Thomas explores the plight of international cinemas and how the big studios can help save the industry
I recently wrote an article about whether international cinemas could survive the pandemic but I’m writing about it once again because the situation is extremely dire and considering what is going on it is clear now that Tenet is European cinemas’ last hope for survival.
This Summer has been an utter catastrophe for cinemas outside the US, especially in Europe without any new blockbusters being released due to the uncontrollable COVID-19 situation in the US. And because of that, the box office numbers are literally in free fall. During Summer, US blockbusters represent 70% of the French box office, France being the biggest country in Europe in terms of people going to the cinemas. Compared to 2019, which was a huge year for blockbusters, cinema attendance has dropped from 78% in France. These numbers are extremely worrying. In an interview with RFI, Richard Patry the head of the FNCF (Fédération Nationale des Cinémas Français) has revealed since their reopening, no cinemas have been profitable and if the situation remains like this, many cinemas won’t survive. Exhibitors haven’t followed with movies, they have preferred to delay them but like Patry said if in the meantime all the cinemas are closed, it’s the whole industry that will collapse. Honestly, it’s something that nobody wants because if the cinema industry collapses that will represent millions of people around the world unemployed, meaning a whole new economic crisis above the one that is already forming because of the COVID-19 health crisis.
Because, the situation is not just dire in France, it’s the same in all of Europe and Asia. According to a report by the China Film Association, 40% of Chinese cinemas could close permanently, which could represent roughly 5,000 cinemas! Just like Europe, China is suffering from a lack of new releases. On Monday, 835 cinemas reopened which not even 20% of Chinese cinemas. Only one town had to close its cinemas again due to the Coronavirus, otherwise Chinese cinemas are still opened elsewhere. And then Beijing reopened its cinemas on Friday (except some that were classified as being in a high-risk area). There was a Chinese rule going around on the internet that said that movie runtime couldn’t exceed 2 hours for reopening, it was only a recommendation and not an obligation, the Harry Potter movies which are more than 2 hours long are now screening in China in their entirety. Chinese cinemas being reopened is a major argument for both the release of Tenet and Mulan internationally before the US. Especially Mulan because its main target is China.
In fact, the main argument to open Tenet internationally for Warner Bros. was the reopening of Chinese cinemas. Right now, Tenet has become cinemas’ last hope for survival as Richard Patry said it. It is set to open in Europe and Asia between August 26-28. France has it for August 26 while Germany and Spain have it for August 27. Obviously, given the situation, the dates are not set in stone but it is currently the plan. All eyes are on Tenet and it is so much pressure for one single movie to save an entire industry. It has come to that point because all of the other US studios have decided to remove their movies instead of trying to support the industry and that only because the situation in the US is uncontrollable, not caring about what happens internationally. Sony and Paramount are a prime example as they removed all of their 2020 movies for 2021. Paramount removing Top Gun Maverick from 2020 is absolutely appalling because Tom Cruise is an international star and his movies are always better received internationally than domestic, just like the James Bond movies that are international movies rather than US audience movies. All US blockbusters box office numbers are higher internationally than domestic, representing more than half of the total box office numbers, but there are movies where the gap is even bigger, Tom Cruise and James Bond are a good example of that.
Another player could support Tenet – Mulan. Indeed, Disney is waiting to see how it goes for the Warner movie before making a decision for their own blockbuster. Like I said, above there is a major argument for Disney to open Mulan internationally first – China. We have our fingers crossed for now and hoping for the best. This new release strategy could be the new normal for the foreseeable future (at least for 2020 and part of 2021) so studios need to be supportive of that.
What if Tenet is delayed again and the end of August opening doesn’t happen? Richard Patry the head of the FNCF said that cinemas won’t last like this for several months. Cinemas won’t survive unless they are helped by their local governments. According to the FNCF, if the situation continues like this, cinemas would need a 300 million euros fund from the government to survive. Unfortunately, local governments in Europe aren’t too keen to support cinemas like this while it is an industry that weighs tens of billions of euros. The French ministry of culture isn’t willing to ask the government the funds to help cinemas and the UK is in a similar position. So if Tenet isn’t released at the end of August or in the following weeks, cinemas will be basically left in limbo.
The next James Bond movie, No Time To Die is another contender to help cinemas but this one doesn’t come until the beginning of November. For now, Universal is unwilling to move it once again internationally so it is definitely a great sign that it will stay with its release date. Because if it’s several months from now, it’s definitely a movie that will boost the box office and help cinemas. It’s also good reasoning from Universal considering that James Bond movies are mainly an international audience target.
If Tenet stays to end of August and is then followed by Mulan and No Time To Die, cinemas internationally would be saved. I’m not mentioning Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 as they are superhero movies and I doubt that studios would release them without the whole world ready and open for them, though we never know in these times.
The current situation is nothing short of a catastrophe and there is only a glimmer of hope but if things go according to plan this glimmer of hope will save cinemas in Europe and Asia.
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Thomas Storai is the Collectables Editor for The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and a wide variety of movies. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasStorai where he uses the force frequently!