In the United States, movie producers have heard cries of pain from theater owners who want to reopen, but do not have any new films to show.
Warner Brothers (Bros.) announced on Monday that Christopher Nolan’s movie “Tenet” will be coming to theaters next month. The production house had delayed its release several times because of the coronavirus health crisis.
“Tenet” will open in theaters in over 70 countries, starting on August 26. Warner Bros. said the film will open in select U.S. cities over the Labor Day holiday weekend in September.
Many movie theaters have reopened around the world with audience limits and other safety measures. But most U.S. theaters remain closed.
On Monday, Regal Cinemas announced plans to reopen its theaters on August 21. The company is hoping big-name and big-budget movies will bring people out of their homes and into theaters.
Just a year ago, before anyone ever heard of COVID-19, big-budget films opened around the world on the same day or close to it. Theaters were crowded, with people waiting in line for a chance to see the biggest movies. Blockbuster films often earned over $300 million worldwide on their first day of release. Last year, the film “Avengers: Endgame” earned over $1 billion in just a few days.
The coronavirus changed everything. Hollywood has gone more than four months without a major theatrical release. Some movies have been streamed for people to watch at home.
In the United States, movie theaters are big business; they earn about $50 billion a year. After four months of being closed, and earning no money, the business is suffering. Restaurants can offer take-out service, while airline companies are able to fly so long as people cover their faces. But theaters could not show movies because there was nothing that people want to see.
“The problem is, we need their movies,” says John Fithian. He is president of the National Association of Theater Owners. He noted that theaters cannot wait for markets to open because “that’s not going to happen until there’s a vaccine widely available in the world.”
“The old distribution models of big blockbusters,” Fithian added, “need to be rethought.”
That may mean returning to an older model for movie releases: Opening films first in countries other than the United States; then, in the U.S., open them at different times in different areas.
Delaying releases of biggest films
Right now, other than “Tenet,” the big-budget movies are getting further into the future, not closer. AMC operates the largest number of theaters in the world. On Thursday, the company delayed its reopening from the end of July to mid-to-late August.
Other new films, like Disney’s “Mulan,”as well as new films in the “Avatar” and “Star Wars” franchises, pushed back their openings. “A Quiet Place Part II” has been delayed until April 23 of 2021.
The businesses of the movie studios and the movie theaters have a long history of arguing, but they divide the money from ticket sales between themselves. Their earnings, good or bad, are linked forever. But it is the movie theaters that have the most to lose.
The largest production studios — the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., and Universal — now all have streaming services of their own, along with television operations. So, they have choices. But the two businesses have worked largely together during the coronavirus crisis because movie studios do not want to release them on streaming services. If they do, the company will likely lose money.
With social distancing and other measures, movie theaters have reopened in parts of Europe, the Middle East, and South Korea. Theaters in China reopened last week with some restrictions.
Reopening U.S. theaters
North America may have to learn to follow the rest of the world.
Even with infections rising in much of the United States, theater owners believe they can operate safely by following guidance from public health officials. They will hold down the number of people permitted inside theaters and clean between showings. AMC finally decided it will require face coverings.
John Fithian believes that 75 percent of U.S. theaters would be open within days if they had enough new movies. Those currently open are mainly playing older films.
“The longer this goes, there will be bankruptcy filings and reorganizations and there will be people who go out of business,” Fithian added. He is asking U.S. lawmakers to help support the theaters.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and the Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
select - adj. only few, not all
audience - n. the people who watch a play, film or television show
blockbuster - adj. a film that is a big money-maker
stream - v. a show that is played over the internet
distribution - n. the way a product is sold to the public
franchise - n. a group of films that are about the same characters
ticket - n. a paper stub that proves someone has purchased entrance
bankruptcy - n. a legal proceeding for a person or a business that is unable to pay its debts