Hybrid films, no thanks
It has been over 300 days since the glorious smell of artificial butter has graced my senses. Walking through the colorful movie theatre, purchasing overpriced candies (or if you are like me, smuggling them in) and reclining in a plush seat in a dark room has become a thing of my pre-Covid routine. Since March 2020 the movie-going experience has drastically shifted toward a streaming-only reality, where catching a new release requires nothing more than a subscription and a screen.
While I am very much a fan of binge watching Netflix Originals or reviewing old classics on Disney+, I would be lying to all of you if I said I did not miss the old charm of the theatre. Just like every other industry though, the Covid-19 pandemic threatens these treasured yet empty buildings, jeopardizing any sort of return to them.
Following a hybrid model of their own WarnerMedia announced on December 3 that just as they did with “Wonder Woman 1984” they would be releasing the rest of their 2021 slate dually in theatres and the popular platform HBOMax. Currently this list comprises 17 movies including “Godzilla vs. Kong,” and “Matrix 4.” While some movie-goers will be able to enjoy these pictures in-person at their local cinemas a majority of the world will have to purchase a subscription to HBOMax and view them from home.
The company’s announcement came subsequent to the official news of the Covid-19 vaccine being distributed. Company officials have stated that while they are anxious to get back on the big screen, the future of health and safety guidelines is uncertain and will remain so until the majority of the population is vaccinated.
The news of the dual-release of 2021 films is exciting, seeing as how it is better than simply postponing all releases for the year. However it does cause worry for what will happen to the movie theatres that can not reopen for viewings (a large number, by the way). HBOMax will be seeing a much larger profit for the year than your local Regal Cinemas, and that is dangerous.
I am sorry to say that if movie theatres can not sell tickets and snacks for an additional year mass permanent closures are inevitable. When the world finally does reopen, there most definitely will not be as many theatres to actually visit. I fear that WarnerMedia's decision to move to a hybrid release format will change the movie industry forever, taking away the charm of sitting in a theatre with crowds of strangers, bonding over your similar reactions to the biggest plot twist of the month. Does anyone else remember the viral video of a midnight-premiere audience reacting to every Marvel hero returning through a portal and Captain America wielding Thor’s hammer in “Avengers: Endgame”? Those moments simply cannot be replicated through a phone screen.
As an avid movie-goer and general fan of audience camaraderie I can only hope that the entertainment industry and its consumers find a way to keep movie theatres alive, and that they will survive until the pandemic has passed and we can once again enjoy all the charms of the auditorium, artificial butter and all.