The New Normal Will Mean a New Model for Hollywood

How the pandemic will change the way we see and make movies.

With enough luck and cooperation, hopefully, we can get enough people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 so that we can get to a new sort of normal by the fall of 2021. We’re already in a new normal already. The old theatrical window is gone. We can watch first-run movies at home on the same day that they are released in the theatres. The old Hollywood model has been broken and we’re not even out of the woods yet. No one really knows what the new Hollywood model will look like. Will the big theatrical chains like AMC, Cinemark, and Cineplex survive over 18 months without revenue? Will the smaller chains get consolidated by Amazon or Netflix? Will theatre audiences return or will they stay at home to watch movies? How will theatres have to change to convince you to return?

I just don’t think that fresh popcorn, 3D glasses, big sound, and vibrating seats will be enough to bring us back in big numbers. Theatre chains can no longer just take us for granted and expect us to line up again to fill their seats and buy their concessions by monopolizing theatrical markets — squeeze out the small independents so we have nowhere else to go. This pandemic has proven that we can just stay home to watch the same movies, thank you very much. They need to get more creative and earn our loyalty just like the small independent theatres — the ones that will survive! The few indie theatres left in my city show art-house movies as well as vintage movies to attract loyal customers. If they could be allowed to show mainstream movies, they can do even better and audiences will thank you for it.

I want to get excited about going to the movies again. But with Rotten Tomatoes, social media, and movie critics abound, I’m not going to watch just anything. A one size fits all movie distribution model will need to change. Movie studios must be more selective about what it releases in theatres and what it streams in our homes. There needs to be a much more sophisticated ecosystem of possible screens to compete for our eyeballs and bums in seats. If Netflix can predict what we want to watch, the theatrical chains and movie studios need to do the same. Collect the data, do the market research, and engage with each and every one of your customers. The chains should work with smaller cinemas to diversify the movie theatrical market even more. Let the smaller independent theatres show mainstream movies that are better suited for their niche market.

Perhaps it no longer makes sense to show the next Fast and Furious over and over again in six theatres in the same movie complex across 10,000 theatres around the world in the break it or make it opening weekend? You can’t capitalize on the hype anymore. If it’s not well made, we can see the movie online and not bother spending our money to watch it in a theatre. This will put even more pressure on the filmmakers to really get it right. But maybe that will be a good thing? The new distribution system needs to account for the full spectrum of movies in genre, quality, taste, theme, mood, language, age, diversity, budget, etc. It’s going to be both a terrifying time for filmmakers as well as an exciting and liberating time. It’s also going to be a great time for audiences because finally, they will make movies for everyone and not just the majority. This is also good for film workers like me because we will need to make even more films to satisfy an even bigger market.

The new normal is going to get way more complicated. I am hopeful that the changes will shake up the film industry but in a good way. Just like this horrible pandemic, there will be many casualties during this period of change. Those who survive will be even stronger and better prepared to face a promising new future. I can’t wait for us to fall in love with movies once again wherever that may be.

See you at the movies in 2021!

I work in film and write, but not necessarily at the same time. Words in An Injustice! and Slackjaw.

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