Film Industry Reeling Under the Stress of COVID-19

New York and New Mexico, in an abundance of caution have shut down movie theaters. Fans no longer have the privilege of spending $6 for a box of Milk Duds and watching blockbuster releases. Blame it on the pandemic.

Of course, there have been no big movie releases recently. Even the movie theaters that are accepting patrons are going the social distancing route and reducing its seating capacity by 50% to 40%, depending on the size of the theater.

Fans must wear face masks, but can remove them while munching food, except in states that require masks to be worn at all times — so no $6 Milk Duds for those people either. And don’t expect fancy menu products as theaters are going the simplified route with “simplified menu selections.” Don’t worry about reaching into your cash stash to pay $23 for your nacho, popcorn, Milk Duds and large drink. Cash may not be accepted. You need to scan your credit card in this new “touchless” environment.

Again, blame it on the pandemic. Hollywood film makers are making huge adjustments, as movie distributors and theater chain owners feel the pain of fewer fans. A major blockbuster film release like the latest James Bond “No Time To Die” with production budgets of around $300 million could expect a worldwide box office net return of well about $879 million.

Unfortunately for 007 fans (and the health of the film industry), the release has been postponed until well into 2021. Other highly anticipated releases like “Wonder Woman 1984” will either be delayed for a full year or go straight to streaming.

The world’s second-largest global film exhibitor, Cineworld, operates around 640 sites in the U.K. and U.S. as Regal Cinemas. Some of its U.K. locations reopened in July, but many of its U.S. locations stayed close. The delayed movie releases have caused a clog in the pipeline, and even the movies like Tenet that made the 2020 cut haven’t earned back production costs.

Cineworld projects a massive revenue loss of $1.6 billion in 2020, in contrast to its nearly $140 million profit in 2019. They have had to shut down over 200 sites in the U.S. in heavily populated markets like California and New York.

New York governor Cuomo’s full closure of movie theaters in an effort to avoid a pandemic surge has heaped a world of hurt on the industry. New Yorkers pay above average prices ($12-$14.50, depending on the time of day—and more for 3D and IMAX). Also, a successful New York opening with good reviews helps the film’s performance nationwide.

So, expect the effect of the pandemic to cascade down the production and release schedule. For example, there are four “Avatar” movies scheduled to debut every other December. The next one, Avatar 2, will be delayed another year to December 16, 2022, pushing the next releases another two years down the line as coronavirus prevents stage production work.

So, in 2019, Hollywood had a record box office revenue of over $42 billion. According to Statista.com, the global film industry as of the end of May 2020, lost $10 billion. Closed theaters, postponed movie premieres, canceled screenings, and unsold theater snacks, all ganged up make 2020 the worst year ever for the movies.

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