Arts and Entertainment

Is the Box Office Dead?

2020 has been a trying year for the film industry, to say the least. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the traditional practice of going to a theater to experience a new movie has been completely uprooted. As a result, many 2020 films have been sent to streaming services instead, while other releases have been delayed multiple times. This year has necessitated ample adaptation and adjustment, and it has been interesting to witness the new ways in which movies are both released and consumed. So, what does this mean for the film industry as a whole? Can the box office survive these troubling times, and what does the future look like?

Both the production and release of many major motion pictures have been delayed indefinitely, creating a heightened sense of uncertainty for an industry that relies heavily on consumerism. The first major movie to delay its release due to Covid-19 was No Time to Die, the latest James Bond installment, originally scheduled for a November 2019 release. This was later moved to April 2020, plagued by both a change of directors and a pandemic. No Time to Die is now slated for an April 2021 release, more than a year after its original projection. Other major franchises, such as Marvel, Avatar, and Star Wars will feel the effects of this shift into 2021 and beyond, putting the trajectory of already-planned productions in jeopardy. When one film in a franchise is postponed, it creates a cascade of delays that, although inevitable, is upsetting to both movie lovers and those involved in their production.

Despite this challenged and changed industry, some releases have forged ahead, capitalizing on the rising popularity of streaming services such as Disney Plus, HBO Max, Netflix, and Prime Video. One such example is Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, released on Amazon Prime Video, which has been met with both critical and public success. Additionally, Disney’s Mulan remake was released on Disney Plus after having been pulled from theaters. It was not met with the success Disney had hoped for, but it was a major step for such a cinema-dependent company to release a streaming-exclusive film. The rising popularity of movie and television streaming services has subsequently been huge, growing around 37% in the past year, according to Antenna Analytics. But what does this mean for the movie theater industry?

Some releases, such as Tenet have taken the risk of opening in theaters, and, despite becoming the year’s fourth-highest-grossing film, it failed to meet the explosive debut it was expected to have due to sharply limited cinema capacities. This film did also not widely increase the success of cinemas as some anticipated, which is detrimental to these businesses that rely on the presence of their customers. Overall, the US market size of cinemas in 2020 has decreased by almost 63%, largely due to decreased capacities and widespread closures. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has also interrupted the 2021 Academy Awards, which will honor films released between January 2020 and February 2021. Originally planned for February 28, the ceremony will now take place on April 25 to increase flexibility for the production and release of films in 2021, and their criteria have changed as well. Films released on subscription services but were originally planned for theatrical releases will be eligible for nomination to accommodate for the pandemic’s impact on the industry. With cases rising in the United States again, the certainty of this ceremony is still quite unknown, but time will tell if it is feasible or not.

Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic has warranted an immense shift in the film industry, with unprecedented changes felt in its every corner. Streaming services have reaped many benefits, serving as accessible platforms in replacement of cinemas, but those cinemas have suffered greatly due to limited capacity and closures to comply with health guidelines. Although this is a time of immense uncertainty, movie lovers are still able to explore a multitude of films at their leisure, which is comforting in a time where nothing feels normal. Despite the immense changes felt in the film industry this year, the ability to enjoy a great movie is something that remains, fostering a sense of much-needed normalcy for everyone.