For most of Hollywood history, the United States would see the new blockbuster films first, while the rest of the world had to wait. The coronavirus pandemic could reverse this pattern.
Theaters in many countries have gradually reopened in recent months. Several European countries, including France, Italy and Spain, have allowed cinemas to reopen (with caution) in May and June. Japanese theaters have been open for three months. Almost all theaters in South Korea are currently open.
But not in the United States. As Covid-19 cases surge in states across the country, the US film industry has been slow to reopen. Only about a quarter of U.S. theaters are open for business, the Los Angeles Times reported. Movie theaters in the country’s two largest markets, New York and Los Angeles, remain closed. (California Governor Gavin Newsom recently ordered theaters to close this week after some were briefly allowed to reopen.)
Cinema chains around the world are supported by Hollywood movies; the longer Hollywood withholds its new releases, the greater the threat to their existence. And the studios are also in danger, because they can’t afford to stay on unreleased big-budget films indefinitely. Hollywood is therefore faced with three options: wait for American theaters to reopen before releasing their films on hold, show them first to the rest of the world while America tries to pull itself together, or make them available on streaming services. streaming in some or all parts of the world instead of theaters.
Historically, major Hollywood films would premiere in the United States months before they were available anywhere else. Distributing a finite number of film prints around the world was a complicated financial risk that studios were loath to take until a film was successful in America. Jaws, the model of the modern blockbuster, debuted in the United States in June 1975, but was not released in much of the rest of the world until that fall. Despite many Star Wars: A New Hope Shot in a studio in London, the film was not released in the UK until six months after its US premiere.
These drastic discrepancies in release dates have since narrowed due to digital distribution and Hollywood’s growing confidence in international markets. Today, blockbusters usually air in other countries on the same day – or sometimes a few days before – the US debut. (Online piracy, along with a desire to build hype for American premieres, led studios to release some films outside the United States first.) Although America no longer has films entirely for her for months, her moviegoers could, until Covid-19, suppose they wouldn’t have to wait long for new releases.
The coronavirus could change that. Early in the pandemic, the popular thought among Hollywood studio executives was that they wouldn’t release potential blockbusters until the New York and Los Angeles markets were ready for them. But as theaters continue to bleed cash and studios spend hundreds of millions on marketing campaigns for movies that don’t have concrete release dates, Hollywood may be re-evaluating that strategy. For movies with less box office potential, Hollywood has already considered and will continue to consider putting them on streaming services.
That’s not an option for Christopher Nolan’s next thriller, Principle, which should have made around $1 billion under ideal circumstances. Executives at Warner Bros., the studio distributing the film, believe that up to two-thirds of projected box office revenue will come from countries other than the United States, Vulture reported. Warner Bros. and Nolan — a filmmaker who religiously believes in releasing films in theaters — is reportedly still planning a one-time worldwide release. It is highly unlikely that Warner Bros. plans a streaming release for Principle, as it would effectively end a lucrative relationship with the successful British director.
Principle was originally slated for release in July, but has since been pushed back twice, to August 12. York and Los Angeles.
For most of Hollywood’s existence, if you’ve lived in the United States, you never had trouble getting to see the biggest new movies at your local theater when those in other countries couldn’t. only inconsistently. Unless the situation in the United States changes quickly, Americans could feel what it’s like to be on the other end of the Hollywood waiting game.