Hollywood has always captured the charm of the American public. But, as Kovid-19 aims at global businesses, it is for the wrong reasons.
Even despite the encouraging news on Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, people are finally confident that there may be an end in sight of the epidemic, with still plenty of speculation about the film’s death.
Many pundits feel that the theater industry will collapse from the epidemic’s long-term impact on their business and consumer behavior. Studio releases keep pushing back and forth, and back again. Viewers are confident that consumers will always have the content to flow at home because it is easy, relatively safe and convenient.
The conclusion is that a global industry that has stood at the center of culture for a century – and pulled down a record $ 42.5 billion at the box office in 2019 – will be wiped out in just a few months.
As a New York resident, I am uncertain about when we will return to normalcy. And I can’t blame the media and investors and my industry friends in Los Angeles, whose own experiences are wrapped up in the same uncertainty that I feel every day.
But I also run IMAX, which gives me the most different viewpoint – a true “front row seat” for what’s happening in the rest of the world. We enable the production and distribution of the best movies in 82 countries and territories in the best way on the biggest screens in all four corners of the world.
And when people ask me if the audience will actually return to the movies, my answer is simple: they already have it.
Where the virus was handled with real public health discipline – places like Japan, South Korea, China and all over Asia – the audience is about to return safely and enthusiastically. These are tech-savvy consumers who have returned to theaters to isolate in-home entertainment and once again enjoy a shared big-screen experience.
This is not foreknowledge. These are the facts.
Earlier this month, China overtook North America for the first time at the overall box office – a crown unlikely to abandon the Middle Kingdom before the year was out. China’s thriving network of multiplexes has grossed nearly $ 2 billion at the global box office.
While the country has returned to normalcy in many ways – even most indoor locations do not require masks – most of the Chinese mainland is still unable to travel abroad, and is turning to cinema for escapism Huh.
IMAX weekly tickets sold at the Chinese box office have fully reached levels seen in the last half of 2019, despite continued capacity limitations that were recently raised for 75% and some Hollywood film releases – which The Chinese box office generally accounts for more than a third.
The biggest global blockbuster of the year is not from Hollywood, but from China. The war epic “The Eight Hund” – the first Chinese film to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras – has so far grossed over $ 370 million at the box office and is the top ten all-time release at the Chinese box office is.
And yes, these are real numbers. We have receipts from IMAX to prove it.
In Japan, the manga sensation “Monster Slayer: Mugen Train” opened to $ 44 million – blew the last best opening weekend out of water in Japan – and crossed $ 100 million in just two weeks.
The New York Times reported that a theater in Tokyo scheduled 42 shows of the film in a single day to accommodate unprecedented audience demand, from 7:00 am until midnight. And a Japanese economic minister distinguished it as “a spectacular achievement for the world of culture and entertainment, as they struggle with coronoviruses.”
Back in July, the South Korean zombie hit “Peninsula” was the first international film to step into the void as theaters began to reopen – $ 21 million for nearly $ 40 million across Asia, Europe and even the US The opening weekend took place.
From Japan to Russia, local film industries are taking advantage of the lack of Hollywood films – showing the world the scope and scale of their ambitions, and many of their blockbuster productions now rival Hollywood’s best.
And they are being massed by mass audiences eager to leave behind their couch and, perhaps, the reality of a difficult year.
Of course there will be some changes, especially in North America.
Streaming and windowing strategies will develop. With filmmakers and creatives attempting to create new franchises, streamers will continue to advance in blockbuster filmmaking who want to see their work on the big screen. In the world of small windows, this creates a potential new content pipeline that theater owners should welcome.
Many North American theater owners are facing restructuring, which will be tough. But, in the end, less debt and a smaller, more focused and productive number of multiplexes can be a good thing.
The theatrical industry must strive for change, rather than try and run away from it.
But we must also stand behind the magic of the shared experience of watching a film on the big screen. The biggest blockbuster movies were seen in theaters. Streaming – with its many advantages – cannot replace the cultural and commercial impact of a theatrical release.
And think about it. Amidst the relentless news cycle of 2020, who doesn’t turn off their phones, sitting in a dark theater, shedding their worries and immersing themselves in the film’s unique visuals and sound?
It is clear from our global reports that rumors about the film’s death are exaggerated. And our mission at IMAX continues: to bring consumers the best movies with the best entertainment experience they can get anywhere.
Whether it is next week or next year, you can be sure of it – we will see you in films.
-Richard Gelfond is the chief executive of IMAX.