Is it lights out for Cinema?
The Cinema, that once solitary entertainment haven may never be the same again. As the UK officially steps into Lockdown 2.0, a grim reality starts to set in. When they reopened on July the 1st 2020, I was one of the many who celebrated Cinemas’ return but only one of the few who actually went to see a film. Six months absence had been long enough to shake confidence and change behaviour. People spoke about whether it was worth ‘risking their life’ to watch a film? Despite mandatory masks and extra Covid measures, people still felt unsafe.
Not even the might of Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bending blockbuster Tenet was sufficient to get people to come out of their houses and make the trip. In response, the studios systematically began shifting their high-profile films till 2021 when things are ‘back to normal’ which translates to when they can see the near billion-dollar profits they have grown accustomed to.
Unfortunately, this is a pipe dream. They have left Cinema chains on life support with excessive costs and salaries to maintain but no means of earning. One cinema boss described it as running a grocery store with no groceries to sell. The Studios must have made that assessment and decided on the best way to save themselves with little concern for the cinemas they left barren
So, what does the future hold for Cinemas? I honestly believe we have seen the last of them in their current form. They won’t disappear completely but there will be major scaling down, especially when it comes to the larger chains. In an interesting twist, the smaller independent specialist cinemas are more likely to continue, as they are less reliant on billion-dollar blockbusters for their survival. They will focus on providing a home for smaller releases and independents
Film Studios adapting to Survive
The Studios have had years of looking down on streaming services like Netflix as inferior in much the same way home video releases were considered lower quality than cinema experiences. But this dynamic is facing its biggest shake up ever. Not only are they finding new ways to co-exist, they are looking at each other as partners. Covid has made long-time rivals into collaborators, devising strategies to not only survive but prosper. Studios like Disney and Warner are moving quickly behind the scenes to restructure their budgets and ambitions with a focus on providing premium content for their own services. They see these streaming services as their future
Read more: Can Hollywood survive COVID?
Due to finances already invested in big budget films like Wonder Woman and Black Widow, these Studios need to hold out for something akin to a cinematic release as they have investors to pay back. So, their business strategy becomes what releases they can send to streaming services with minimum loss and even possibly gain some value by way of new subscribers to their streaming services.
Those without their own streaming services rely on the likes of Netflix and Amazon making them large enough cash offers to cover the production costs with a small profit margin. Universal’s release of Trolls earlier this year on PVOD was successful for them, meaning they are considering at least some of their future releases this way.
Following Paramount’s cinematic sucess early this year with Sonic the Hedgehog, they are one of the few studios not to end the year with massive losses. Their sale of Love Birds and the Trial of the Chicago 7 (which might be an Oscar contender) to Netflix as well as Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America 2 to Amazon could be seen as shrewd business moves by a studio manoeuvring itself successfully during this Pandemic.
It has also brought in Apple to co-finance the 200-million-dollar Martin Scorsese ‘Killers of the flower moon‘ starring Robert Di Nero and Lionardo Dicaprio but is still holding onto some of its biggest properties like Tom Cruise’s Top Gun Maverick which they hold out hope of having name recognition and nostalgia to drive eventual box office returns.
Is this the Golden age of Streaming
Like with every crisis, there are those who benefit and even emerge more successful. Streaming services are almost entering a golden age where they suddenly have all eyes on them. Some have always believed this was the way the industry was heading but the pandemic has accelerated this by ten years
Streaming Services have subscriber numbers increasing rapidly with large studios offering them first option on what were previously considered ‘cinema first’ content. Their own originals are being completed at a record rate, with A list stars and Directors on board. The recently completed Netflix Original ‘Red Notice’ starring The Rock, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadol is testament to the quality of films these streaming services are aiming for.
Disney took their first shot at using their Disney Plus service as a means to bypass cinema with the release of their big budget film Mulan on their Disney Premiere service. This had mixed results in terms of profitability, but they are determined to take another shot at it when Soul is released on Christmas day at no additional costs for subscribers.
The streaming services are in the strongest position to shape the future of movie viewing which is something they could have ever anticipated so soon
Snyder Cut – A New Way
And finally, on to ‘The Snyder Cut’. Zack Snyders Justice league is due out in 2021 on Warner’s newest streaming service HBO Max. But what makes this film so special? It combines all the elements we have discussed here and represents the past present and future of blockbuster films. It started life as a 2017 cinema release, the Studio panicked during its production and brought in another director who drastically altered the films end product.
The Studio have now agreed for Zack to go back and complete his original vision, but this isn’t simply a director’s cut. He has been promised an extra 50million for production and shooting brand new scenes. So, this will almost be a whole new movie. But this film will no longer be released as a ‘film’, it will be split into 4-hour long specials on the HBO Max streaming service. This will be a brand-new way of delivering a big budget film
Read More: See the latest HBO Max teaser of the Snyder Cut here
So there you have it. As Cinema chains remain on life support, Fiim studios rapidly adjust their business models and film budgets to meet the changes a post Covid world is bringing and Streaming Service prepare to take centre stage in this brave new world. The only guarantee we have is that whether big screen or small screen, the films will keep coming.