|The pandemic shutdown has resulted in the loss of about 120,000 jobs in the film industry in Hollywood. / Photo by: Maksym Yemelyanov via 123rf|
The pandemic shutdown has resulted in the loss of about 120,000 jobs in the film industry in Hollywood, according to the US entertainment industry union International Alliance of Theatrical State Employees. As the industry experienced a cessation of activity, thousands of freelance crews were laid off at short notice with no or little financial compensation. Studio shoots have also been halted in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading. Once the world gets through the coronavirus and social interactions resume, will the film industry stay the same?
Studying Moviegoers’ Behavior and Its Consequences After the Pandemic
Alyssa Rosenberg, who finished a BA in Humanities at Yale University and writes about the intersection of politics and cultures, thinks that the temporary adjustments in the moviegoers’ behavior may not have temporary consequences. The film industry adopted a business model that prioritizes big investments in movies that have the potential to earn a billion dollars or make it at the international box office. Although studios are not anticipating every release to be a movie hit, they do expect continuous cash flow to keep producing new movies. This is why the Harvard Business Review shared an article about Hollywood’s obsession with blockbusters, saying that repeatability is king and bigger is better in Hollywood.
Rosenberg went on to say that after the September 11, 2001 attacks, films were still produced but some of these were edited, canceled, or delayed due to concerns of how the films depict terrorism or the World Trade Center images. But with the coronavirus pandemic, the ability to fund future movie productions using current proceeds has also been interrupted. While there are some studios with lots of cash on hand to survive, others do not. Even if the studios survive, they will still face choices regarding the number of films they will put into production or whether they should commit to releasing less risky or smaller movies but likewise less financially rewarding. The decisions that these studios will make will affect the industry for years onwards.
Also, after people get used to watching releases in the comfort of their home during quarantine and at prices less expensive than theater tickets, it will be a “gamble” for studios to bet that audiences still want to return to theaters. When social interactions return to normal, small theaters will be most affected. Will they be able to survive the recommended period of avoiding social gatherings? If these small movie theaters’ profit margins are already thin, they have to consider paying their rent and their employees, and these are real challenges that cinema employees and owners are facing today. It appears that the pandemic will change the landscape of moviegoing altogether and, as of today, they have yet to find a savior.
|When social interactions return to normal, small theaters will be most affected. / Photo by: Fernando Gregory Milan via 123rf|
The theatrical release of some movies has also been delayed amid the virus outbreak. Disney, for instance, said that it has postponed three of its theatrical releases and this includes the much-anticipated Mulan live-action remake. Other movies affected are The New Mutants, Antlers, and Black Widow. “'We truly believe in the movie-going experience, and we are looking at new potential 2020 release dates to be announced at a later date,” Disney said in a statement. Marvel Studios have also suspended the production of its theatrical film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The cancellation of these movies affects the balance sheets of big studios.
Filmmakers, studios, and theater owners will likely feel the financial ramifications not just this month but even after a year or more. New Mexico-based Guild Cinema’s owner Keif Henley said via Vox Media that like other arthouse cinema owners, he is “pretty devastated” with the situation. He hopes that the tradition of going to see films in a communal dark gathering place together with friends and strangers will not die but manage to live while embracing the new technologies of today.
Streaming vs. Moviegoing
According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), 3 in 4 Americans went to the movies in 2017 and 1 in 8 people are deemed frequent moviegoers by attending at least attending to one movie show per month. These frequent moviegoers accounted for approximately 49% of the total tickets sold in the US. Adults ages 25 to 39 are keen moviegoers. Meanwhile, database company Statista shares that there were 6.6 million frequent moviegoers aged 60 and over in 2018 compared to the 6.2 million moviegoers in the previous year. There were fewer 12- to 17-year-olds and adults between 50 and 59 visiting the US cinema regularly that period.
Audience movie-polling service PostTrak further surveyed viewers in 2019 and found that streaming hasn’t squashed moviegoing. Under 35% of all cinema, attendees would consider themselves as frequent streamers. Meanwhile, Indian mobile app development company Appinventiv shared the top Netflix user demographics by country as follows: US (64.5%), Norway (62.4%), Canada (56.3%), Denmark (54.9%), Sweden (50.2%), Netherlands (43.6%), Australia (42.7%), Finland (39.7%), Germany (35.5%), and UK (33.8%).
Life in the US and other parts of the world is drastically changing. Many countries have already implemented quarantining, encouraging social distancing, encouraging working from home, closing schools and other institutions, and placing hard limits no the size of crowds during events to slow the rate of infection. According to Our World in Data, as of March 19, the countries with the highest number of confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 per million people are Iran (13.58), Italy (50.36), Spain (12.87), China (2.28), and France (3.71). By flattening the “curve,” researchers refer to the number of people who will contract the virus for some time. This is why the government has implemented community isolation to keep the number of cases at a manageable level.
The pandemic will not be the end of the film industry. Streaming gives people the escape and entertainment they need while keeping a social distance, but there will be people who would still prefer the social connection that is only experienced in person. A great sound system, the texture of the real film, and a huge screen are also nicer than streaming at home. The risk, though, is that it may change the types of movies that people prefer.