Is Hollywood ready to return to premieres and in-person film screenings?
For film review professionals, movie theaters are not just a sacred place to watch the latest independent film or the big budget blockbuster. Cinemas are like a second home, or at least an office outside of the office.
In pre-pandemic times, Justin Chang, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s âFresh Air,â went to the movies to work at least twice a slow week. During the festival season, when the volume of film releases increases dramatically, it could attend up to five screenings in a few days.
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Chang, like the majority of those who professionally rate films, hasn’t set foot in the theater since last March and isn’t sure when he’ll be back. (When he does, he plans to wear a mask.) He has continued to watch movies from home, where distractions inevitably abound but don’t put him at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“I think I will come back to it on a case-by-case basis,” says Chang, who adds that he is fully vaccinated. âI’m not interested in seeing anything in a crowded theater. I feel more comfortable for a press screening because I imagine that responsible professionals in our field are vaccinated and that the studios are [taking safety precautions]. “
After 14 bizarre months for the film industry, Hollywood studios are trying to deal with the eventual return of splashing press screenings and movie premieres. There has been a slow trickle of traditional red carpets to ring in new TV shows, but movie debuts have been limited to drive-in events. Other major industry events, such as the Tribeca, Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festivals have in-person activities, although in the case of Tribeca, many offerings will also take place virtually.
The re-emergence of public gatherings of all sizes, scope and scale has been guided by restrictions imposed by the city or county government. In many cases, the studios have held private viewings to get members of the media used to revisiting theaters and have continued to offer digital links to anyone who is still hesitant. The cost of renting a theater or hall for a preliminary screening is negligible for a large studio, which spends $ 100 million promoting blockbuster hopes, although it can be costly for independents.
It is an interesting value for studios, big and small, not only to show their confidence in its next film, but also to generate media coverage. For better or worse, these gatherings can be a powerful marketing tool for word-of-mouth and social media gossip. âWhat a studio does in terms of the press effort mounted behind a film is a testament to their investment in the film and the extent to which they want an audience to see it,â Chang says.
Virtual premieres and drive-through events have been convenient and cost effective, but there’s a level of computer screen fatigue that inevitably comes with spending more than a year indoors. Studio insiders have indicated that it will be some time before the return of full-fledged premieres, the kind that cost over $ 500,000 to block traffic around Hollywood and the Highlands in Los Angeles or rent Lincoln Center to New York. With capacity restrictions and the fact that talent isn’t willing to travel to pose on a red carpet, it’s not worth the outrageous expense.
There are several potential blockbusters on the horizon – the Universal “Fast and Furious” sequel “F9”, the Disney and Marvel superhero adventure “Black Widow” and Paramount’s bizarre follow-up to “A Quiet.” Place â- which would traditionally deserve chic firsts. Still, all that’s currently on the schedule are press screenings for a handful of titles, including the musical Warner Bros. âIn the Heights,â which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in June, as well as Disney’s âCruellaâ.
For âF9,â which opens in June, Universal considered hosting an event on Hollywood Boulevard or at outdoor venues like So-Fi Stadium or Dodger Stadium, where people don’t have to be in cars like they would do it by car. -in, but nothing has been officially defined. All gatherings, at least for now, will be small with fewer photographers and selected attendees. Evaluating the comfort level of movie stars and other guests, as well as the application of mask warrants and physical distance, will be of utmost importance.
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair’s chief critic, isn’t quite ready to return to crowded auditoriums. Since being vaccinated, however, he has relaxed the idea of ââsocially distant surveillance nights and recently took to a New York City screening room to watch and re-watch the revenge thriller directed by Guy Ritchie. “Wrath of Man”.
âIf everyone is wearing their mask and no one is talking, the risk is low,â Lawson says. âI couldn’t wait to come back. It makes a huge difference in the viewing experience. I didn’t feel like looking at my phone. “
Indeed, while working from home has been a boon to many, it could sometimes turn out to be a one-time compression test. And then there are the peculiarities that you wouldn’t know unless you received a digital filter link which is essentially an authentication factor unless you give up your firstborn’s naming rights.
âI saw a movie with my name printed on the screen in a size 48 font,â says Katie Walsh, a Los Angeles-based freelance film critic. “I fully understand the need for security, but it’s not the ideal way to watch or replay a movie.”
There are also the technical advantages. Walsh remembers almost falling from his chair on his first time at the movies since the start of the pandemic. âThe experience of this booming surround sound has been the most palpable difference,â she says. “It was so much more immersive.”
Joey Magidson, who runs the Awards Radar blog, recently attended a nearly empty press screening of âSpiral,â a horror film set in the âSawâ universe, at AMC Empire in Times Square. âIf there had been a public screening on the opening day of a big movie, I don’t know how much I could have said yes,â he says. âOnce installed, I felt good. Nothing like being caught in a movie on the big screen. “
Chang says that when he returns to the cinema, he will continue to make an effort to see every movie he sees again, whether it’s a documentary or the next James Bond sequel, on the big screen. He notes that forgoing the theatrical experience, for now, is hardly the sacrifice many others have been forced to make during the pandemic.
âFor television critics, this is nothing new to them. They’re probably like, “Grow up, movie critics,” Chang says with a laugh. “For those that it’s their day, we missed it terribly.”
Jazz Tangcay contributed to this report.
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