What initially felt like something happening in a far away land has suddenly become very real for many people. Along the way what felt like a voluntary bit of social distancing, and then a two-week closedown, maybe a month, now has the feeling of something much, much more long lasting.
As many people look to the spring warming to help halt the flow of all coughs, colds and flu – even COVID19 – right here and right now a lot of industries are suffering. Airlines, hotels, travel companies, restaurants and bars are all feeling the pressure.
One of the hardest hit industries will be the cinemas themselves. Traditionally a low margin business to being with, as far as the movies are concerned, with a lot of income from selling popcorn and soda at premium prices, there entire industry has seen income plummet to zero overnight.
Christopher Nolan is a vocal supporter of theatres over home channels, and calls them a vital part of social life and the economy.
He has written an open letter to the Washington Post in support of theatres.
“As Congress considers applications for assistance from all sorts of affected businesses, I hope that people are seeing our exhibition community for what it really is: a vital part of social life. These are places of joyful mingling where workers serve up stories and treats to the crowds that come to enjoy an evening out with friends and family. As a filmmaker, my work can never be complete without those workers and the audiences they welcome.
The past few weeks have been a reminder, if we needed one, that there are parts of life that are far more important than going to the movies. But, when you consider what theaters provide, maybe not so many as you might think. When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and love and laugh and cry together, will be more powerful than ever.
Movie theaters have gone dark, and will stay that way for a time. But movies, unlike unsold produce or unearned interest, don’t cease to be of value. Much of this short-term loss is recoverable. When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and love and laugh and cry together, will be more powerful than ever.
The combination of that pent-up demand and the promise of new movies could boost local economies and contribute billions to our national economy. We don’t just owe it to the 150,000 workers of this great American industry to include them in those we help, we owe it to ourselves. We need what movies can offer us.”
Nolan’s latest effort, Tenet, is due out July 17th. His letter comes on top of an impassioned plea to people from Baby Driver and Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright. He asked people to ensure they keep up their monthly unlimited theatre subscriptions if they have them, and to prepare to get back to theatres to support them once any restrictions are lifted.
In an interview with Variety the President and CEO of the National Association Of Theatre Owners raises concerns that theatres could cease to exist should they not be bailed out by Congress’ trillion-dollar coronavirus rescue bill.
John Fithian said that the situation is dire with a $15 billion a year industry suddenly without a penny in income for at least three months.
Even with workers protected or let go, or with hours cut, theatre costs around rent and other charges remain. This means bankruptcy could be looming if this public health crisis continues.
As banks will not lend in these circumstances, Fithian has requested that small business loans are also made available to independent theatres and smaller chains.
Fithian says he’s hopeful the legislation will pass.
He will also be hoping the shift to premium VOD for some releases is just temporary due to the circumstances.