“Tenet” did not bring audiences back to theaters. Now what?

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Disney’s twentieth century division “Death on the Nile” is the biggest budget movie yet to be released in October. If “Black Widow” (November 6) or the James Bond show “No Time to Die” (November 20) are pushed back or moved online – as Disney recently did with “Mulan” – theaters will likely be faced with tough conversations about their future with investors and lenders.

In addition, the longer the pandemic continues, the more threatening streaming becomes to theaters. At least a dozen films originally intended for big screens, including “Hamilton”, “Trolls World Tour” and “Greyhound”, have been redirected to streaming services or online rental platforms. The move kept the money flowing through studios, but analysts say it has undermined theaters by teaching consumers to expect new films to be immediately available in their homes.

“We’re learning as markets are opening up, theaters with security protocols and studios that release movies are all linked,” John Fithian, executive director of the National Theater Owners Association, said in an e- mail. “Open markets need safe cinemas, films need open markets, cinemas need films. All of these things raise awareness and comfort audiences to come back to the movies. You can’t do one at a time.

Wall Street’s reaction to the opening of “Tenet” and the postponement of “Wonder Woman” is revealing. AMC shares climbed to around $ 7 on September 4, the day “Tenet” hit US theaters, from around $ 2 in April. They have since declined by around 17%. Cinemark is down 18% since September 4. Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, is down 14%. (For context, the S&P 500 is stable for the period.)

“From a treasury perspective, we can see this thing until next year if needed,” Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said over the phone. The Texas-based company operates approximately 5,977 displays in the United States and Latin America. “The fourth quarter brings us back to earth. Next year is a year of transition. 2022 is back to a sense of normalcy. “

He added that recent customer surveys showed 97% satisfaction with security protocols. “We have spent millions and millions of dollars to do this job properly,” he said. “If we can convince the consumer that we’ve done all of these things, they’re much more likely to want to come back.”

The country’s largest multiplex chain, AMC Entertainment, declined to comment.

When it comes to the three largest film markets, expectations are tempered for Los Angeles and San Francisco given the stringent measures recently announced by California Governor Gavin Newsom as part of his plans to reopen. For New York, however, exhibitors and studio executives are furious that Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t given any specific times for the theaters to reopen, coupling them with other high-traffic venues like concert halls and theaters. amusement parks, while allowing bowling alleys and restaurants to resume indoor operations. Not only is New York City crucial for sales, but a lot of the media coverage and online buzz around new films is generated from there. (The New York Times does not generally review films that are not shown in New York.)

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