The pandemic is a gift that keeps on giving. Tension has now risen between film studios and cinemas.

This year, the billion-dollar blockbuster has been defeated by Covid-19, which makes Voldemort look like a petulant child. Most of 2020’s proposed films, with a budget of over £100m have been put on hold. Amongst these we have, James Bond: No Time To Die (debatable) and the much-anticipated and critiqued Mulan. Interestingly, in the case of the latter, Disney has made strides to ensure they don’t lose profits; choosing to release the live-action film on Disney+ at the cost of a £20 rental.

As production companies worldwide postpone projects, a war quietly rages between cinemas and studios.

US Battles: Cinemas VS Streaming

The owners of Odeon are due to hold urgent talks with Warner Brothers. Their discussions will include how and when films are to be released. AMC owns the cinema chain; they brought us the likes of The Walking Dead and my personal favourite, Gremlins. AMC are concerned by Warner Brothers’ newest proposal to make all upcoming films available on streaming sites. Whether this will include the UK is currently unknown. But it does mean big releases will be available at the same time as they are released in cinemas. Like a lot of businesses, production companies have ground to a halt during the pandemic. So, this issue adds extra pressure to ensure a profit at the box office. Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC has referred to the current situation as ‘uncharted waters for all of us‘.

Studios and cinemas are both eager to grab audiences’ attention. In April, Universal was banned by AMC after they planned to release films at home, the same day as in theatres. Since then, a deal has been made between the two companies. Fans will no longer have to wait months to see the latest blockbusters at home. The Chief Executive of Warner Media Studios has called this move a ‘win-win-win for our fans, our filmmakers and our exhibitors‘. Going on to say: ‘

‘… no one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theatres in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout  2021’.

Despite the new agreement however, Wonder Woman 1984 will still be released simultaneously at both cinemas and online on Christmas Day.

The UK Film Industry

Last year nine films made more than £1bn at the global box office. These included The Lion King, Joker and Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel. This year however, things look starkly different. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was the only mega-budget film to be released in cinemas, grossing £270m. Given the current climate of lockdowns, this is quite a positive outcome! But the big question is … When will audiences feel safe to return to the cinemas? Being their lifeblood, the question is an important one. Here in the UK, Cineworld has buckled under the pressure following temporary closure in October. The chain now looks set to make some harsh decisions, with 5,000 jobs on the line.

Meanwhile, British cinemas have reopened last weekend in an attempt to cash in on festive movie fans. Vue and Odeon opened 100 of their sites, while Showcase and some independent theatres doubled their efforts with over 150 sites. With safety plans in place and guidelines for Covid-19 measures available across cinema websites, it remains to be seen whether this initiative has been successful.

Streaming sites

Let’s not forget how much we rely on streaming sites. Even before Covid-19, on-demand television was soaring. For this reason, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to blame the likes of Netflix for ‘ruining’ the cinema experience. For years now we have streamed the latest shows or films almost in parallel with cinemas. If anything, streaming sites have given us some welcome escapism at a time when most of us can’t go or won’t go to theatres.   streamed?

The film world will adapt

It’s hard to think that this global, billion-dollar industry started off with the humble kinetoscope. But this only demonstrates its ability to constantly adapt and develop. Now we have talking, colour films that are sometimes 3D …  who would have thought?

Still, though we may have amazing home cinema systems to keep us entertained, I suspect that like me people will never get bored of the child-like excitement that going to the cinema brings.