing, the historic Paramount Decree is still in effect … But for how long?
* Streaming figures are often unverifiable and communicated by the platforms themselves. However, Disney has just announced the release of the Pixar Soul film directly on its Disney + platform, which seems to indicate that this solution is really profitable for the studios, while waiting for the theaters to reopen massively.