Hollywood cannot survive without cinemas

Hollywood cannot survive without cinemas

Hollywood cannot survive without cinemas

Every Thanksgiving weekend, when the holidays are over and people are looking for things to do for the rest of the holiday, I get messages from friends looking for movie recommendations: What’s worth seeing in the cinema right now? In 2022, that question became more of a plea. Was there anything see? Something, that all family, not just rowdy teenagers, could enjoy? Anything geared towards adult viewers? And then, to their horror, they found that only two films of this type had come out – Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and Rian Johnsons glass onion— but that wasn’t widespread in one of the busiest weeks of the year for multiplexes.

The past year has been an overall positive one for the cinema industry, a time of continued improvement as the world continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, cinemas sold around 216 million tickets; In 2021 that number rose to 492 million and last year it shot up to 813 million. While that’s still down from 2019’s 1.2 billion tickets, we’re seeing an unmistakably positive trendline. The success of publications such as Top Gun: MaverickSuperhero blockbusters, non-sequels and original films was electrifying and allayed fears that cinemas would never recover given an increase in streaming options.

But then I watched as Hollywood had one of the strangest falls imaginable, a largely self-inflicted series of wounds that led to speculation that the adult film market was in trouble. Perhaps the most egregious move was Universal’s decision not to give it a wide theatrical release The Fabelmans, a new Spielberg film with Oscar hype; As a result, it has grossed just $14 million since its release on November 11, and the most theaters it has ever played in has been 1,149 (wide release tends to hover between 3,000 and 4,000). This is a far cry from the usual net cast from one of filmmaking’s most enduring names, and it underscores the utter lack of confidence studios have had in adult fare of late.

The solution, now that 2023 is upon us, is simple: bring new releases to theaters exclusively and give them a real chance to hit the paying box office. No more muddled hybrid releases, no more slow and modest rollouts, and certainly nothing like Netflix’s confusing compromise glass onion, which played on 696 screens for just one week around Thanksgiving and then disappeared until debuting online just in time for Christmas. There will be failures, yes, but Hollywood needs to finally recognize that the overall health of theatrical performances is of paramount importance.

During the pandemic, many studios have turned their attention to streaming, both as part of a maniacal scramble to catch up to Netflix and as a way to bring more attention to their own projects at a turbulent moment. But for films, the current approach doesn’t seem to yield much profit — HBO Max is slashing its film and television offerings after a bold 2021 strategy pushed films online the same day they hit theaters, a tactic that it departed in 2022. Recently, former Disney CEO Bob Iger returned to his post, replacing his successor Bob Chapek, in part over fears that its streamer Disney+ lost $1.5 billion in a fiscal quarter. One of the biggest film success stories of the year, Top Gun: Mavericktook seven months to arrive on his studio’s streamer (Paramount+), which didn’t stop him from becoming the service’s #1 offering right away.

Netflix stands out, of course — its approach has always emphasized direct-to-stream releases, and its massive subscriber base generates more revenue than its fledgling rivals. But even Netflix continues to adjust its strategy in the face of declining subscriber numbers, emphasizing fewer and bigger projects. The company is committed to online exclusivity, even if that means leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table: glass onion grossed about $15 million in a limited theatrical release week and could have probably tripled that had it gone far, making it one of the biggest hits of the year.

So while I don’t envision a sea change at Netflix, other studios shouldn’t fear the exclusive theater “window” that used to last for months but has shrunk or been abandoned altogether in the COVID era. Audiences don’t have a consistent idea of ​​when a movie will be available online, but the answer often falls somewhere between “immediately” and “quickly.” So many of this year’s Fall Prize favorites—The Fabelmans, tar, The Banshees by Inisherin– expanded to a maximum of around 1,000 screens and will be online by December. All would have benefited from more time in theaters and could now have expanded widely before the Oscar nominations are announced next week. Instead, they can already be purchased on iTunes.

The result is that multiplexes turn out to be big blockbusters like e.g. B. feeling starved Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water screens dominate. This Christmas was the only new family film in cinemas Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, a long-delayed animated sequel; It is successful and has made $113 million domestically, a huge improvement from its weak $12 million open. avatar has performed tremendously well, but even more encouraging is the surprising success of the few other options available. The horror comedy M3GAN has consistently exceeded expectations of its early January release and family drama A man named Ottostarring Tom Hanks, has done the same and has resonated with audiences outside of New York and Los Angeles (traditionally the country’s two strongest markets).

All of this should be the encouragement for studios to return to more traditional release strategies. The alternative is daunting for anything that isn’t manufactured on the largest scale: a world where watching movies in theaters becomes a boutique option only in the largest cities, and where streaming deals are the only way non- to finance blockbuster projects. This would do immense damage to the art form and the variety of projects on offer to audiences, and it’s a path Hollywood can turn down by putting its trust back in cinemas — and the viewers who love going there.

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