Movie Theaters Struggle & Movie Delays Continue Due to the Pandemic

Andrew Mello, Managing Editor

The repeated delays of blockbuster caliber James Bond: No Time To Die, and Warner Bros.’ Dune adaptation have brought to light valid concerns for the entire movie theater industry, and what its future will hold.

It’s not breaking news that some movie theater chains along with local ventures are going out of business. Just the other day, Regal Cinemas’ chain was considering bankruptcy due in no small part to the longest stretch without expensive movies in anyone’s lifetime. It is rare for a winter season to come and go without a flood of Oscar-baiting procrastinators sneaking in before the doors close just before the holidays. When trying to guess what the best picture category might look like in 2021, the fact that all that comes to mind are Extraction and Tenet is a telltale sign this may be the worst ever period for entertainment, still with no end in sight.

With the key markets of New York and Los Angeles still under strict lockdowns regarding indoor spaces, releases like Tenet aren’t able to perform on pace with their $200 million production budget. As of October 14th, Tenet has grossed $284,900,000 internationally, and while that’s forgiving of a marketing budget, it’s more than optimistic for the longevity of the industry, showing people still wanting to come back to theaters after so long without the option. While Tenet was released only about a month and a half ago, it has yet to be available on any Video On Demand (VOD) platforms, which has helped its box office performance. 

With the key markets of New York and Los Angeles still under strict lockdowns regarding indoor spaces, releases like Tenet aren’t able to perform on pace with their $200 million production budget.”

Across the aisle, Disney is on the opposite end of the spectrum in their release philosophy: Mulan—produced with a comparable budget around $200 million—released the same weekend on their Disney Plus streaming service. Looking to recoup their losses at the expense of the consumer, Mulan was available to rent for 24 hours at a staggering $30.00, accounting for the other people you’d need to pack into the room to get your money’s ticketing equivalent. It’s no surprise that strategy didn’t come across as too enticing for a global audience suffering a pandemic, especially an audience just now finding out about its controversial production near Uighur reeducation facilities. Disney was reprimanded in the ring of the media, but other than that didn’t feel much backlash as a result, save in its performance of their little $30.00 experiment, which took in $66 million against a wincing $200 million for its production budget. 

While Dune and James Bond wouldn’t be the first pushbacks, they were intended to cushion a bad year with a little padding—sci-fi epic for some, slick, familiar action for everybody else. In an alternate timeline, the reopening of theaters in major cities could have seen a considerable turnaround for the industry as a whole, but in the harsher reality, that’s little more than speculation. As it stands though, movies like Matt Reeves’ Batman and Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible 7, are still going further with production, showing faith there will still be a place to show big movies when we finally reach ‘normal’ again. But while those movies still have yet to be finished, entire catalogues like The French Dispatch sit on a flash drive somewhere, locked in a desk while they rewatch Clone High yet again. It’s sad to see the film industry go from a commercial and artistic peak in 2019, to being rationed to a single blockbuster to tide audiences over, until the industry feels like sacrificing their bottom line for the ungrateful consumer’s viewing pleasure.