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We deserve a celebratory return to movie theaters

November 12, 2020

Zoe Becker

For years, one of my holiday traditions has been watching movies all throughout Thanksgiving break with friends and family. As we approach the end of this unusual year, this tradition of seeing, at times, five movies in the theater is something that I am especially missing. Christmas and Thanksgiving bring the release of dozens of new films, from blockbusters to independent, Oscar-bait movies, and I eat up every second of it. There are tons of stories that have been waiting on the back burner for months, and what we need right now is to celebrate such a difficult year at the movie theater—but how long, exactly, will we have to wait until we can once again kick back and enjoy movie after movie on the big screen? There are a number of things that might happen, but the industry cannot predict when exactly it will be safe for audience members to return. The result has been months of waiting and growing impatience.

On October 24, Deadline.com reported a story related to one of the year’s most anticipated films: the 25th James Bond film, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “No Time To Die.” Originally slated for a November 2019 release, “No Time To Die” was scheduled for release on November 21, 2020, after September and October forced studios to shift their release schedules yet again since they had formerly believed that the end of the year would have been a safe time to return to theaters. Now, “No Time To Die” is scheduled for release on April 2, 2021, and it might be the last move that MGM can afford. Apparently, MGM shopped the film around to multiple streamers, including Netflix and Apple TV+, with a $600 million price tag. These talks were very short lived since the streamers were only willing to pay half of that figure.

What is the importance of this? Plenty of studios have sold their titles to streamers over the past months: “The Trial of the Chicago 7” went from Paramount to Netflix, “An American Pickle” went from Sony to HBO Max and “Greyhound” went from Sony to Apple TV+. It is very likely that studios will continue to do this as theaters push their re-openings further and further back, but it is especially telling when a $250 million film like “No Time To Die” floats the idea of moving to streamers. This move would have sent shockwaves through the industry—this news already has—especially since studios have been banking on a huge return thanks to their blockbusters. This potential deal indicates that studios are getting very impatient about releasing their films. The biggest issue, though, is that the $600 million price tag, necessary to make a deal profitable for studios, is something most streamers are not willing to pay.

The most likely outcome is that blockbuster movies will swamp the market as soon as it is safe for people to return to the theaters. Everything that has been waiting might suddenly release within weeks of an announcement of decreased cases and millions of people taking the eventual COVID-19 vaccine. Studios will want to capitalize on this moment, and moviegoers will be the winners in this scenario. It might be considered its own Thanksgiving or Christmas release period whenever this happens, but studios are being cautious about this event happening in the first place.

When the floodgates do open, they will not stop. As a result, we might have a slump—or drought—of films for a period of time. Only some films have been able to produce during this time, as many schedules have been side-tracked. As crew and cast members get sick, many shoots have had to pause production for weeks on end. The productions that seem to be steadily moving are those who have studios that can afford it, like Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic Park: Dominion” and Matt Reeves’ “The Batman.” Often, after the summer movie season, September and part of October can be considered the “slump” period of the year, and it is very possible that this schedule will get shaken up whenever theaters reopen.

I cannot wait to see films on the big screen again, the way they are meant to be seen. This pandemic has allowed me to catch up on plenty of films I have never seen before, but there is nothing like seeing them in a pitch-black auditorium with an audience of strangers. The frustrating thing about this era is that we do not know when things will go back to normal. At some point, there will be dozens of films to see once again, maybe making up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas releases that we are missing out on. However, this period will have repercussions for years to come and will permanently change the industry as we know it. Independent films might get shut out, and a drought could eventually come. At this point, though, I cannot wait to see any movie at all and celebrate the end of this long wait.


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