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To Stream, Theatrical Open or Hold - Juggling Film Releases in the Covid-Era

The declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic recently just passed the one year mark, and for many Americans, that may have also marked the first anniversary of the last time they watched a film from a seat in a movie theater.

Streaming services have attempted, perhaps somewhat successfully, to fill the void with a plethora of offerings from classic movies to television series to smaller, independent films originally slated for theatrical release. Many smaller films that had day-and-date theatrical and on-demand debuts have proceeded with the digital parts of those releases, even Disney has relegated three of its films to streaming only debuts.

As necessary has always proved itself to be the mother of invention, many producers have been coming up with unique, and often hybrid, ways of getting their films in front of fans' eyeballs.

Due to ongoing global closures and restrictions, Searchlight Pictures announced that the critically acclaimed and Golden Globe winner for Best Picture Nomadland, would receive a multi-platform rollout. The film was shown in select domestic IMAX venues starting January 29, 2021, providing it with an exclusive theatrical window for exhibitors. The film then hit select domestic theaters and drive-in venues on February 19, and was made available to stream on Hulu that same day. Both Searchlight Pictures and Hulu are owned by Disney.

In a move that shocked many industry insiders, AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros. announced at the end of last year, that it will release 17 films -- including Dune, The Matrix 4 and The Suicide Squad -- to its HBO Max streaming service for 31 days on the same day they premiere on in movie theaters shattering previous movie-release norms.

Some studios have simply dug in their heels refusing to succumb to pressures to alter their release strategies, especially for perceived blockbusters, and have simply resorted to pushing back their release dates again and again. Tent pole movies out of Marvel and The Fast saga, have been reshuffled and moved countless times from 2020 to 2021, even 2022, or have been delayed indefinitely. Perceived blockbusters Avatar 2, and West Side Story have been repeatedly shuffled to new dates.

Godzilla vs. Kong will also now be simultaneously released on March 31, 2021 in theaters and on HBO Max after moving from November 20, 2020, to May 21, 2021, then to March 26, 2021.

Fans may have gotten whiplash following the bouncing ball of release dates for the next film in the James Bond franchise, No Time to Die. Now scheduled for release on October 8, 2021, the film danced from April 10, 2020, to November 25, back up to November 20, and then pushed to April 2, 2021.

Other films that the pandemic is making studio execs crazy are:

A Quiet Place Part II

Moved from March 8, 2020, to September 6, 2020, to April 23, 2021, then to September 17, 2021, and then up to May 28, 2021.

The Batman

Moved from June 25, 2021, to October 1, 2021, then to March 4, 2022.

Many industry experts anticipate that the days when movies played solely on the big screen for 75 to 90 days are gone for good and that studios will continue to put new releases on digital platforms earlier than ever before.

And while experts may wonder if the cinema-going experience will survive the coronavirus pandemic, most observers point to an emotional and sentimental attachment many of us have to movie theaters that started in childhood. After our first visit back to the movies as soon as it’s deemed safe, we will relive all the comforting sights, sounds and smells that make the theater-going experience so unique and irreplaceable.

Pride Jewel Official Trailer

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