Can one film save cinema? The obvious answer is no. Yet this does not stop excessive expectations from being attached to specific titles on the post-COVID release schedule. The potential and/or actual performance of said title then triggers an outpouring of column-inches predicting that the cinema patient is in various stages of recovery or relapse. Until the next film release – rinse and repeat.
What everyone in the cinema industry fears is the big screen equivalent of Long COVID. Yes, audience numbers are down for pretty much every market (particularly so for Italy, see below), so it is an informed guessing game as to when we will return to 2019 box office levels. But since we can’t wait until 2024 or 2025 to be sure, we turn every significant premiere into tea leaves or tarot cards, telling us about the future, rather than just being a weekend’s worth of admissions and sales figures.
Already “No Time to Die” was a “return” to form, “Spider/Man: No Way Home” was an “outsize hit,” but “Downton Abbey: A New Era’ was not the hoped for installment success for the DA Cinematic Universe. Though “Everything Everywhere All At Once” proved that indie/mid-size/quirky/A24 movies still have a role to play on the big screen.
This weekend all eyes are naturally on “Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness.” But already those same eyes are looking distractedly beyond that to “Top Gun: Maverick” and whether it will “onramp” older audiences to blockbusters this summer, such as “Jurassic World Dominion.” Beyond that, all eyes are on “Avatar: The Way of Water” and whether those eyes will be wearing 3D glasses when the film opens in December.
Yet one film does not a trend make, as spring-prognosticating swallow watchers know. The reality is that the recovery will be stop-start, depending on the quality of the films, while being geographically uneven. Factors such as lifting of concessions restrictions (South Korea this past week), can impact cinema attendance more than the quality of the films on offer.
With China’s Zero Covid policy locked in, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stalled and cost-of-living going up-up-up just about everywhere, there will be external factors that can have more of an impact on global box office than the Rotten Tomatoes score of “Maverick.” All we can do is work together as an industry to make sure that 2024 is the likelier date than 2025 or 2026 for us to celebrate like it’s 2019.
The viking world comes alive in “The Northman”
Director Robert Eggers discusses how Dolby Vision® and Dolby Atmos® enhance every scene in this action-filled revenge story.
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