A season without summer blockbusters

By Meagan Kennedy

Elm Staff Writer

As summers came and went, the thrill of a classic “summer blockbuster” hitting the bigscreen has been a staple for generations of Americans. However, with the dying number of drive-ins, and the closing of movie theatres nationally with the COVID-19 pandemic, the release of many anticipated summer blockbusters has been on hold until further notice. 

Earlier this year, films like “Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Mulan,” and “Black Widow” anticipatedan impressive summer release but had to either indefinitely delayreleaseor runon a different platform. 

With the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, and several more, the film industry has shifted towards releasing more movies directly to these platforms instead of releasing them in the theatres first. Americans have spent the spring and summer months inside watching old and new films featured solely on a streaming platform instead of at the movie theaters.

Moving into the rest of 2020 and possible years to come, movie-goers might see this way of releasing films becoming more common. AsVox Media’s writer Alissa Wilkinson said,“One weekend in June 2020, the highest-grossing film in America was ‘Jurassic Park.’ Two weeks later, it was ‘Ghostbusters.’ A week after that, ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’” 

However, many believe this indefinite “death of the theatre” has been coming for many years with the rise of streaming services. 

“Last year, there were 1.24 billion tickets sold in North America, representing a twenty-per-cent drop from the box-office peak, in 2002… during the pandemic, many independent cinemas have opted for virtual screening platforms, on which viewers can stream indie films for a ticket price that goes partially to the local theatre. Some are selling curbside concessions,” said Elena Saavedra Buckley in The New Yorker. 

Post-pandemic, the return to the normal blockbuster experience might vary depending on the country. 

According to Wendy Ide at The Guardian, “the experiences of cinema operators in other countries suggest that audience return will be a trickle rather than a flood. Safety protocols vary from country to country – social distancing is obligatory in Rome, but “advised” in Paris; masks are required at all times in Hong Kong, and not at all in Denmark.” 

In America, however, with the inability to control cases of COVID-19, it might be a long time before movie-goers will be able to enjoy a day of buttery popcorn and a film. 

With the uncertainty of a vaccine, many theatre chains fear bankruptcy. Even with the possibility of reopening prior, there will still be a need for social-distancing and smaller capacity levels in each theatre. 

Furthermore, many theatres are considering new rules and limitations to lower the chances of the virus spreading. 

Time Magazine’s Elaina Dockterman said, “theaters will be implementing a lot of changes to try to stay afloat in the interim, like reducing capacity or not allowing moviegoers to order food during a film.” 

With Hollywood producing the largest production of films, the rest of the world might soon feel the same halt in time as America. While countries like China have been able to social distance and enjoy theatres, unless COVID-19 pandemic cases significantly decrease in the United States, there won’t be many new movies to release. The uncertainty could kill big chain theatres and independent theatres alike and many have turned to asking for donors and government funding. 

This summer did not see the same blockbuster excitement as 1975’s “Jaws”or 2003’s“Finding Nemo.” With an indefinite end of the pandemic, summer 2021 might not either. 

As for the future of movie theatres, the pandemic could act as the final hit towards the death of many Americans’ favorite way to spend a hot summer day. Luckily, streaming platforms could act as a savior for the film industry, providing Americans with a new experience of enjoying movies in the comfort of their own homes.

Featured Photo caption: For the film industry, with the COVID-19 pandemic came a lack of film releases—especially those lined up for a summer release.Photo Courtesy of Chance Agrella.

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