The Future That Hollywood Feared Is Happening Now

Actually, this is the future everybody has feared, whether we’re talking showbiz or not. Time now to escape our personal life-or-death situations and turn our attention to the film biz. Who knows? It might even lighten our load.

by Kyle Buchanan

The movie industry was already on a precipice. Did the pandemic just give it a push?

With theaters shuttered all over the world and hundreds of millions of people ordered to stay at home, it’s unclear when the movie industry can resume business as normal, or even whether that “normal” will look anything like Hollywood wants it to. Pivotal pieces of the film calendar — including the summer-blockbuster season and the year-end awards gantlet — have been thrown into disarray, and in their absence the gulf between streaming media and the theatrical experience may only widen further.

How will the movie industry cope with these disruptions, and what will happen to the rest of 2020 if fearful audiences can’t be coaxed back to the theater? Season by season, the outlook is bleak.

If a magic wand could be waved that would eradicate the coronavirus and free people from their homes, the most lucrative summer movie season ever would surely follow.

But there is no magic wand. A potential vaccine for the coronavirus will take at least a year to become available, and in that time, it’s hard to imagine a feasible way for movie theaters to reopen and turn a regular profit. Even if plans were drafted to deep-clean theaters between screenings and limit attendance so moviegoers could still keep a safe distance, will studios still want to screen their would-be blockbusters for such a decimated crowd? These movies often need to make hundreds of millions of dollars simply to break even, an impossible task for a world where only a sliver of the population gets to see them.

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