Covid-19 Has Brought Unprecedented Anxieties Upon The Film Industry, And The Window Model Might Be Forever Changed

Insider Articles
Erik Gjetmundsen
March 24, 2020
by Erik Gjetmundsen
Red Cinema Chair Photo
Felix Mooneeram (via unsplash.com)
Felix Mooneeram (via unsplash.com)

Movie theaters big and small have shut down around the globe because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but even when it eventually subsides, will the industry ever be the same? This is the questions studios and theaters alike are grappling with, as the unfortunate reality of being forced to release major films on-demand in an unprecedented manner may just be here to stay. 

The simple version of the dilemma is whether studios drop their films on-demand in hopes of earning a fraction of what they would have in traditional theatrical runs, or postpone them, possibly indefinitely, and cross their fingers that when they eventually hit theaters the audience interest is still there. 

Given the current circumstances, and depending on the initial size and budget of the film, this is a potentially viable solution. After very minimal runs, The Invisible Man, Emma, and The Hunt were put to VOD where they still managed to pull in $64 million, $9.9 million, and $5.3 million, respectively. Is this as good as a full windowed run? Of course not, but being as there's no real sense in pushing these off for up to a year, it's about as good as NBCUniversal could have hoped. 

Media analyst Rich Greenfield said the following about the pay-per-view solution:
"They're doing this out of complete distress and as some kind of unique learning experience rather than as a shift in strategy." 

Sony's Vin Diesel-led graphic novel adaptation Bloodshot releases on VOD today, March 24th, so it'll be worth keeping an eye on to see how the gross lines up with those it was projected to make from its original theatrical run. 

But the real guinea pig will be the upcoming Trolls World Tour, as it's the first major release that will have not had any domestic theatrical run. Releasing on April 10th, it will be in the form of a 48-hour rental that'll cost people $19.99 USD and the equivalent in international markets.  

"Let's say [Universal] thought Trolls would be a $600 million film. They could have made $260 million out of the theatrical window. At $20, can they sell 13 million copies? It's a big data point. They're going to learn a lot from doing Trolls," said Greenfield. 

For true blockbusters, like the recently delayed F9, there's no real point in going the VOD route. F9 is an all-but-guaranteed $1B club member, an amount that would be irreconcilably shrunk through pay-per-view. This begs the question, what types of  movies are worth it for people to spend two or three times their monthly Netflix subscription for one, maybe two viewings? How many families are going to shell out 20 bucks so their kids can half-watch Trolls World Tour in their living room when they could open up Disney+ and watch Frozen 2 virtually for free?

Back to the original question of whether or not the film industry will ever go back to the traditional windowed method, the National Association of Theatre Owners had the following to say in a statement:

"People will return to movie theaters because that is who people are. When they return they will rediscover a cutting edge, immersive entertainment experience that they have been forcefully reminded they cannot replicate at home."

Personally, I agree. We tend not to realize how special things are until they're taken away, and the 100+ year old moviegoing experience is no different. There's not much anyone can do to quell the festering anxieties in the meantime, but we should not let ourselves doubt the power of the movies. 


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Trolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1MTrolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1MTrolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1MTrolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1M
Trolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1MTrolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1MTrolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1MTrolls World Tour$0.4MThe Invisible Man$0.3MDolittle$0.2MThe Hunt$0.2MOnward$0.2MThe Wretched$0.1MJumanji: The Next Level$0.1MSonic The Hedgehog$0.1MBad Boys for Life$0.1MThe Call of the Wild$0.1M
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