Movies & Cinema during the Pandemic? Catch-all Discussion

Jake Lipson

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I don't think that's going to happen.

I think we're going to get to about the end of June or so and then it will become apparent that July theatrical releases are not sustainable, so theaters will stay closed and Warner and Disney will end up having to push those titles. But a delay for something that big will likely impact their stock price, so I think they're waiting until they can't wait anymore to have to make that decision.

Tenet, especially, is a film that needs to be marketed. It is an ambitious, expensive original property, and they're banking on Christopher Nolan's name to sell tickets. But it hasn't yet had the full aggressive marketing campaign that Warner would normally do for a film like that. I think they were planning on having trailers for it screen in theaters a lot during the first half of the summer, on big films that were due to come out ahead of it, so as to introduce the concept to potential moviegoers. They were probably also going to use live sports events and other TV events to draw attention to it with TV spots. Now, those avenues are not currently open to it. I believe the movie can be successful, but I also think it probably needs to be handled a little more carefully than a pre-existing branded property. So, personally, if I were Warner, I would not want Tenet to be the first big movie back out. I would want to wait for those marketing avenues to be available again.

Mulan will probably have an easier time of It because they already had a lot of marketing ramping up to its original release date at the end of March, and because it is a remake of a legacy Disney Animation title that is already very well-known to audiences.
 
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jcroy

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But a delay for something that big will likely impact their stock price, so I think they're waiting until they can't wait anymore to have to make that decision.
The question is by how much is their stock prices affected directly by a lack of theater tickets being sold.

There's only realy one "pure play" movie company left: Lionsgate. They would most likely be hit directly by theatrical failures.

For the other big major movie companies, they are owned by giant conglomerates where the theatrical movie studio is one of many divisions in the corporation. (Comcast, AT&T, Viacom, Sony, etc ...).
 
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TravisR

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I don't think that's going to happen.

I think we're going to get to about the end of June or so and then it will become apparent that July theatrical releases are not sustainable, so theaters will stay closed and Warner and Disney will end up having to push those titles.
I agree. My 'plan' doesn't even take into account what theaters would do when movies slow down in the fall. If studios started releasing movies, they understandably won't want one screen with 1/2 capacity so every movie would have at least 2 or 3 screens with limited seating and I doubt chain theaters could have only three or four non-blockbuster movies and still turn a profit.

That being said, I hope we're both wrong and it's actually safe and financially feasible to return (even with limited seating) in July but, as usual, I remain pessimistic. :)
 

Josh Steinberg

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I read one financial analysis at one of the trades that opined that the steps movie theaters will need to take to reopen - whether by government mandates or simply out of necessity to convince the public that they’re safe - will drastically reduce seating capacity and severely reduce income to the point that it won’t be profitable to run the theaters at pre-pandemic pricing. The article went on to envision that prices would have to increase dramatically right at the moment when they should be coming down to incentivize customer return. The bottom line was that the cost of making people feel safe at theaters will be so high that it’ll be another entertainment item (like theater, concert and sports tickets) that used to be affordable to the masses as a regular hobby but is now generally only in reach of the upper classes or as a once a year splurge. I don’t think that’s a given, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility either.
 

jcroy

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I read one financial analysis at one of the trades that opined that the steps movie theaters will need to take to reopen - whether by government mandates or simply out of necessity to convince the public that they’re safe - will drastically reduce seating capacity and severely reduce income to the point that it won’t be profitable to run the theaters at pre-pandemic pricing. The article went on to envision that prices would have to increase dramatically right at the moment when they should be coming down to incentivize customer return. The bottom line was that the cost of making people feel safe at theaters will be so high that it’ll be another entertainment item (like theater, concert and sports tickets) that used to be affordable to the masses as a regular hobby but is now generally only in reach of the upper classes or as a once a year splurge. I don’t think that’s a given, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility either.
(On a tangential aside).

Even years before the current pandemic, I stopped attending rock concerts and sports games when the ticket prices were going sky high from the scalpers running automated computer bots to buy up huge blocks of tickets.

IF theater ticket prices go sky high in a similar manner (even independent of scalpers), this means no more theaters for me. Not even once in a while.
 
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Jake Lipson

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That being said, I hope we're both wrong and it's actually safe and financially feasible to return (even with limited seating) in July but, as usual, I remain pessimistic.
I'd love to be able to safely return to theaters in July.

But here's another element that we're not considering, because most of us are from the United States and don't really think about it as much. What happens with the worldwide market? For a big-budget action-adventure spectacle like Tenet or Mulan, the studios made those expecting robust results around the world. Even if theaters in the United States might be able to open in July, which is very much a question mark at this point, the rest of the world might not be able to come back at the same time because conditions in different countries are different with regard to how widespread the virus is and how each individual region is dealing with it. So, are the studios going to want to release a big film in the United States only, and wait for other countries to come back online, or are they going to want to wait until the film can play in the majority of the world at the same time?

As a comp for Tenet, Christopher Nolan's last two original sci-fi properties were Inception and Interstellar. Inception grossed $535 million outside North America and Interstellar grossed $489 million outside North America. Both movies did well here too ($292 million for Inception and $188 million for Interstellar domestically), but their international numbers were significantly higher than domestic. So, it's clear that Nolan's films are built and budgeted to work worldwide.

The international appeal of Mulan is obvious, because it's based on a Chinese story and features a bunch of famous Chinese actors who Disney expects will be big draws to fans in that market.

So...does it make sense for either of these films to have to significantly stagger their global releases? I don't know.
 
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Robert Crawford

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I read one financial analysis at one of the trades that opined that the steps movie theaters will need to take to reopen - whether by government mandates or simply out of necessity to convince the public that they’re safe - will drastically reduce seating capacity and severely reduce income to the point that it won’t be profitable to run the theaters at pre-pandemic pricing. The article went on to envision that prices would have to increase dramatically right at the moment when they should be coming down to incentivize customer return. The bottom line was that the cost of making people feel safe at theaters will be so high that it’ll be another entertainment item (like theater, concert and sports tickets) that used to be affordable to the masses as a regular hobby but is now generally only in reach of the upper classes or as a once a year splurge. I don’t think that’s a given, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility either.
If that happens then you can basically kiss the movie theater experience good-bye for many people including myself. Hell, I wasn't planning on going to the movies any time soon anyway. They might as well start converting theaters to lounge seating with plenty of space in between seats.
 

Josh Steinberg

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If that happens then you can basically kiss the movie theater experience good-bye for many people including myself. Hell, I wasn't planning on going to the movies any time soon anyway. They might as well start converting theaters to lounge seating with plenty of space in between seats.
That type of seating you describe is the fastest growth category for theaters in New York City in the past couple years. Regular multiplexes have been closing. Others have converted to loungers. And then new theaters are opening up with smaller auditoriums, very few seats, and some even with options like couches or beds to watch from.
 

Colin Jacobson

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(On a tangential aside).

Even years before the current pandemic, I stopped attending rock concerts and sports games when the ticket prices were going sky high from the scalpers running automated computer bots to buy up huge blocks of tickets.

IF theater ticket prices go sky high in a similar manner (even independent of scalpers), this means no more theaters for me. Not even once in a while.
Movies can't feasibly go to, say, $30 a ticket because - unlike sporting events or concerts - the at-home experience is "close enough" for most people that they won't pay the premium.

With sports/concerts, there's the fact you see real people in person that makes it special. With a movie, it's on film whether you watch at home or in a theater, so people are much less likely to pony up the dough for the in-theater situation...
 
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Patrick Sun

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Pretty much nothing is gonna be financially feasible for local businesses if social distancing guidelines are required for small indoor spaces, i.e. restaurants, theaters, etc, or venues with large crowds. Can't churn enough in a given day operating at 25% capacity to make a profit.

Humans are just going to have to grin and bear, catch some C-19, recover, and get on with the business of living. Otherwise, hardly any point in "living" long-term as we have been under the past month's pandemic conditions.
 
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Robert Crawford

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Pretty much nothing is gonna be financially feasible for local businesses if social distancing guidelines are required for small indoor spaces, i.e. restaurants, theaters, etc, or venues with large crowds. Can't churn enough in a given day operating at 25% capacity to make a profit.

Humans are just going to have to grin and bear, catch some C-19, recover, and get on with the business of living. Otherwise, hardly any point in "living" long-term as we have been under the past month's pandemic conditions.
That's why they need the vaccine. I will be forgoing such businesses for the foreseeable future until there is such a thing. Many local businesses will go under in the meantime.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Humans are just going to have to grin and bear, catch some C-19, recover, and get on with the business of living.
This follows the assumption that one can only get Covid-19 once and is then immune from it, but unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence as of yet to say if that will be the case.

It’s an open question as to whether or not this will be an illness you can get once and then get on with your life, or if it will be an illness that keeps coming at you again and again until you’re dead.

And depending on which it turns out to be, the economic and social outlooks will be far different.
 

Jeff Adkins

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Pretty much nothing is gonna be financially feasible for local businesses if social distancing guidelines are required for small indoor spaces, i.e. restaurants, theaters, etc, or venues with large crowds. Can't churn enough in a given day operating at 25% capacity to make a profit.

Humans are just going to have to grin and bear, catch some C-19, recover, and get on with the business of living. Otherwise, hardly any point in "living" long-term as we have been under the past month's pandemic conditions.
The only time I've ever been in theaters that were more than 25% full was on opening night Thursday, or on opening weekends.

Cinemark said something about still being able to be profitable at 30% capacity the other day and now I can't find the article to link it. I can see how it can be done. The places with 14-18 screens always have a couple auditoriums which are usually near empty. They'll just push those out faster and have the big stuff on more screens to compensate for the low capacity.

Subscription revenue will be more important than ever. I'm sure a lot of people will cancel, but the chains are going to want as much of that guaranteed money as they can get.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Movies can't feasibly go to, say, $30 a ticket because - unlike sporting events or concerts - the at-home experience is "close enough" for most people that they won't pay the premium.
This is the battle theaters were going to have to face regardless as they’ve gone from being the only way to see prerecorded entertainment to then being the best way until finally landing at merely being the first, costliest and lease convenient of many opportunities to see something.

Ticket prices are already $30 in NYC for IMAX, Dolby Cinema and other premium presentation types. Its more than that if you want to see the first showing of a Disney-owned film on opening night.

I think the unfortunate end result to this is that surviving theaters will become another playground for the privileged, while ordinary folks who either can’t afford the ticket price or can’t afford the consequences of contracting the virus will stay home and watch the same content there.

Going to the movies will be the same as going to a ballgame. Lots of people follow sports but only a small percentage of those total viewers actually see the game in person, and pay huge sums of money to do so. We’ll still all see the same movies but it’ll be the select few that go to theaters for it.
 

Jake Lipson

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That requires the theaters to accept such an arrangement from the studios, and I don't believe they will acquiesce to showing the same content that is available elsewhere. That is their line in the sand.
 
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John Dirk

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It’ll be the same story as Georgia. No new product to show, chains won’t reopen one state at a time, and extremely unlikely that studios will provide licenses to screen older films for fear of the bad press that would follow if a new outbreak was traced to a movie theater.
Yea, theaters here do not appear to be opening. Despite the supposed reopening announcement things seem more or less unchanged. More traffic for sure and retailers like Sam's Club and Costco have somewhat relaxed their entry policies although the latter will begin requiring face coverings starting May 5th.
 
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Chris Will

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That requires the theaters to accept such an arrangement from the studios, and I don't believe they will acquiesce to showing the same content that is available elsewhere. That is their line in the sand.
Then they can die IMO. The age of the exclusive theater window is coming to an end. They can either find a way to survive or cease to exist.
 

John Dirk

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Then they can die IMO. The age of the exclusive theater window is coming to an end. They can either find a way to survive or cease to exist.
Platforms already exist for same-day availability of theatrical releases for the uber wealthy, so I think you're ultimately correct in that it will trickle down to the relative masses and COVID-19 may very well be the catalyst to make it happen sooner than later. Personally, it makes no difference to me. I've always been perfectly happy to wait on new releases and watch them in my theater which is completely under my control.
 
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