Carl makes his case for Hollywood to admit defeat and close its doors until 2021
I have said it before and I’m going to say it again. Is it finally time for Hollywood to cancel the rest of the movie release year and wait until next year, if it’s safe, to launch its big releases? We have been here before, haven’t we? Earlier this year, I said it may be an idea for the studios to swallow their pride and pull all their releases for the rest of 2020 and reschedule them until next year.
At the time, I said it would create a backlog of big-budget entertainment that could be a problem at the multiplexes around the world. I still stand by that statement. But with whats been going on recently, I think it is time for Hollywood to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Don’t get me wrong, they have given it a damn good try and deserve to be commended for their efforts. I would have loved for it to have worked out, really I do. There’s nothing better than sitting in a screen and watching a big movie play out in front of our eyes. But even I, the eternal optimist, have to start thinking that COVID-19 has beaten the movie industry.
Let us take a look at the evidence. And I have to admit my feelings now. I can’t honestly see ANY of the pushed back films that remain on the release schedules opening this year. And before anyone says it, NO, I don’t think a streaming release is an answer to the problem and the backlog. And I DETEST the idea that it is even being considered or mentioned. These films deserve a big-screen release as intended. People are saying ‘Black Widow‘ should go to streaming instead, just like ‘Mulan‘ did earlier this year. Sorry but you’re wrong here. ‘Mulan‘ wouldn’t have brought in the same amount of box office money as ‘Black Widow‘ will do.
Don’t get me wrong, ‘Mulan‘ would have made a sizable profit if it had been allowed to open theatrically in a normal year. And I still say it should have been given a cinematic chance. But ‘Black Widow‘ is a Marvel movie, Scarlett Johansson‘s swansong as the character before handing the baton over to Florence Pugh and as such, the fans will be cramming in to see the film once it opens. And here lies yet another problem. The coronavirus epidemic hasn’t gone away and is returning for round two by the sounds of it. If that is true, then there won’t be any way that ‘Black Widow‘ will open this year. It’s too much of a public health risk. Social distancing, staggered screenings, and all the safety protocols in the world won’t be able to contain the public appetite to see the film. And that is a serious health threat for all concerned.
‘No Time To Die‘ is another case. Daniel Craig‘s final film as James Bond has a running time rumored to be almost three hours in length. Once more, the public’s appetite to see the film is considerably high and is guaranteed to drag in a huge audience. Yet again, there is no 100% guarantee that the audience will be safe with a second peak of COVID on the way. It can’t have. There is no way an audience will sit in a theatre for three hours plus, with their sodas and concessions and removing their masks to eat and drink said snacks and not run the risk of someone having the virus and not showing symptoms as yet infecting them or the rest of the audience.
Bathroom breaks? Will there be someone actually inside the toilets at all times to disinfect and wipe down the stalls and urinals? Didn’t think so. So there lies another risk. Adding in the major problem of Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco theatres remaining shuttered and the film faces an uphill struggle to make money. ‘Tenet‘ has proven that (read our review). They considered that film to be the savior of the box offices. It is making money, no doubt about that. But it’s not hitting the heights that they all thought it would and taking that much-needed revenue. Again, a nice try but one that isn’t paying off.
We move now to Warner Bros. and their double trouble. It has been six times now that they have moved ‘Wonder Woman 1984‘. Ok, so it can be argued that several of the shifts occurred before the COVID epidemic. But the fact remains that the film has been pushed back once more, this time to Christmas Day in the United States and possibly Boxing Day or later for the rest of the world whose cinemas don’t open on December 25th. Can you honestly see the big DC film of the year opening on the day people sit down with their families? Do you think these people will abandon their celebrations and Christmas dinners to go and see the movie? Of course not. Warners has put the film there as a holding action. It will move shortly, in my opinion, to a 2021 release date. Maybe a month or so before ‘The Suicide Squad‘ in August 2021.
The big movie event that is ‘Dune‘ is scheduled to open a week before ‘Wonder Woman 1984‘s new date. So, I hear you cry? What difference does that make? Simple. Both films are coming from Warner Bros. Can you honestly see them opening two big movies a week apart from each other and expect them both to be huge successes? Of course not. This leads me to believe that ‘Wonder Woman‘ will shortly be on the move again. Why would they schedule it for Christmas Day instead of moving ‘Dune‘ to next year and pushing the Amazonian Warriors sequel into its spot? Easy, because ‘Wonder Woman‘ isn’t staying in its December 25th spot. It’s going to move to 2021 instead. This gives ‘Dune‘ an open road to taking the box office by storm around the world. It is going to be an event movie. ‘Wonder Woman‘ is not.
The Gerard Butler disaster movie ‘Greenland‘ has opened in a few markets around the world but its U.S release has been shelved until later this year from its assigned September release, possibly to just before Christmas. It won’t blow the box office apart but it will be a suitable filler in place of the bigger movies that have vacated the 2020 schedules. But that’s if it gains a release this year. It’s not a given that it will. ‘Candyman‘ was going to open this year without fail. Where is it now? That’s right, in an undetermined 2021 release slot.
Nothing is certain at this time and after Sony’s admission that none of its big releases will open until there is a vaccine for COVID, fare such as ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife‘, ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘ and such like that have already departed 2020 and taken up spaces in 2021 are in danger of not opening next year either. I still think they will but there is that level of uncertainty over them along with the rest of next year’s movies. There is no guarantee that we will have defeated COVID-19 by the time the box office year of 2021 gets into full swing. And that means we could be in for another year like this one.
Streaming is NOT the answer. People will say, look at ‘Trolls: World Tour‘. Look at ‘Scoob!’. Look at some of the other films that bypassed the movie theatres and made money on streaming. You have a point, I admit. But were any of those films $200million+ blockbusters? Would they have broken the $100million barrier if they had opened in theatres? Would they be potential record breakers box office wise? Not in the slightest. Take ‘Mulan‘ as a prime example. A $200million blockbuster that finally gave up the ghost and hit Disney+ on PVOD. Ok, so its making money but will it cover its costs? It has opened in China where it was predicted to do well. I estimated it would be a big success there. How wrong we were. It has taken $23million there, not the $100million it was thought it would take. Could you honestly see ‘No Time To Die‘, a $300million costed film being made available on PVOD? Not a chance. Bond movies are $1billion grossing movies at the moment. The same goes for ‘Black Widow‘. It would storm the PVOD market but would it hit or blow past the £1billion mark like ‘Captain Marvel‘ and ‘Avengers: Endgame‘? Doubtful. The figures don’t add up. Smaller fare is acceptable to go straight to PVOD, big-budgeted movies not so much. ‘Mulan‘ has proven that now so the warning signs for the studios is plain for them to see.
I am desperate to get myself back into the cinema and to see the best entertainment that Hollywood has to offer. I’m suffering from extreme cinema withdrawal. But it has to be said that the figures coming out of the box offices at the moment don’t inspire confidence. People say they are waiting for the right kind of entertainment to open. But Hollywood is rightfully afraid of launching a huge movie into the cinemas that are open in case of a lack of audience and the health threat that is once again looming. Money talks in the esteemed halls of Tinseltown. But they know that there will be a severe lack of cash if the second spike of coronavirus hits and the audience are too scared to venture out to the screens. And of course, if people get infected and, heaven forbid, pass away, then that is another step towards game over. The movies are there ready to entertain and take our minds off the pandemic. The timing though is way off of being right.
So, is it time to forget the release schedule for the rest of 2020? Sadly, the answer has to be a massive YES.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Entertainment/Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!