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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The Future of Cinema: Re-imagining Theaters

 Ok, let's assume that the coronavirus is going to be around a while and that a vaccine is some time away from being ready. Let's say another 12 to 18 months. That would probably require the re-imagining of theaters by theater owners, right?

Thankfully, many theaters and their employees have been saved somewhat by federal stimulus (USA) so far, is it enough?

Theater patrons need to feel that they are safe when they return to the cinema, so social distancing and mask-wearing must be in place and monitored (probably not too far off from monitoring recording devices in the audience). It can be done.

Christopher Nolan's TENET (July 17) is tentatively planned for release in July as well as Disney's live-action MULAN (July 24). Does this mean there is a good chance it will happen? Well, let's go to the top to find out:

When John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) spoke to Variety on this very subject, he said:

"Some states will be able to reopen relatively quickly. Others may take a while. The question is how long will that take? We’re not just a national industry. We’re a global industry. Major studios won’t release big, wide-release films if only a couple of states and a handful of countries in Europe are open. They need a wider footprint. We don’t need 100% of markets to be in business, but we need a majority of them."

Aha. So a majority would mean literally 50%+ of all worldwide markets must be open for business, not just some states and provinces where Covid-19 has had its restrictions reduced. That's about 100 countries, give or take out of the 195 that exist today. Clearly, some countries have more impact than others (USA, China).

Will this happen for July 2020? Good question. I won't get into coronavirus numbers here, but some countries are not doing well, or are experiencing new outbreaks and hotspots. To release tentpoles like TENET and MULAN, studios are going to need some sort of confidence of box office return. 

Now, this is focused on NATO and theatrical release, what about a combination of theatrical and streaming? That might be able to whet the appetite of studios. What do you think?

And what about social distancing within theaters? Have you seen mockups of what a theater might look like when they reopen? It's not pretty, but functional. Revenue will be clearly down from pre-coronavirus. More screenings may alleviate demand.

Wearing masks must be mandatory obviously and while not being comfortable at all, it's a sacrifice that has to be made for the privilege of going to the cinema.

Improved air filters for air conditioning / heating would probably be prudent.

As I mentioned yesterday, drive-ins will need to address washrooms and concessions; so will theaters. There must be protocols to be strictly followed. Ordering your popcorn and soda through an app (reserving a washroom stall?) and having it delivered to your seat might help with lineups.

So, if the stars align and half the world box office markets open around the world; studios decide to release their big-budget tentpoles; theaters adopt revised seating plans / restrict washroom use to one or two / clean everything all the time / deliver concessions to your seat, and you don't mind wearing masks, maybe paying more and risking infection, WOULD YOU GO?

Surely I've missed some things here - let me know in the comments!

Sources: Variety
Images: The Guardian | IMDb

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