WEEKLY FILM INDUSTRY NEWS DIGEST, UPDATED TUESDAY OCTOBER 20TH
Theatre Owners “Pleased” With Cuomo’s Move Allowing New York Cinemas To Reopen On October 23
During a press conference on Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced movie theaters outside of New York City can reopen at 25% capacity, or up to 50 people per screen on October 23rd. We also hear they can sell concessions. This is in effect for all counties with infection rates that are below 2% on a 14-day average.
The fact that New York is allowing cinemas to sell concessions is also a big deal. San Francisco county isn’t permitting that, and that cuts off the financial life flow for exhibition. In response, movie theaters in San Francisco county opted not to reopen, despite the fact that they’re open and selling popcorn and soda in nearby counties like Napa and Marin. Massachusetts banned all concessions for roughly three weeks during theaters’ reopening, and recently allowed their sale.
Warner Bros & Universal Bosses Say No Movie Theater Buyouts In The Works, But “We’re Rooting For Them”
Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of Warner Bros had the same reaction Thursday when asked if their companies had any interest in buying movie theaters. They laughed. “We have no plans to do that currently,” Langley said, appearing with Sarnoff and CBS CEO George Cheeks on a Milken Institute Global Conference virtual panel about COVID-19’s impact on Hollywood. “We have no plans either,” Sarnoff said with a light chuckle.
Especially with the 1948 Paramount decree now abolished and major theater circuits on the brink of bankruptcy, the scenario of studios taking a stake in exhibition, whose stocks have plunged, is frequently floated. The entire theatrical model, which has shown signs of wear in recent years but still yielded more than $11 billion in revenue in 2019, is in a suspended state. While major studios have all come to rely on streaming to varying degrees as a replacement for theatrical in 2020, the profit margins many releases enjoy in the traditional model are not yet possible in streaming. Plus, with major media companies on their heels due to the pandemic’s effect on TV advertising, production, theme parks and other revenue sources, earmarking funds for a theater rescue is unrealistic — even laughable.
“Cinemas Lack Movies, Not Audiences,” Claims CEO Of Scandi Chain Nordisk
Asger Flygare, CEO of Scandinavian exhibitor Nordisk Film Cinemas, has penned an impassioned letter calling for the industry to support theaters by releasing fresh product, claiming the demand is there from audiences.
Flygare pointed to the green shoots of recovery emerging from the Danish film industry, using the example of Thomas Vinterberg’s Mads Mikkelsen-starring pic Druk (English title Another Round), which was released locally on September 24.
The film has clocked an estimated 800,000 admissions, making it the best performing Danish movie in three years. That’s despite the current COVID protocols, including restricting venues to 70% capacity.
“All movies released in the Danish market since the cinema opening in June has over performed their pre-COVID estimates with app. 26% on average,” he wrote, explaining the absence big-ticket international releases was creating space for local fare.
Flygare said that during this period his company had learned audiences will adapt to the new reality and that the perceived negative effects of the safety measures are diminishing. He added that reduced capacities were rarely an issue as cinemas on average were not selling out before the pandemic. In total, he claimed 93.4% of the admissions recorded last year could have been recorded this year under the current provisions.
f there was one theme that emerged from Mipcom this year, it was the rise of HBO Max as a real force in the international market. The WarnerMedia streamer has had a busy few days hoovering up some big shows that have, until now, been without a U.S. home.
The race for international content just got even more intense, which is great news if you’re a producer looking for a U.S. partner. And it could just be the start for HBO Max, which is planning to further tread on Netflix’s toes when it begins its global expansion, starting with Latin America next year.
BFI reveals impact of Covid pandemic on film and TV viewing in the UK
The average time spent viewing audiovisual entertainment in the UK home grew from four hours, 53 minutes in April 2019 to six hours and 25 minutes in April 2020 – a rise of 31% according to new research presented at the BFI London Film Festival by the BFI’s research and statistics unit on Thursday (October 15).
The highest growth was for viewing of streamer services, up 109% from 34 minutes per day in April 2019 to 71 minutes per day a year later. During the lockdown period, 3 million adults gained access to a streamer service for the first time.
Films took a larger share of the increased TV viewing time, as did news programmes, while viewing of sport declined rapidly during the lockdown period, and has not fully recovered. Films achieved a 10.9% share of TV viewing during lockdown, up from 7.8% for the equivalent period of 2019. Post-lockdown, films retained its share of viewing, edging back only slightly to 10.8%.
The BFI unit offered estimated global revenue for three key titles released digitally since the pandemic, via VOD in the case of Trolls World Tour ($100m digital revenue estimate) and Scoob! ($60-70m), and via Disney+ in the case of Mulan ($150m in transactions, not counting subscription revenue from new subscribers to the service).
The team presented data on the demographic make-up of cinema audiences. Amongst cinemagoers who had visited the cinema in the last two months, while 34.5% was aged 16-34 for Q4 2019, this cohort rose to 58.8% of the audience for September 2020. In Q4 2019, 31.3% of the audience was age 45 or older; this proportion fell to just 7.8% in September 2020.
‘Coming to America’ Sequel Moves From Paramount to Amazon
The sequel to the classic Eddie Murphy comedy is in talks to jump from Paramount to the streaming-focused studio. While a deal for Coming 2 America has not yet closed, the two studios have previously brokered a deal for Michael B. Jordan starrer Without Remorse…Coming 2 America would be the latest theater-bound movie headed to streaming amid continued theatrical closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Paramount sold Trial of the Chicago 7 and romantic comedy The Lovebirds to Netflix, while Tom Hanks WWII drama Greyhound jumped from Sony to Apple and Clouds moved from Warner Bros. to Disney+, among other deals.
Disney Restructures to Accelerate Streaming Growth
Disney on Monday (October 12) announced a restructure of its media and entertainment divisions to aggressively support and grow the streaming services led by Disney+, which has thrived during the pandemic.Studios content chairmen Alan Horn and Alan Bergman will exploit existing Disney-owned brands to make theatrical and episodic content that will be released theatrically, and on Disney+ and Hulu.Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the restructure was designed to support “the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business”.
UIP France boss explains why he is releasing ‘Trolls World Tour’ wide
Universal Pictures International France is opening Trolls World Tour wide on 650 prints on October 14 to coincide with the country’s half-term school holidays…day-and-date releases are not legally permitted in France under the country’s strict media chronology laws and rather than forego the theatrical release altogether, UPI France managing director Xavier Albert held the line to maintain this week’s release…“We’ve seen since the reopening of the theatres in June, that there has been a real demand for family films in the theatres.
It is without a doubt the segment of the audience where there is currently the most potential. It’s worth remembering the only film to achieve a million admissions since the reopening, apart from Tenet, is the family comedy Les Blagues de Toto, for which nobody expected such a level of entries.”
AMC Entertainment Says Cash Will Be “Largely Depleted” By Year End; Exploring Assets Sales, Joint Ventures, Minority Investments
In an SEC filing, the company said it “believes its cash burn to date is in line with the Prior Update. However, given the reduced movie slate for the fourth quarter, in the absence of significant increases in attendance from current levels or incremental sources of liquidity, at the existing cash burn rate, the Company anticipates that existing cash resources would be largely depleted by the end of 2020 or early 2021. Thereafter, to meet its obligations as they become due, the Company will require additional sources of liquidity or increases in attendance levels. The required amounts of additional liquidity are expected to be material.”
AMC said its cash burn — how much it goes through each month — is impacted by, among other things, “the timing of resumption of theatre operations, including with respect to some of our most productive theatres which remain closed, the timing of movie releases and the slate of future releases, theatre attendance levels, landlord negotiations and minimum lease payments, costs associated with the AMC Safe and Clean initiative, and food and beverage receipts.”
AMC has raised close to $40 million to date by selling shares. In a major debt restructuring announced over the summer, it brought in several hundred million dollars in cash, reduced interest payments and extended maturities on loans. But AMC and other exhibitors figured they’d be back on their feet sooner than appears to be the case. Reopening theaters, as the chain has been doing, costs more than keeping them closed but either way the situation has become dire. The SEC filing described a situation that is completely up in the air due to the unknown magnitude and duration of the pandemic.
“We will be flexible with windows” says Vue Cinemas’ Tim Richards
“We are willing to consider reducing windows… don’t think we will ever see a time when we are going to have a day-and-date [VoD and theatrical] release of a major film. Equally, I don’t think we will adopt what AMC has done [screen Universal films with a theatrical window of just 17 days in the US], which we don’t really agree with.”
“The one positive to come out from all of this,” Richards continued, “is that local film producers, directors and distributors have seen an opportunity that has never risen before when there are no Hollywood films. In Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, even in Poland and Italy, we are seeing the independent sector scrambling to finish films to get them onto our screens because they know they are going to have them to themselves. That has actually helped us immensely. It is not a long-term sustainable business model but it keeps us going, while we try to get through this period.”…Richards said the UK was “a little bit more Hollywood-centric” than European markets but added Vue is “welcoming” films from the independent sector.
China’s National Day holiday officially ended last Thursday, with takings for the October 1-8 period at an estimated RMB 3.95B ($589M) as the market continues to close the 2020 gap with domestic. Both films helped IMAX score a record-breaking National Day holiday week in the market with its box office up 23% versus the same period in 2019, and despite 75% capacity restrictions in theaters throughout the country. Jiang Ziya has grossed $13M in IMAX through today while My Country, My Homeland has a $7.5M cume in the format.
IMAX has also had a strong run with Tenet with a $30.1M offshore cume, representing 11% of the total on the Christopher Nolan time-twister. Japan, which is now the No. 4 overseas market on Tenet, has reached $5M in the format to become the 2nd biggest WB IMAX release ever there, behind only Gravity. It is also Nolan’s highest-grossing IMAX title in Japan, surpassing Dunkirk….The Top 5 offshore hubs are now China ($66.2M), UK ($21.8M), France ($21.4M), Japan ($19.2M) and Germany ($17.2M).
Voltage Pictures’ After We Collided has crossed $40M internationally with $42.5M ahead of its domestic October 23 release. The current weekend was good for $1.5M in 34 markets. Germany leads all play with $8.5M to date, followed by Italy ($4.9M), UK ($4.7M), Russia ($3.8M) and Spain ($3.8M).