Nothing new is coming to theaters next month. Which is truly wild to comprehend. The coronavirus has upended life as we know it, and the entertainment industry – movies theaters, theme parks, concerts, Broadway – has been hit especially hard.
Staying at home and sheltering in place to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 has made me realize how many things we do as a collective. Churches, restaurants, bars, weddings, schools and more have been shut down or cancelled.
Most entertainment is designed to be enjoyed collectively. I’ll never forget the roar of cheers and applause that erupted from my theater when Captain America caught Thor’s hammer on opening night of Avengers: Endgame. Or the tangible excitement in the air in the quiet seconds before the blast of John Williams’s Star Wars fanfare began to open The Force Awakens.
That’s not to say that I couldn’t enjoy those moments sitting at home by myself, but there’s something so special about sharing that joy and excitement with others, sometimes even strangers, for the first time.
In response to these unprecedented times, and with movie theaters across the country shut down, studios have made some difficult decisions that may change the movie industry forever. As the weekend box office reached zero, a handful of new releases were released on demand. I spent $20 last week to watch the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and the controversial thriller The Hunt. I enjoyed them both and felt justified in spending that money to watch them.
Both of those movies are examples of what could happen once the world gets back to some kind of normal. Neither The Hunt or Emma were expected to be blockbuster releases raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. They’re the kind of mid-range features that film festivals love and can develop a solid fan base. It’s these kinds of movies that may be relegated to on demand releases and streaming more regularly in a post-coronavirus world.
But then there are the movies that have been postponed because of the outbreak, including potentially some of the biggest movies of the year – Marvel’s Black Widow, Disney’s Mulan remake, A Quiet Place Part II, James Bond’s No Time to Die and the latest Fast and Furious installment F9. These are all absolutely movies that deserve to be seen in theaters with an audience. The biggest question now for these movies is where do they go in the release schedule? And will their new placements push smaller movies out of the way and onto streaming platforms instead?
Last year was a big win for original movies, like Parasite and Knives Out. It would be a shame to lose that creativity and imagination at the theater. I still believe in movie theaters and the value they provide to our lives.
So I guess what I’m saying is, take the time to watch Onward and Emma at home now, but when the theaters open back up, they’ll need you to support them. Go see Black Widow and No Time to Die on the biggest screen possible and share the joy and excitement with those around you. We’ll all need some of that.