On the reverse side of the coin from the news that an investor is pushing Disney to pile more onto it’s streaming service come this news. As theaters struggle to survive and it looking increasingly like there may well be some large scale sales of theater chains in the offing some have speculated that studios might step in.
This was recently not permitted under US legislation however that legislation was recently changed. Could we have been about to see the return of the days of Warner cinemas at the mall? Not so fast! Apparently it’s not part of the studio plan… so far.
In the type of virtual conference that is now so prevalent in a post COVID world, two studio executives poured cold water on this idea. At the Milken Institute Global Conference Universal’s Donna Langley and Warner Brothers’ Ann Sarnoff were asked directly about the future of cinemas and studio ownership. They were clear in their response. Langley said:
“We have no plans to do that currently.”
Sarnoff’s response was just as clear:
“We have no plans either.” So if they’re (Universal) not getting involved, what do they think will happen?”
Sarnoff went on to speak in defense of theaters and the movie-going experience in general:
“I’m kind of an armchair sociologist and I believe people want to have communal experiences and especially with certain genres. We’re big fans of the exhibitors. They’ve been good partners of ours for many decades. We’re rooting for them. I know it’s tough sledding right now. I’m hoping they come out on the other side, probably even stronger.”
Both of these studios have their own streamer in the form of HBO Max and Peacock so it wouldn’t be beyond their ability to open up a free to access area, then layer over a pay-per-view billing system for big movies.
International markets re opening up, but LA and New York remain squeezed shut and they are the biggest domestic markets. Expect further delays.