2020 At The Boxoffice

Josh Steinberg

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Of that list of titles, that seems like the most likely move to me. Netflix and Paramount have a preexisting relationship where Netflix has already purchased rights to films Paramount had intended to play theatrically, and it’ll probably lose a lot less in translation than a tentpole spectacle would.
 
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TravisR

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Yeah, I expect many theaters to be bankrupt and closed permanently in the next few months unless there are changes in Washington that will change the thinking on aid/stimulus.

My theater announced today that they're going to be closed Mon/Tues starting next week, and will only show evening shows Wed-Fri, and all day shows on Sat/Sun. This is a theater that used to be open all day, every day. So not only is capacity limited, but now there are very few showtimes to choose from. So even if you want to see a movie, it's hard to fit into your schedule unless you're free during very specific times.
My local AMC is open on the weekends from 2 to 8 (Tenet gets 4 shows and most of the other movies get 3 shows each) and the rest of the week, it's 4:30 to 7:30 (with two shows for every movie). I was afraid that PVOD would kill theaters but the lack of product may do it.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I thought the worst thing that could happen to theaters would be reopening too early and being directly connected to a resurgence of the virus.

I was wrong.

It turns out the worst thing that could happen was to open when it was legally permissible but in a time with barely any new product and barely any audience demand. Their investors and creditors and suppliers will undoubtedly take these results as a sign that people are no longer interested in going to the movies and withhold their support accordingly, rather than concluding that the lack of demand was temporary and circumstantial.
 
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Jake Lipson

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Paramount hasn't started any marketing for the Coming to America sequel. (I think using the number in the middle of the title is ridiculous, especially because when spoken verbally it sounds like it is exactly the same movie as the original without anything added.). I said this in the West Side Story thread yesterday right before it got moved this morning. If any movie is going to open in theaters this year, they've got to start the marketing soon to let people know the movie exists. The delay in starting promote it suggests that they are going to move. I agree it would probably work for Netflix if they wanted to buy it from Paramount.

Also, I'd bet that Soul will be going to Disney +.
My best guess is that Disney has not decided yet what they are going to do with Soul. If they knew for sure, there would be no reason to withhold that news from the slate of release changes they announced this morning. I know that if Soul did go to Disney+, they would get $30 out of my family for it, which they didn't for Mulan.

The thing is, the rest of the world is in better shape that the U.S., and a Bond movie is going to make 75% of its money internationally, so... if it’s a choice between waiting a year for just the U.S., or opening everywhere else to healthy grosses and anemic ones here (or PVOD here), I think that is something they will likely have to consider.
The other thing to remember is that No Time to Die is actually scheduled to be released earlier in foreign markets. Belgium and France get it on November 11, with the UK and several other countries following on November 12. So if they are going to announce a delay, it has to happen pretty soon. If they are going to stick with November, they might as well bump it up to November 12 in the United States as well at this point. Now that Black Widow has vacated, it doesn't have to worry about that competition, and having it sooner rather than later would help theaters. We'll see.
 
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Colin Jacobson

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I thought the worst thing that could happen to theaters would be reopening too early and being directly connected to a resurgence of the virus.

I was wrong.

It turns out the worst thing that could happen was to open when it was legally permissible but in a time with barely any new product and barely any audience demand. Their investors and creditors and suppliers will undoubtedly take these results as a sign that people are no longer interested in going to the movies and withhold their support accordingly, rather than concluding that the lack of demand was temporary and circumstantial.
I think you're Chicken Littling to an extreme.

No, it's not "undoubted" that the money men will view the sparse audiences now as an indication people reject movies as a whole.

It's much more likely they'll understand that mass audiences just weren't as ready to go back to movies in the age of COVID as the chains and studios hoped.

Demands for movies was good pre-COVID. When people feel secure at theaters, they'll return. Money guys aren't so short-sighted that they'll think a freakin' pandemic wasn't the cause of the current lack of audiences.

They'll probably also understand that there's not much out there to see.

Everyone seems to assume that "Tenet" underwhelmed solely because of COVID concerns. Certainly that was the major cause, but it might not've made the big bucks anyway.

It was an original property, and those can be tough to sell these days. Sure, Nolan has marquee value, but it came with a confusing trailer - and the fact it's a confusing movie probably didn't help the word of mouth.

I think Hollywood should've released another "A"-list movie before they assumed audiences wouldn't come back for a big title. "Tenet" underwhelmed but "WW1984" or "Mulan" might've done much better and a lot of fears would've been assuaged...
 

Malcolm R

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Definitely. I think lack of new/attractive titles, lack of convenient hours/showtimes, and lack of disposable income for many people are helping to drive down demand.
 

Josh Steinberg

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No, it's not "undoubted" that the money men will view the sparse audiences now as an indication people reject movies as a whole.

It's much more likely they'll understand that mass audiences just weren't as ready to go back to movies in the age of COVID as the chains and studios hoped.
I really hope you’re right.

At the same time, where I live, we’re seeing hundreds of businesses and restaurants being permanently shuttered because they can’t make rent and the landlords and suppliers and creditors just won’t budge on trying to find a way to keep the business afloat until some sense of normal returns. I don’t know how it helps these people to throw out businesses that were fine before the pandemic; it’s not as if anything is going to up in the same space in the meantime that will be able to make the same amount for them during the pandemic as they were doing it before.

I sincerely hope there’s an arrangement to be worked out because kicking them out will simply depress local economies further and unnecessarily prolong the eventual recovery. But I’m not seeing anything close to that spirit of cooperation in New York.
 

Colin Jacobson

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Definitely. I think lack of new/attractive titles, lack of convenient hours/showtimes, and lack of disposable income for many people are helping to drive down demand.
I really feel like we'd have a better idea of true demand if a 2nd A-level movie came out in addition to "Tenet".

If "WW84" came out in October as planned and showed similar numbers, then it's more clear people simply aren't willing to trust theaters to keep them COVID-free.

I think too many jumped to the conclusion that "Tenet" proved audience reticence as an absolute.

Undeniably "Tenet" did worse than it would've without COVID, but we'll never really know what it would've done.

I think it would've been somewhere around "Inception" #s in the US, but lower. Both films were Bond-like movies with confusion plots, but "Inception" a) was easier to understand and b) had more starpower...
 
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Jake Lipson

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I think Hollywood should've released another "A"-list movie before they assumed audiences wouldn't come back for a big title. "Tenet" underwhelmed but "WW1984" or "Mulan" might've done much better and a lot of fears would've been assuaged...
Which A-list movie should they sacrifice next? It makes no sense for studios to release big movies in theaters when the attendance is this low. Maybe in other countries where they have gotten a better handle on the virus, but not in the United States.

I really don't think that Mulan or WW84 would do much better than Tenet in the current environment. Yes, Tenet has the challenge of being an original property. But I wouldn't feel any safer going to see Wonder Woman if that was out already than I would have for Tenet.
 

Colin Jacobson

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I really hope you’re right.

At the same time, where I live, we’re seeing hundreds of businesses and restaurants being permanently shuttered because they can’t make rent and the landlords and suppliers and creditors just won’t budge on trying to find a way to keep the business afloat until some sense of normal returns. I don’t know how it helps these people to throw out businesses that were fine before the pandemic; it’s not as if anything is going to up in the same space in the meantime that will be able to make the same amount for them during the pandemic as they were doing it before.

I sincerely hope there’s an arrangement to be worked out because kicking them out will simply depress local economies further and unnecessarily prolong the eventual recovery. But I’m not seeing anything close to that spirit of cooperation in New York.
Worst case is probably chains have to close some locations. Maybe some reopen under the same chain eventually, maybe someone else takes over, maybe the landlords turn them in laser tag playing fields - who knows?

I think any financial decisions will be made from the current bottom line period, not because these people don't understand COVID killed the box office.

Like I said, I can't imagine anyone would take away the message that "movies aren't popular" because "Tenet" underperformed.

Restaurants have struggled, but no one thought that means people don't like to eat! :D
 

Colin Jacobson

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Which A-list movie should they sacrifice next? It makes no sense for studios to release big movies in theaters when the attendance is this low. Maybe in other countries where they have gotten a better handle on the virus, but not in the United States.

I really don't think that Mulan or WW84 would do much better than Tenet in the current environment. Yes, Tenet has the challenge of being an original property. But I wouldn't feel any safer going to see Wonder Woman if that was out already than I would have for Tenet.
I don't claim for a fact that any of these movies would do radically better. I think "WW84" would do a fair amount better - 5 weeks later into the pandemic, and assuming no one discerns outbreaks that stemmed from theaters in that span, people may feel more secure.

"Tenet" came out so close to the general reopening that it had more of a "fear factor" a movie that hits 5 weeks later would have. (Again, assuming there's no evidence in the meantime that theaters have become COVID hotspots.)

Not claiming "WW84" would do the same numbers, and for all I know, it'd do "Tenet" #s.

But I think it'd give us a better benchmark in terms of moviegoer willingness to return to theaters.

BTW, this isn't my argument that WB should have kept the October date. I wish they had, but I get the squeamishness - especially because they're the ones behind "Tenet".

Just saying I'd have been interested to see if history repeated or if "WW84" showed a noticeable uptick.

Honestly, I think that might've helped the industry. They may need baby steps: each new movie builds on the last.

Again, I don't know when attendance will approach pre-COVID levels. Maybe not until 2021. Maybe never.

But I think studios are better off keeping theaters at least semi-functional, even if it means they take a bath on a few big movies.

2 months with no A-list movies isn't good for anyone...
 
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Jake Lipson

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But I think it'd give us a better benchmark in terms of moviegoer willingness to return to theaters.
I get what you're saying, but the problem is: which studio is going to volunteer their tentpole to be the next test case? They don't want to take a bath on anything, especially not something that is connected to a wider franchise. At least Tenet is a one-off (as far as I know; I haven't seen it and won't until it is available at home.). If WW84 comes out and does poorly, that impacts WB's future plans to do Wonder Woman 3 and any other future films that Diana might appear in. I don't see any studio wanting to take that risk right now, and I don't think they should.
 

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Enola Holmes was originally going to be distributed by Warner Bros. in theaters. But once the pandemic shut everything down, Legendary sold the distribution rights to Netflix instead. If that does well, I think we'll start seeing a lot of mid-budget movies shift to first run streaming.

Definitely. I think lack of new/attractive titles, lack of convenient hours/showtimes, and lack of disposable income for many people are helping to drive down demand.
All of those are factors, but I still think the biggest issue is that many people still don't feel safe going to the movies. And with drive-in season almost over in many parts of the country, there will be even fewer screens available soon.

Until the United States gets a better handle on the pandemic, or until a vaccine is widely available, I just don't see the North American box office recovering in any significant way.
 

Jake Lipson

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If that does well, I think we'll start seeing a lot of mid-budget movies shift to first run streaming.
That's already happened a few other times as well. Netflix took The Lovebirds and The Trial of the Chicago 7 off Paramount's hands. Disney unloaded the final Fox 2000 title, The Woman in the Window, to Netflix. STX sold My Spy to Amazon, and there's a rumor that Paramount will sell Without Remorse to them. (That one would go nicely alongside Jack Ryan, which is already on Amazon and also adapted from Tom Clancy.)

Also, Palm Springs went directly to Hulu (along with a nominal drive-in theatrical release.). Neon and Hulu acquired that together at Sundance. The intention was for Neon to do a theatrical release before Hulu got it a few months later. I'm pretty sure it was guaranteed in the original contract to play wide. Circumstances forced them to change course. I liked Palm Springs quite a bit, but they did the right thing. As much as I would have enjoyed seeing it in a theatrical setting, that is not a film that would have benefited from being held indefinitely as the superhero tentpoles likely would.

That being said, I think you're absolutely right that the longer this pandemic drags on, the more titles will opt to go this route.

Until the United States gets a better handle on the pandemic, or until a vaccine is widely available, I just don't see the North American box office recovering in any significant way.
I agree with that completely. The question now is which films will actually brave coming out during this time versus continued delays or finding other distribution.

As an aside: I thought I would also post here, just in case anyone is interested: the screenplay book for Tenet was released yesterday. Amazon recommended it to me. If some of you who, like me, don't feel safe going to the theater right now really want to know what that's all about, you can read t now. I am going to hold off for the time being in hopes that the Blu-ray will arrive before the end of the year. But I've got to say I do feel very tempted by the opportunity. (I know this would fit better in one of the Tenet threads, but I'm not going in there until after I've seen the film.)
 
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Colin Jacobson

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I get what you're saying, but the problem is: which studio is going to volunteer their tentpole to be the next test case? They don't want to take a bath on anything, especially not something that is connected to a wider franchise. At least Tenet is a one-off (as far as I know; I haven't seen it and won't until it is available at home.). If WW84 comes out and does poorly, that impacts WB's future plans to do Wonder Woman 3 and any other future films that Diana might appear in. I don't see any studio wanting to take that risk right now, and I don't think they should.
I get the danger of risk to a franchise, but I think it's the double-edged sword.

On one hand, I understand studios don't want to get a pennies on the dollar return on a tentpole, and they don't want the "'Tenet' Flops!!!" notion that seems to have taken hold to cling to their movie as well.

On the other hand, if no one puts out anything, you encounter a bunch of other risks.

I think it's worse for theaters to be open and have nothing new rather than be closed. I think the former more openly alienates moviegoers.

So maybe they don't release "WW84" because that's a more precarious franchise - toss out "Black Widow" or the new Bond instead.

One "flop" won't hurt them.

They gotta give moviegoers a bone to keep the situation active. As one who has been willing to go to movies recently, I'll be more frustrated by a lack of content than I was with closed theaters...
 
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Jake Lipson

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One "flop" won't hurt them.
Actually, it very well might. To use your examples, Black Widow is part of to the MCU. That brand relies upon connectivity between films and audience interest remaining as they move from sub-franchise to sub-franchise. Obviously, I don't know what's coming, but if something happens in the end of Black Widow that sets up the next phase of films and no one comes to see it, that's a big problem.

Bond is MGM's only real franchise play. If it bombs, they will be in for a world of hurt because they don't have anything else on that level to follow it up with.

I don't think the movie studios care if you are frustrated with the lack of product. By going to see Tenet and/or whatever else you have seen since theaters reopened, you have demonstrated that you will come back whenever there is new product, so you are not a huge problem for them right now. I think they care that the people who have decided not to go to theaters during a pandemic no matter what the product is aren't coming back. That is what is driving these descisions.

I do agree with your assessment that it is worse for them to be open with nothing new than to be closed. I also believe that they should be closed and should never have opened in the timeframe that they did. So that doesn't really bother me.
 
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Malcolm R

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What has been mentioned, but few seem willing to acknowledge, is that they're killing what's left of the theatrical business model. Without new product, many theaters will not survive. So there is no big theatrical windfall to be had now or in the future, regardless of how long they hold them back. Eventually they'll be lucky to be able to open on 2000 screens domestically. The $100m opening weekend is not coming back.
 

Jake Lipson

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What has been mentioned, but few seem willing to acknowledge, is that they're killing what's left of the theatrical business model. Without new product, many theaters will not survive.
If Broadway can remain dark indefinitely and come back, movie theaters can, too. It will probably take government assistance to do so, and the government does not seem interested in providing that.

It pains me terribly to say this because I really miss the movie theater and I wish that it were safe right now. If it was, I would be there right now watching Tenet instead of sitting here in my house responding to you. But if the theatrical model is permanently damaged by people not coming out during the pandemic, then at least the people who don't come out will be safe. Unless they come into contact with someone who did go out and got the virus and gives it to them. Then they're sick too. Which is why theaters should not be open right now. Period.[/QUOTE]
 

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