Film industry adjusts to COVID-19

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The spread of COVID-19 is leading California Baptist University students to rely on the entertainment industry to fill their time. However, many movie makers are hurting as production has halted and movie theaters remain closed amid government mandates to avoid large gatherings.

Big blockbuster films such as “A Quiet Place 2,” “Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “No Time to Die” and “Black Widow” either postponed their release date or stopped production altogether.

On the other hand, some filmmakers decided to quickly release their movies onto streaming platforms because they did not have long in the box office before the novel coronavirus shut down theaters. “The Invisible Man” (2020) and “I Still Believe” (2020) are now available to rent on Amazon’s new Prime Video Cinema and Disney’s “Onward” (2020) can be viewed with a subscription to Disney+.

Michael Duggan and Jonathan Cadenhead, both junior film majors, work to produce films in a group called Elephant Room. Elephant Room was in the middle of production for a short film called “In A Nutshell” when COVID-19 paused their process.

Duggan said he believes streaming cannot compare to watching a movie in a theater, but for a small filmmaker like himself, there is a better chance for his films to be seen on streaming sites.

“I don’t believe streaming is better than going to the cinema,” Duggan said. “However, streaming has opened great opportunities especially for small filmmakers such as Elephant Room. It is a lot more possible to get one of our films on a streaming service rather than in theaters. However, many films are specifically created to go hand-in-hand with the experience of going to the cinema. So, while streaming is awesome, I don’t think it outweighs going to the actual theater.”

Duggan said he believes COVID-19 may negatively impact privately owned theaters but will not have a long-term impact on movie theaters such as Regal and AMC.

“I think that because of all this, people will realize how much they took going to the cinema for granted and we will see a huge boom in ticket sales,” Duggan said.

Dr. Melissa Croteau, professor of film studies and literature, said major studios are not likely to release as many big-budget films next year because of the financial strain.

“If it is a large-budget film you need theatrical release; you need the box office – not just here in the United States, but globally – in order to make your money back and hopefully make a profit. The likelihood of you making a profit going straight to streaming is pretty slim,” Croteau said. “The movies that we know are delayed are these very big-budget movies where really there is no way of them making their money back unless they do a theatrical release.”

Croteau said that audiences next year will probably experience lower budget films.

“I hope – well, it is a little bit biased because I like these types of films better – I think you are going to see more lower-budget films getting made,” Croteau said. “By lower-budget I in no way mean lower quality. I just mean these giant blockbusters are going to seem like a much bigger risk and potentially may be unsustainable. You will still see them made; they are these global hits, but they are going to really need to configure their budgetary systems because they are not going to be able to afford to put as many of them out as they have been.”

Cadenhead said it is important for filmmakers to continue creating during quarantine.

“Stay creative. Use this time to work with new constraints or make something you wouldn’t otherwise,” Cadenhead said.

Cadenhead said he would not be surprised if productions such as “A Quiet Place 2” and the new James Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” end up premiering on streaming services instead of theaters.

Unfortunately for film fanatics, they will have to wait until COVID-19 subsides to enjoy some anticipated movies in theaters. In the meantime, streaming services are offering some movies that originated in theaters recently as rentals.

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