The Future of Film in a Post COVID-19 World

Jinho Lee, Contributing Writer

Since their invention, movies have served as a source of relief to viewers, providing a mental break from their lives. During this coronavirus pandemic, movies have continued to alleviate viewers at home. It is obvious, to say the least, that the implications of the pandemic have been felt to every extent possible, including in Hollywood. Moreover, with the production of future films halted due to distancing regulations, and all wide-release theater debuts being delayed, the effects of the virus will be felt in the film industry for many years to come.

Movie theaters will be one of the most devastated branches of the film industry. Pre-pandemic, movie theaters were already struggling to make ends meet. Experts from MKM Partners had predicted that movie ticket sales would drop significantly post-2019, a prediction stemming off the fact that 2019 saw a large number of giant movie franchises come to an end. This forthcoming drop in ticket sales was expected to hurt theaters greatly, as theaters’ profits are mainly made up of concessions sold and blockbuster movies with longevity in the box office. However, with movie theaters closed, along with audiences skeptical to come back even when they do reopen, we may never live in a movie-theater-oriented world ever again.

The effects of the virus will be felt in the film industry for many years to come.

Recently, Universal’s picture “Trolls World Tour” proved that movies didn’t need to be played in theaters to maximize profit, with its early on demand release breaking streaming records. The Wall Street Journal estimated that “Trolls World Tour” had seen about 5 million rentals in its first 3 weeks online, resulting in roughly $100 million of revenue. Due to their newfound success, NBCUniversal’s CEO Jeff Shell said that moving forward, Universal would release movies on demand alongside their theater releases, breaking the traditional “theatrical window.” The theatrical window is the time a movie is presented exclusively in theaters before it is allowed to be sold online, allowing theaters to turn profits. Universal’s statement prompted Adam Aron, CEO of AMC, to ban the playing of all movies distributed by Universal at AMC’s theaters. With AMC being the world’s largest movie theater chain, and Universal holding the rights to many big blockbuster names, this feud could result in financial disaster for both corporations.

Release dates of anticipated movies will be far postponed because of the busy schedule of slated releases already in place. In an effort to maximize profits, studios try to avoid releasing their movies in the same opening weekend as a blockbuster. With movies that were scheduled for 2020 being postponed, it will be even harder for studios to find open time slots to play their movies, thus pushing back release dates even further. For example, movies that weren’t even scheduled to be released for years have been pushed back, such as the next John Wick film, and the next Thor sequel.

The 2021 Oscars ceremony is looking to be one of the most atypical ceremonies yet, with a rule exception allowing movies that hadn’t played in theaters to be eligible for an Oscar, as long as they had planned a theatrical release. This would make movies exclusive to streaming services able to compete in 2021 categories, such as Disney+’s “Artemis Fowl” or Netflix’s “The Lovebirds.” Still, the question remains: Will movie theaters soon be obsolete, just like the veteran drive-in theater? Or, will they be able to make a comeback when they reopen? Only time, and the consumers, will tell.