Now, with vaccines being implemented, there’s hope that marquees could be lit up and theaters might once again be packed with people eager to watch films from someplace other than their couches.
However, 2021 remains a big question mark in Hollywood. Things could still get a lot worse before they get better.
“What will eventually be great about 2021 is that our society will inch closer to stamping out the virus. That will inevitably bring stability to the film industry, which should rebound in a big way theatrically,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business. “The difficult part is nailing down exactly when that will occur.”
Vaccines to the rescue?
“That means wearing masks and staying out of confined spaces may end up lasting all year, which would likely force studios to pull a ‘Warner Bros.,’ he said. “That’s the worst-case scenario for the box office.”
Without new films to bring in moviegoers, sales will continue to plummet, which could lead to an extinction-level event for theaters.
“Streaming will continue to be a factor no doubt,” Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN Business. “But if 2020 showed us anything, it’s that even with unlimited options at home, movie fans found a way to see films on the big screen whether at the drive-in, or in brick-and-mortar theaters.”
To delay or to go digital? That is the question
But hope isn’t completely lost for theaters. Many blockbusters delayed last year, like Marvel’s “Black Widow,” Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” and Universal’s “F9,” the next installment in the Fast & Furious series, are set to open this year.
That said, “set to open” is the key phrase here.
“It’s all about the movies and the availability of theaters,” Degarabedian said. “Many of the issues that impacted the theatrical marketplace in 2020 will carry over into 2021. But thankfully a vaccine is here and once it is more widely distributed, the fortunes of the business will rise. But it will take some time and require a lot of patience.”
As the pandemic rages on, studios will have to ask themselves if they want to keep delaying major films or release the films directly in the home.
It’s tough to say what will happen, and even the smartest people in Hollywood aren’t really sure, but Bock is cautionsly optimistic that the pandemic will be vanquished before the credits roll on 2021.
“Hopefully, the virus will be eradicated, the film floodgates will open up over the holiday season and audiences will once again experience the power of blockbuster filmmaking on the big screen,” he said.