Last year, as the coronavirus pandemic began to quickly escalate, upcoming movies were soon postponed, delayed, or given the instant streaming treatment. It was one of the first signs in America that something serious was going on— kind of like how animals evacuate before a tsunami comes. However, in this case, our disaster took the form of overrun hospitals, year-long lockdowns, and federal mask mandates.
One of the first films to evacuate before the oncoming disaster was John Krasinski’s horror-thriller, A Quiet Place Part II. The film, which stars the former Office cast member alongside his longtime wife, Emily Blunt, was originally scheduled to be released on March 20th. However, by early March, the coronavirus situation continued to escalate, causing the actor/director to indefinitely postpone the film’s release. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that people have said our movie is one you have to see all together.” Krasinski stated in an Instagram post last year. “Well due to the ever-changing circumstances of what’s going on in the world around us, now is clearly not the right time to do that… I’m gonna wait to release the film till we CAN all see it together.”
However, while Krasinski seemed confident about his decision to postpone the theatrical release, secretly, the director spent the last year privately contemplating the uncertain state of his industry. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Krasinski opened up about his concerns. “It was just a bizarre circumstance,” he stated. “What is the fate of this movie? When do people see it? How do they see it? Do they see it? That started to get pretty weird.”
Now, over a year since the original release date, A Quiet Place II will open in theaters on May 28th, making it one of the first films to be given an exclusive theatrical release from a Hollywood studio in the semi-post-coronavirus era, according to the Times. This release, along with others— including Disney’s Cruella— are making movie-theater lovers optimistic about the future, and many are hoping that these releases will give new life to an industry that has spent the last year on life-support.
With coronavirus restrictions, the entire movie industry was turned upside down. Traditionally, movie theaters provide the majority of Hollywood’s revenue, and the industry relies on ticket sales to recoup the money spent on production costs. In 2019, Disney’s Captain Marvel collected $1.13 billion in ticket sales globally— a staggering number that simply can not be attained through streaming platforms alone. However, as movie theaters were forced to limit capacity, these ticket sales were quickly affected.
Some companies tried to account for these lost ticket sales, looking for other ways to get viewers to dish out a few extra bucks— even if they are watching it from their living room. Most infamously, Disney decided to send their live action remake of Mulan straight to Disney+, charging subscribers an extra $29.99 to stream the film. However, even this classic Disney heroine wasn’t very successful at convincing the American public to spend 30 bucks to sit on their couch, and the film ended up grossing only 70 million USD— less than half of its production costs.
While many other films decided to go straight to streaming platforms in 2020, including Amazon Prime’s Borat 2, and Netflix’s docu-drama The Trial of the Chicago 7, many are hoping that Krasinski’s patience will pay off, and that his highly-anticipated thriller will remind audiences why we fell in love with movie theaters in the first place. After a year of isolation, many have realized the importance of community and communal spaces. When we pay 10 bucks to see a movie at a theater, we are paying more for the experience than anything else. The film becomes more immersive when you get to share it with a dark room full of strangers— all of which are reacting to the same things that you are. That’s something that you don’t get in your living room, and for many, it’s worth the extra cost.
While movie theaters may have only been invented in the early 20th century, the experience that they provide dates back thousands of years— all the way back to the early Greek theaters in Athens. Throughout history, people have always found ways to congregate and enjoy a show, from Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to Louis Daguerre’s 19th century diorama exhibits— let’s just hope that Netflix and Amazon Prime doesn’t put an end to this.