Christopher Nolan is hard at work to get “Tenet” into theaters this July, according to IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond.
“Certain filmmakers are very anxious to have their movies released,” said Gelfond on an earnings conference call this morning. “I don’t know anyone in America who is pushing harder than Chris Nolan to have the theaters open and to have his movie released in July when it’s scheduled for.”
The CEO also noted that the company has adapted methods to continue working on the post-production of Nolan’s upcoming spy thriller, currently slated for a July 17 domestic release. “In the near term, we have incorporated a number of remote tools into our workflows and a range for select staff to have safe access to our post-production facilities so we can continue work on forthcoming titles like Tenet,” he said.
In late March, Nolan had penned an op-ed published in the Washington Post, writing that “it’s vital to acknowledge the prompt and responsible decisions made by all kinds of companies across our country that have closed their doors” and that “as a filmmaker, my work can never be complete without those workers and the audiences they welcome.”
Many other blockbusters previously slated for the summer of 2020, such as “Wonder Woman 1984”, “Mulan” and “No Time To Die” have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders around the globe.
Some titles, such as “Trolls: World Tour”, “Scoob!” and “Artemis Fowl” have had their theatrical release cancelled entirely and were sent directly to streaming and video-on-demand. Gelfond insisted that “Trolls” was an unusual situation and that major blockbusters are unlikely to be delayed due to the benefits resulting from theatrical windows.
“I think Universal had a bit of special circumstances because they had already started the marketing campaign. They eventually had $50 million in cost of the marketing campaign, it was scheduled for April release. I think they faced a tough decision. If they postponed it, they would have had to relaunch at another time and respend that money and so they decided to go streaming,” said Gelfond. “I don’t think that changes the model. I think if you allowed movies to release on streaming rather than theatrical, you would lose so many ancillary windows.”
“There wouldn’t be a TV window, which queues off a box office. So that model just doesn’t make very much sense to me. And certainly doesn’t make sense for blockbuster releases. And the evidence is in the fact that they’ve all been rescheduled.”
IMAX, as with other exhibition players, have suffered hefty losses due to the pandemic. Today the company announced a loss of $49.4 million for the first quarter of 2020, compared to a profit of $8.3 million it made for the same quarter last year.
Nevertheless, Gelfond noted how he does not see exhibition chains go bankrupt as a result of the pandemic.
“The really good news for them and for us is that I think the capital markets in the last several weeks have been quite amenable to financing exhibitors through this crisis. And I’m sure you saw Cinemark raise $250 million, AMC recently raised $500 million,” he said. “So I think there are pretty good financial footing now where I don’t really see a bankruptcy as a significant risk to a number of chains right now. I think there have been some smaller regional operators. But as far as we can tell right now we don’t think that’s going to be a significant problem.”
Despite mentioning Nolan’s efforts on releasing Tenet in July, Gelfond also noted that openings are expected to include library content and limited seating capacity to ensure social distancing at first.
“One exhibitor is talking about every other seat at the beginning or every other row. Another exhibitor is talking about a new software program which allows families to stay together in every other seat,” he said. “The process of reopening theaters will be measured and will acquire time for the industry to build the type of theater-going momentum capable of supporting a blockbuster release. But first we expect theaters to reopen with promotional pricing and library content.”
Current models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predict the beginning of a “containment strategy” with relaxed social distancing being possible after May 29 for hard-hit areas such as New York.
“It’s ultimately the exhibitors’ decision on when to reopen subject to government regulation and how to reopen,” said Gelfond.
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