METERThe sheep are back! Or so we think of 2021 when, after a year of closed cinemas, it seemed that a dormant industry was coming back to life. Last spring, Godzilla vs Kong led the charge, the first genuine hit of the pandemic, and A Quiet Place Part II, F9, Black Widow, and Free Guy soon followed, many of them with less than initial expectations, but still more than enough to encourage. studies that, despite previous fears, cinema was not going the way of the video store.
The year closed with the greatest success of all, Spider-Man: No Way Home, a record regardless of the release date, which already exceeds $ 1.3 billion worldwide in less than a month and is likely to be one of the most successful. movies of all time. But beneath the headline was some disturbing bad news: surprise failures, safety concerns from older viewers, shifting launch strategies, and now, as 2022 begins, history is about to repeat itself.
While January has long been seen as a landfill in the US, pandemic or not, Spider-Man’s success was seen as a sign that the public was willing to risk the Omicron infection to go. to see a movie and thus a more solid start to the movie. year was tentatively anticipated. As the year drew to a close, campaigns for January releases began to ramp up: the delayed Jessica Chastain-directed action movie The 355, the long-awaited return of Scream, Sony’s Marvel horror starring Jared Leto, Morbius, but At the same time, Covid rates rose and the country’s largest markets, New York and Los Angeles, showed signs of a return to an initial pandemic state. Restaurants and bars began to close, most Broadway shows went on hiatus (with some closings permanently), live TV shows were canceled or changed hosts while filming stopped on other, premieres and press tours were modified (355 star Lupita Nyong’o taken from interviews after a positive result, while next week Scream premiere has been rejected), awards shows like the Grammys and Critics Choice Awards were postponed, and life in general suddenly began to shrink.
Then this week Sony decided to move Morbius, an understandable but worrying sign for the near future, the biggest bet from January to April. Is he seventh release date change for the vampire scientist adventure, originally scheduled for July 2020, and marks the first major film of the year affected by Covid. A day later, the Celine Dion-inspired biopic Aline also announced a change from January to an unspecified date in spring. In the UK, Universal has moved Cyrano from Joe Wright a month ago. On the other hand, this month’s Sundance, the most influential American film festival of the year, has just decided to cancel its physical component for fear of safety. Theaters in the US remain open, with masking or vaccination mandates for most states, but in other countries, the shutdown has begun once again. The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and parts of Canada have already imposed closures and other territories are expected to follow.
But the red flags were flying very low in 2021. Spider-Man’s monstrous success helped to paper the cracks in what was a disappointing last quarter at the box office. The long-awaited sequel The Matrix Resurrections, Steven Spielberg’s enthusiastically revised remake of West Side Story, Guillermo del Toro’s starry noir Nightmare Alley, Denzel Washington’s cheesy romance A Journal for Jordan, the action prequel The King’s Man, the video game reboot Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, the tennis biopic King Richard, Edgar Wright’s throwback thriller Last Night in Soho, Ridley Scott’s historical drama The Last Duel, and the much-maligned musical Dear Evan Hansen were just a few. of the many major failures. There are, of course, many reasons these movies could have struggled regardless (from franchise fatigue to Ben Platt), but the bottom line was clear: certain audiences were still reluctant to return to the multiplex.
The overall picture remains murky. The US box office in 2021 is down 60% from 2019. Spider-Man’s total is more than $ 300 million more than the second-place movie of the year (it’s also, you know, a spider-man movie). A December poll showed that moviegoers aged 45-64 were still concerned about safety, with 39% less likely to go to the movies as a result. There is of course also another key reason why some might be less excited at the prospect of an expensive night at the movies. The pandemic forced studios to be more dynamic than ever, propelling motion pictures to digital platforms with unusual speed, whether that be demanding a rental cost of more than $ 20, selling them to Netflix or Amazon, or using the circumstances to redirect to consumers to an internal premises. streaming platform like Disney + or HBO Max. It meant unprecedented access in the living room from day one to major movies like Dune, Black Widow, Halloween Kills, and The Matrix Resurrections, a new normal that would have seemed impossible in 2019.
It was a short-term solution that could turn into a long-term problem. Even before the pandemic, audiences had more and more options to choose from, but the new pace at which they can watch new movies at home has changed habits and expectations in ways that will likely never be the same again. In the UK last year, the home entertainment market increased a considerable 13% while an August 2021 survey showed that only 36% of American consumers say that from now on they will mostly watch new movies in theaters. Most of the biggest movies of the awards season, like The Power of the Dog, Don’t Look Up, Being the Ricardos, The Lost Daughter, Coda, Tick, Tick… Boom! and The Tragedy of Macbeth were thrown virtually straight into the broadcast (with symbolic two-week stage performances for some).
Even when American theaters were open to the public, the studios were already looking to the future. Universal’s long-overdue romantic comedy Marry Me, starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, will be available on its internal streaming platform Peacock at the same time as its theatrical release next month. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced last summer that 10 Warner Bros movies will premiere exclusively on HBO Max this year. The last two years have also signed deals that will lower the home theater window for future movies. This year, for example, The Batman will be available on HBO Max within 46 days of a theater launch, while this month, Universal’s new window offering, only 17 days for movies that open for less than $ 50 million and 31 days for the majors, means that Sing 2 is now available to rent despite continuing to make money in theaters.
It remains to be seen if Morbius’ change is indicative of things to come. Sources have claimed that it could well be a direct result of Spider-Man’s heroic run. The film is the latest attempt to expand a limited but profitable Marvel universe (based on selected Sony properties) after the success of the Venom series and featuring Spider-Man with superior performance (it has already become Sony’s biggest hit. ), perhaps the study. I wanted time to generate more excitement. The 355’s performance this week (currently tracking to open at measly $ 6 million in the US) and Scream the next will help other studios decide what to do with February’s first broad releases: Lionsgate’s sci-fi thriller Moonfall and the Paramount sequel Jackass Forever. For now the news is clear: certain audiences are willing to risk the cinematic experience for certain films. Spider-Man might have found a home, but for those without superpowers, a new way forward is needed.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism