Covid 19 has decimated any hope of seeing a blockbuster film this year. While WB’s Tenet tested the waters, it didn’t quite meet the expectations financially that one would think a Christopher Nolan film would make. Only Wonder Woman 84 seems to be the last remaining tentpole film slated to release in 2020 (December 25). However, rumors are swirling that Warner Bros. is seriously considering a direct to streaming release if that date cannot be met. With that, Regal cinemas has decided that it would be in their best interest to temporarily shut down all locations in hopes it will help with their financial woes.
So this begs to question, what can theaters do to stay relevant and if possible maybe even profitable?
Think Outside the Box
We know before 2020 Theater chains were have some financial difficulties and were testing out different options to get more people through their doors. However, let’s not discuss the pre-pandemic state of theaters as it has no relevance to what needs to be done today to help save one of the world’s favorite pass-times.
As mentioned above theaters began exploring membership options such as AMC’s Stub’s A-List and Cinemark’s Movie Club. While both were drastically different in how they were handling the benefits and perks of movie-going. Each seemed to help gain some regularity in continued foot traffic through their doors or more specifically through their concession lines. Cause, let’s face it, we know the real money for theater chains is in the concession business and not completely tied to ticket sales.
The problem is, with no blockbusters being released and restrictions in place across the nation for limited capacity allowed in the theaters, how will these companies get people in the door buying the overly large popcorns and sodas?
Creating a new type of Membership to battle the current Covid delays and closures could go a long way in getting families and die hard fans in the door. A good option would be for $25 a month give access to see four movies throughout the month (Works out to $5 a movie). For those with families full of kids make the membership $60/month giving access for a family of up to 6 to see three movies a month (between $3 & $4 per movie if all six spots are used).
Now the real challenge would be creating a desire to go to the theater. Perhaps holding Special Events or Double Features? Create a Marvel Event that will run for five months where each week they show a different film from the Infinity Saga and if you have the Membership you get first dibs on reserving a spot (at no cost since the cost would be in the membership fee) for the film.
Hold double features of old classic films that have not been seen in theaters in years. We have a new Ghostbusters movie coming out in 2021 (Hopefully), lets get a double feature of the first two films with a nice little intro from the cast and crew of the upcoming movie and a a little exclusive Tease. That would draw a crowd, and while it wouldn’t be as large as a blockbuster sort of film could garner more than they are seeing now.
The current state of the Studios in Hollywood is pretty bleak. 2020 has become a huge bust in regards to earnings and t he future isn’t certain as there is still no idea when completed unreleased films will be released. While it is undoubtedly going to lead to ticket increases when things begin to normalize there needs to be an understanding from Hollywood that Theaters are a necessity to the success of their IPs and overall earnings. Now is the time to toss theaters a bone and say, Here is our catalogue of films you can play where We the Studios will not expect any money in return from the ticket sales. It may seem unbelievable that this could happen but this is a time where they need to work together for the future of the industry. Otherwise, there will be nowhere for their films to be seen when they finally do come out.
At the very least the Studios should offer their catalogue of movies at a significantly reduced return on ticket sales. What’s the harm? The studios are making nothing now as it is so a small return would help both them and the Theater chains.
The final recommendation is to keep renting out theaters to the public for small events and movie parties. My family has had a few birthday parties at local theaters where they paid $50 for up to 25 people to check out a film. While it is being done by a few establishments, this is a fantastic idea that should be executed on a larger scale. Even packaging it with a slightly higher rental cost for double features.
One thing is certain, there are options out there to help ease the pain of studios holding their tentpole films back. It’s just what will these chains do to combat it? Closing down is a slap in the face to those of us who will happily go in and have the theater-going experience. It’s time Studios and Theater Chains step up and work together and make magic happen. We are seeing it in small doses with thing like the Alita Re-release by cinemark at the end of October. But there is more that can be done.
What do you think can Theaters survive? What are some of your Out of the box ideas to save theaters from shuttering their doors for good?