Warner Bros. Says Its ‘Rethinking the Theatrical Model’ In Light of Coronavirus
Just yesterday, we saw Warner Bros. Pictures move one of its big summer movies, the animated Scoob!, from its planned theatrical release to video on demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Warners is far from the first to do so — Universal already had success with a similar strategy on Trolls World Tour — but the more studios and movies that choose to forego theaters entirely, the more we’ll be talking about the degree to which the theatrical industry will be hurt by the coronavirus, and by audience’s increasing dependance on (and perhaps even preference for) home viewing.
In fact, John Stankey the COO of WarnerMedia’s parent company AT&T, said on the company’s quarterly earnings call this week that Warners is now “rethinking the theatrical model,” not just in the immediate future, but over the long term. More of what he said, via Deadline:
Don’t expect that’s going to be a snap-back recovery. I think that’s going to be something that we’re going to have to watch, the formation of consumer confidence, not just about going to movies, just in general about being back out in public.
That’s just it. Just because the governor of Georgia says movie theaters can reopen next week doesn’t mean they will — or that audiences will return when they do. An unscientific poll of 2,800 of my Twitter followers this week found that more than 90 percent were not ready to go back to a theater. And if the studios like Warner Bros. are equally hesitant to put new product in those theaters, viewers will have even less of a reason to come back.
With all that said, two of the last big 2020 summer movies still on the schedule belong to Warner Bros.: Wonder Woman 1984, which was only pushed back to August 14, and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which is still holding to its original July 17, 2020. And Christopher Nolan remains one of Hollywood’s staunchest supporters of the theatrical experience; it’s hard to imagine any scenario where he’d allow one of his movies to skip movie theaters. A lot can change between now and July. There is still some small chance that Warner Bros. could have a big summer, in spite of these comments and coronavirus.
Gallery — What We Miss Most About Movie Theaters: