Hollywood’s hit summer season comes with a side of studio angst
LOS ANGELES – At a multiplex on Wednesday, Arnold Schwarzenegger led a rally to encourage movies on the big screen ahead of the summer movie season.
“We want to bring back the big screen. This is what it is about, ”said the“ Terminator ”star and former governor of California, who led some of the small, socially-distanced crowd by singing“ We’re Back! We are back!”
The fact that the cinema – a national business of more than $ 11 billion a year before Covid-19 – needed a rally of encouragement is testament to the bizarre reality of Hollywood these days. He wants people to both rush to the movies and watch them at home via streaming services.
AT&T Inc. of
streaming-driven spin-off of WarnerMedia on Monday is the latest development in an accelerated push to create direct-to-consumer platforms accessible for a monthly fee. How the traditional box office business model will coexist with streaming services, and how movie studios fit in, has become an increasingly pressing question.
Most US multiplexes are open ahead of a summer filming season that could turn into a referendum on the company’s future. The prospect of a box office revival appears alive this weekend, after
the latest “Fast & Furious” installment, “F9,” distributed by Universal Pictures, debuted with a robust turnover of $ 162.4 million in overseas tickets. Next weekend, US theaters will host two top-tier films with strong box office potential like
Walt disney Co.
“Cruella,” starring Emma Stone, and Paramount Pictures’ horror sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II,” made their domestic debuts.
All three films have been delayed due to the pandemic, and all three will be checking to see if the summer blockbusters are back.
Ravaged by movie theater closures, North American box office revenues fell to $ 2.2 billion last year from $ 11.4 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association.
When theaters closed, Disney and AT&T fully focused on their fledgling streaming services, releasing numerous films online to attract subscribers and prove to investors that they could scale their businesses.
The strategy worked, to some extent. Viewers at home have watched films originally designed for theatrical distribution on television or on their devices. The Disney + service quickly gained ground on
Amazon.com Inc. of
Prime Video because it offered films like “Mulan” and “Soul” exclusively on the platform. In March, Disney said its flagship streaming service surpassed 100 million subscribers.
The Warner-Discovery deal further reinforces the reality that Hollywood influence relies more on streaming Goliaths subscription numbers than box office accounts. Even Comcast, a cable company with a movie studio, streaming service, and a market cap of $ 250 billion, suddenly seemed – following the Warner-Discovery deal – like a small player capable of growing as well. Its stock price fell more than 7% in the days following the deal’s announcement on Monday.
As big streaming services rush to scale, several small studios and independent distributors are forced to find a way to survive. MGM Holdings Inc., the studio behind a James Bond installment slated for theatrical release this fall, has held talks with potential buyers. Its catalog is valuable – especially for departments that want to immediately expand their library of titles – but the company is struggling with heavy debt.
For now, ViacomCBS Inc. is convinced that it can have the best of both worlds. Its rebranded Paramount + streaming platform aims to add subscribers with movies while its Paramount Pictures studio distributes high-profile theatrical releases such as “A Quiet Place Part II”. Additionally, the company’s CEO Bob Bakish recently said that in an effort to keep subscribers happy, the service will be releasing one new movie per week online starting next year.
Still, Paramount has committed to exclusive theatrical races for some titles like “Top Gun: Maverick” and upcoming releases of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. He also showed a willingness to sell other versions, like “The Tomorrow War” to Amazon.
The only major studio without an affiliate streaming service,
Sony Pictures Entertainment, of Group Corp., took a bifurcated approach, reserving theatrical debuts for its biggest and best-known releases as September’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”, while also producing films for Netflix. and other streamers.
Sony embodies Hollywood’s dual reality. It wants to be a go-to studio for directors who always prioritize big screen releases, but it also takes advantage of the seller’s market sparked by the streaming boom. This strategy, implemented four years ago as the direct-to-consumer market took shape, has generated solid profits for the studio.
The company is not looking to sell itself to any of the industrial conglomerates that are forming, according to a person familiar with the matter. Instead, Sony wants to deepen its ties with its own business – placing Sony Music stars in its movies, for example, or producing movies and TV shows based on its popular PlayStation games. Sony’s upcoming musical ‘Cinderella’ sums up the strategy: Sony Music singer Camila Cabello is playing the lead role, but rather than compete with big-budget movies in theaters, the studio decided earlier this month- ci to sell it to Amazon.
Still, supporters of the big screen remain. Hollywood heavyweights JJ Abrams and Jason Blum joined Mr Schwarzenegger at Wednesday’s event – the brainchild of Creative Artists Agency – while other stars like Dwayne Johnson and Emma Stone recorded rushed messages for the return of cinema. Director Jon M. Chu presented a clip from his musical Warner Bros. “In the Heights,” after sharing a heartfelt story about his young daughter’s recent screening of the film.
Kevin Feige, director of Disney’s Marvel Studios, also made his point. “Marvel films are meant to be shown on the big screen,” he said in a recorded message for the event.
To bring his message home, Mr Schwarzenegger referred to his own beginnings. “I wouldn’t be here without the theaters,” he said.
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Write to Erich Schwartzel at [email protected]
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