Business

Theaters to studios: Release the blockbusters

Hollywood has now gone more than four months without a major theatrical release

#x201c;Tenet#x201d; again has had its release date postponed due to the pandemic. (Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)
“Tenet” again has had its release date postponed due to the pandemic. (Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)

A long time ago in a pre-COVID universe far, far away, blockbusters opened around the globe simultaneously or nearly so.

In 1975, “Jaws” set the blueprint. Concentrate marketing. Open wide. Pack them in.

Since then, Hollywood has turned opening weekends into an all-out assault. Staggered rollouts still happen, but the biggest films are dropped like carpet bombs.

Global debuts north of $300 million became commonplace. Last year, “Avengers: Endgame” made well north of $1 billion in a couple days.

But Hollywood has now gone more than four months without a major theatrical release. While some films have found new streaming homes, the biggest upcoming ones — “Tenet,” “Mulan,” “A Quiet Place Part II” — remain idled.

The leading theater chains still are shuttered. Recent coronavirus spikes have forced release dates to shuffle and chains to postpone reopening to August.

Now, movie houses say that, despite being far from ideal circumstances, it’s time for new movies. Four months of near-zero revenue has brought the $50 billion annual business to its knees.

While the beleaguered restaurant industry still has takeout and airlines continue to operate with masked flyers, the vast majority of U.S. movie theaters haven’t punched a single ticket since March. Some have turned to selling popcorn curbside.

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“The problem is, we need their movies,” said John Fithian, president and chief executive of National Association of Theater Owners.

“Distributors who want to play movies theatrically, they can’t wait until 100 percent of markets are allowed open because that’s not going to happen until there’s a vaccine widely available in the world.

“The old distribution models of big blockbusters,” he added, “need to be rethought.”

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