Hollywood cannot survive without cinemas

Every Thanksgiving weekend, once the holiday itself has passed and people are looking for things to do for the rest of the break, I get text messages from friends looking for movie recommendations: What’s worth watching in theaters now? In 2022, that query has become more than just a plea. he was there Any thing to see? Thing All The family, not just the rowdy teens, might have fun? Anything geared towards adult viewers? And then, with an air of horror, they will realize that only two of these lines have been shown –Steven Spielberg Fablemans And Rian Johnson glass onion—However, in one of the busiest weeks of the year for multiplexes, neither was widely released.

Last year was, on the whole, a positive year for the film and theater industry, which saw further improvement as the world continued to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. in 2020, Selling cinemas approximately 216 million tickets; In 2021, that number rose to 492 million, and last year, it jumped to 813 million. Although this is still down from the 2019 figure of 1.2 billion tickets, we are seeing an unequivocally positive trend line. Successful releases such as Top Gun: Mavericksuperhero films, non-sequel films, and original films It was catalytic, allaying fears that theaters would never rebound amid the increase in streaming options.

But then watched Hollywood have one of the strangest fall imaginable, a series of mostly self-inflicted wounds that led to speculation that the adult film market was there is a problem. Perhaps the most outrageous move was Universal’s decision not to give a wide theatrical release to Fablemans, a new Spielberg movie with Oscar Buzz; As a result, it’s made just $14 million since its November 11 release, and the largest number of theaters it’s ever played in is 1,149 (wide release tends to hover between 3,000 and 4,000). This is well below the usual net thrown by one of the most enduring names in filmmaking, and underscores the utter lack of confidence adult studios have had of late.

The solution, now that it’s 2023, is simple: release new releases exclusively in theaters and give them a real chance of success with paying moviegoers. No more confusing mixed releases, no slow, mediocre rollouts, and certainly nothing like Netflix’s confusing compromise with glass onion, which ran on 696 screens for only one week around Thanksgiving and then disappeared until it debuted online just in time for Christmas. There will be failures, yes, but Hollywood must finally recognize that the public health of the theatrical fair is a grave concern.

Throughout the pandemic, many studios have focused on streaming as part of a mad scramble to catch up with Netflix and as a way to get more eyeballs on their own projects during a turbulent moment. But for movies, there doesn’t seem to be much payoff in the current approach — HBO Max is Cut back on film and TV shows After a bold 2021 strategy, it put movies online the same day they debuted in cinemas, a tactic deviated from The year is 2022. Recently, Disney has seen The return of former CEO Bob Iger to his position, replacing his successor, Bob Chapek, in part due to fears of losing the streaming device, Disney+ $1.5 billion in a fiscal quarter. One of the biggest movie success stories of the year, Top Gun: MaverickIt took seven months to get access to her studio streamer (Paramount +), which didn’t stop him from instantly becoming her presenter No. 1 display.

Netflix, of course, stands apart from all of this — its approach has long emphasized straight-to-stream releases, and its massive customer base generates more revenue than its fledgling competitors do. But even Netflix continues to adjust its strategy Subscription rate stabilityconfirming less and greater projects. The company is committed to online exclusivity even if it means leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table: glass onion It made about $15 million in one week of limited theatrical release and likely would have tripled if it had gone viral, making it one of the biggest hits of the year.

So, while I don’t envision a drastic change for Netflix, other studios shouldn’t fear the exclusive theatrical “window,” which has been running 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 is often between “immediately” and “quickly.” So many favorite fall awards this year –FablemansAnd storehouseAnd Anisherin from Inisherin– Expanded to only about 1,000 screens at most, and released online by December. Everyone would have benefited from more time in cinemas and it was set to expand widely now, before the Oscar nominations are announced next week. Instead, they are already available for purchase on iTunes.

The result is that multiplexes feel as deprived of options as blockbusters like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever And Avatar: Water Road dominate screens. This Christmas, it was the only new wide-released family movie Puss in Boots: Last Wish, a long-delayed animated sequel; It thrived and grossed $113 million domestically, a huge improvement over its poor opening of $12 million. symbol picture It did tremendously well, but what’s even more encouraging is the surprising success of a few other options available. horror comedy M3GAN Consistently beat expectations for its early January release, and family drama A man called Ottostarring Tom Hanks, did the same, and it resonated with viewers the outside New York and Los Angeles (traditionally the two strongest markets in the country).

All of this should be the encouragement studios need to return to more traditional release strategies. The alternative is daunting for anything not made on a large scale: a world in which watching movies in theaters becomes a small option only in the biggest cities, and where streaming deals are the only way to finance projects that aren’t huge. This would be extremely detrimental to the art form and the variety of projects on offer to the public, and it is a path that Hollywood could reject by restoring its faith in movie theaters – and in the viewers who love to go to them.

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