Movie theaters were hanging on to the hope that the latest James Bond spectacle “No Time To Die,” would be the ‘Hail Mary. North American screens needed. With the delay of so many tentpoles this week, including 007, the massive movie theater chain Cineworld announced its plan to close locations in both the United Kingdom and U.S. as early as this week.
Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” once again topped the domestic box office while just pushing itself past the $300 million worldwide mark this week. With the number ten film “The Call,” only grossing $140,567, the domestic box office is in real trouble. Bette Midler’s “Hocus Pocus,” which flopped in its initial release in 1993 made it to the number two slow in its re-release. This says a lot about the future of movies during the pandemic.
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“Tenet” A Hit In China
The fact that “Tenet” has been a much bigger hit in China speaks volumes about how the coronavirus has been handled in the United States. Theaters in China have been open since July and are back to normal levels of attendance.
“Tenet” has fared much better overseas, grossing $14.2 million globally this weekend from 59 markets. That pushed the international total to $262 million and the worldwide haul to $307 million. Normally, that figure would signal disaster for a $200 million film with an elaborate marketing campaign. In pandemic times, the results have to be weighed more charitably, even if they suggest “Tenet” will lose millions during its theatrical run. Warner Bros., the studio behind “Tenet,” believes the film will make more money by launching in theaters than it would have if it had debuted on video-on-demand or on HBO Max.
That strategy would have been a tough, likely impossible sell for Nolan, who is a vociferous champion of the theatrical experience, but it also would have impacted the studio’s ability to maximize ancillary revenues such as digital rentals, sales and television licensing deals.
Blaming Andrew Cuomo
John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, believes that the main stumbling block preventing movie theaters from rebounding is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to keep cinemas closed indefinitely. That’s robbing studios of a major market to show their films, Fithian argues, which may jeopardize the release of upcoming blockbusters such as “Wonder Woman 1984” and Pixar’s “Soul.” In media interviews, the theater business’s top lobbyist urged studios to keep releasing movies during the pandemic and warned that the industry faces financial ruin without government assistance.
“No Time to Die” has delayed its release until 2021. What impact will that have on the exhibition industry?
The Bond franchise is very important to exhibition, so we were disappointed with the move. The failure of Gov. Cuomo to allow movie theaters to reopen anywhere in his state was a principal, if not exclusive, cause of the Bond move. If New York remains closed to theater operations, other movies scheduled for 2020 will move as well. And I just don’t understand it. I know the governor has done a fantastic job combatting the virus.
I know he’s got some increases of infections in some limited areas in the state. But restaurants in New York are open, gyms are open, churches are open, indoor dining is being offered. Our recommendation, our urgent plea, is for Gov. Cuomo to allow movie theaters to reopen in the portions of the state that aren’t having spikes in the virus. There are now only two states that are entirely closed to moviegoing — New York and New Mexico.
Why is New York so critical?
New York is a major source of box office revenue, but it also plays a hugely important role in shaping culture. Many important analysts are in New York. Many important journalists are in New York. Many important film critics are in New York. With New York closed, those important opinion-makers don’t have the opportunity to go to the cinema.
We’re trying everything we can to go over our health protocols with Gov. Cuomo, which his team has signaled their support for. We’ve asked local officials to weigh in with Gov. Cuomo and urge him to open where it’s safe to do so. We’ve held four press conferences across the state and we’ve had all kinds of people in the movie industry call him to press our case. Now we’re just waiting for Gov. Cuomo’s decision. It’s not a local industry. The movie business is a national and international industry. If movies aren’t getting released because New York isn’t open, that affects the movie industry and its employees all over the world.
North America Box Office
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore.
1. “Tenet,” $2.7 million.
2. “Hocus Pocus,” $1.9 million.
3. “The New Mutants,” $1 million.
4 “Unhinged,” $870,000.
5. “Infidel,” $455,000.
6. “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” $335,000.
7. “Possessor Uncut,” $227,500.
8. “Shortcut,” $210,000.
9. “Save Yourselves!,” $141,631.
10. “The Call,” $140,567.
Cineworld, Regal Cinemas Announce UK, US Closure
Cineworld Group PLC owns 543 Regal cinemas in the U.S. and 128 Cineworld venues in the U.K. and Ireland.
It said it was “considering the temporary closure of our U.K. and U.S. cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached.”
“Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.”
The statement came after the Sunday Times reported that Cineworld’s U.K. and Ireland theaters will shut indefinitely in the coming weeks, putting up to 5,500 people out of work.
Cinema Now “Unviable”
The newspaper and other outlets reported that Cineworld plans to write to U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden saying cinema has become “unviable” because studios are postponing blockbuster releases because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Staff said they had not been informed or consulted about closures.
“If these reports are true, then the first people Cineworld should be informing are their staff who will suffer as a result — not the Sunday newspapers,” said Philippa Childs, head of the entertainment workers’ union BECTU.
British movie theaters began to reopen in July, but Childs said “the stark reality is that without new releases it is unlikely that footfall will increase to a level that makes opening financially viable.”
Cinemas remain closed in New York and Los Angeles, two of North America’s biggest markets.
Producers said last week that the 25th James Bond thriller, “No Time to Die,” due to open in November, is being delayed until April 2021 because of the effect of the pandemic on theatrical business.
Other major studios have made similar decisions over the past few weeks. Universal has delayed “Candyman” to next year, and the Walt Disney Co. has postponed a handful of major movies to 2021, including Marvel’s “Black Widow” and Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”
Hawaii Moves Ahead With TV Movie Production
Movie and television productions in Hawaii have started or are scheduled to begin soon despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Work on new seasons of the television shows “Magnum PI” on Oahu and “Temptation Island” on Maui are beginning, while other productions are expected to shoot on Hawaii island and Maui.
Maui County Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett said Monday that a miniseries is expected to begin work in the near future while a Christmas movie is scheduled to film toward the end of the year.
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reported film and television productions contributed more than $419 million to Hawaii’s economy in 2018.
“Every sector of our economy, in some way, shape, or form, is touched by film production in our state,” Hawaii Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said.
Film industry professionals in Hawaii have produced a pandemic protocol to safely return people to work, Dawson said.
“What the public in Hawaii wants to know and feel good about is that the highest level of safety precautions are being taken and the medical resources of our communities are not being put in jeopardy,” Dawson said.
Chris Lee, founder of the University of Hawaii Academy for Creative Media, said film and video production is only part of what could be a billion dollar digital media industry in Hawaii.
Luring Residents Back
The state could lure former residents back with high-paying, remote work occupations, Lee said.
Multimedia artists and animators’ median pay in 2019 was more than $75,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
“Since the demise of sugar and pineapple, we’ve had one major export, our kids. That’s what we’ve exported to the world. Now we have to give people a reason to come back,” he said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.