Hollywood is creating a void like the one that permanently stunted European film after Spanish flu
When Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi film Tenet opened in late summer, the hope was that audiences would return to the velvet seats and the waft of popcorn would engulf cinemas once more. Exhibitors everywhere had invested considerable resources to make their cinemas as safe as the other places of leisure and culture that were reopening.
Tenet succeeded globally, but underperformed in the US. Of the US$307 million taken at the box office by early October 2020, only US$45 million is from the historically lucrative US market. Over 85% has come from outside the US. The proportion of international non-US box office revenues has been rising for years, but 70% to 75% might have been more in line with studio expectations.
As studios scramble to make sense of the figures and adjust their film release schedules accordingly, one thing has become evident to exhibitors worldwide: Hollywood is focusing essentially on, well … Hollywood.
With theatres in Los Angeles (and New York) still closed due to the pandemic, studios are cutting their losses, grabbing their movies, and running for the hills to wait out the COVID-19 floods. The likes of Wonder Woman 1984, the Candyman and Dune remakes and new James Bond movie No Time to Die are all postponed, while others like Mulan bypassed cinemas to debut on streaming services instead.
Apocalypse any moment
Exhibitors point out that although US cinemas remain closed or underperforming, cinema is showing clear signs of life elsewhere. The strength of feeling amongst exhibitors on the lack of product was recently distilled by an unnamed UK cinema operator, who said, “It’s a fuck you to exhibitors”…