For as long as I’ve been in this biz (we’re coming-up on the end of my 15th year), I’ve seen studios “secure” release dates six, seven, eight years out. In 2017 (for example), animation studios and giants like Disney would make sure to date an “Untitled Movie” for 2023 or 2024 – just so they could have that weekend to claim. “It’s mine! Good luck making it yours!”
But when’s the last time a movie actually opened on the intended release date? And not just ones set years in advance.
It’s actually hard to remember. And not just because of COVID.
Long before 2020, there would be opening dates set and then, with a month or two to go, the studio would make an adjustment. They could, suddenly, decided to move a film up two days, back five days, push it from a Wednesday to a Friday or a Friday to a Tuesday.
Heck, when the “Thursday Night Preview Showings” began not long after the “Dark Knight Rises” theater massacre in 2012, none of the movies actually opened on the advertised release dates. Instead: the night before at 5, 6 or 7pm.
Stuff happens. And boy in 2020, a lot of stuff has happened. There have been some bright spots, but a lot of sadness and negativity. Movie theaters aren’t fairing so well. And I predicted it back in March by declaring, “Believing in the Theatrical Experience is OVER.”
Some studios hope that life will be back to normal by March, April, May, June and July of next year. That people of all ages will be willing and able to go to a multiplex. But who’s really able to think (positively) that far ahead right now?
I saw “TENET” in a theater on August 31st, but I’m in the minority of people who’d want to go to a cinema right now: 17 to 65 year olds who are either single or married but have no kids. If you’re under 17, married or over the age of 65, you’re *probably* not interested in going a theater right now or anytime soon. In fact, you might be downright afraid of the consequences.
Don’t expect this to change anytime soon. Studios need to realize that VOD and streaming is the way to go for the next couple of years. And for a “get out of the house” experience, a simultaneous debut on Drive-In Theater screens.
Some studios have figured this out, but others are still just shooting darts at a wall of calendars – picking random dates in the future instead of taking advantage of audiences at home right now.
These are different times we’re living in, but you know what they say about old habits…