What Studios & Exhibition Seriously Need To Do Right Now To Save Moviegoing After Release Date Fallout & ‘Tenet’ - Deadline
Sep 17, 2020 2 mins, 53 secs

What’s going on right now at the box office and with theaters goes far beyond the muted $30M domestic results of Tenet.

If there was ever a divide between exhibition and distribution, it’s now.

The overall message on theater safety, aka the National Association of Theatre Owners’ CinemaSafe program, needs to be louder — like, a lot LOUDER, and bears repetition.

“There’s a lot of mixed stimuli that it’s safe and not safe right now, and that’s throughout all industries.

The messaging that movie theaters are safer than restaurants and bars, and that there are no known COVID-19 cases connected with cinemas, hasn’t registered in the public’s mindset, and certainly not with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who continues to hold up multiplex reopenings over AC ventilation concerns.

Despite being among the first establishments before the mid-March shutdown to create social distancing, extra cleaning, and touchless parameters for their consumer base, movie theaters have been vilified.

Of those polled on whether they’d return to theaters right now and feel comfortable about it, there are three groups: eager explorers (84%), social skeptics (35%), and the health holdouts, per NRG.

However, the demo wants to hear that’s it safe to go back, not from an exhibition boss or a Kardashian, but rather from health officials themselves.

Further complicating matters, and perhaps another reason why there wasn’t a rush on the box office for Tenet as US theaters in San Diego and New Jersey opened at the last minute over its opening weekend, only 41% of all potential moviegoers were aware recently that their local theater is actually open.

Of the many I’ve spoken with, they assert emphatically that it’s not the studio’s job, nor is it filmmakers or stars’ responsibility, to send the message that movie theaters are safe.

What about a NATO-ordered medical study showing that it’s actually safe to be in a movie theater, socially distanced, wearing a mask, and with strangers.

From what we know thus far, no one has contracted COVID-19 from a movie theater.

Such a study could go a long way in convincing stars that it’s OK to promote a movie, or even support moviegoing.

Majors, you don’t have to pitch or administrate the message that it’s safe to return to theaters.

Hey, studios, you financially assisted the digital and 3D exhibition revolution, so why can’t you help fund the national PR campaign to return to movie theaters.

Loyalty programs should be messaging dormant lists ASAP on cinema safety, even when theaters are closed in specific markets.

Studio marketing executives have commended Nordstrom on how they’ve used social media influencers to draw-in anxious shoppers; that it’s the same type of tact that should be implemented in this scenario with movie theaters.

But if they have abandoned you with marquee releases for the fall, perhaps it’s time to experiment with theatrical-PVOD day and date windows with an independent distributor and see what happens!

Says Voltage Pictures President and COO Jonathan Deckter, “There’s no doubt that we need exhibition to not only survive, but thrive, in order to keep the independent film ecosystem whole

There was too much pressure on Tenet to be looked at as the feature that would save the domestic box office, and some say it was still too early for movie theaters to reopen with no vaccine yet in sight

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