All the blockbusters-films with a budget of £100 million- or more are on hold. James Bond’s film No Time To Die has now been delayed twice. Disney’s live-action Mulan has been released on the OTT platform, and Top Gun: Maverick is currently riding a motorbike to nowhere. And Marvel movies like Black Widow-reliable summer event season stalwarts-have been put back indefinitely, as studios are hoping for a return to normality.
But although screen heroes are unlikely to save the world, they may still be able to keep the experience on the big screen, says Screen International’s chief film critic Finn Halligan. It’s like we’ve been having a staring contest, she says, a stand-off between film studios and movie theatres. Sources indication that Wonder Woman 1984 will be launched concurrently in US cinemas and streaming on Christmas Day 2020.
The film that plunges Gal Gadot, as the returning heroine, into the 80’s world, cost about £145m ($200m) to create. Originally expected to open in June, the update has now been postponed twice. “They’re too much of a valuable commodity.” So the longer the cinemas sit closed, the more these decisions become. According to The Hollywood Reporter, No Time To Die costs the MGM film studio $1 million in interest per month. The capital, which it originally lent to make a film, can’t be repaid until 007 reaches the big screen.
Last year, nine films made more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office-including The Lion King, Joker, Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel. Quick forward to the summer of 2020, and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet-a film with a budget of $205m (£150m)-was the first mega-budget movie to be released in theatres, accounting for around $350m (£270m).
Does the viewer feel safe to come back to see a new Marvel movie in the theatres, or wait for it on Disney? And how long will the movie theatres survive in this situation? But Asia could already be paving the way for a film-going recovery. Wonder Woman 1984 will have a full theatre screening in China a week before the film is released in the US. Up to now, Hollywood has declined to screen its biggest movies first to viewers in Asia, Australia and New Zealand-where many movie theatres are open again-in part because of the concerns of piracy.
It is also significant that China is the biggest blockbuster in 2020 so far-Hu Guan’s war epic, The Eight Hundred, about a group of Chinese soldiers under siege by the Japanese Army. It was worth $468m (£345m) in the box office.
2020 is the year that China, not the US, has become the world’s largest film market,” Asian film critic Stevie Wong says. “This year, China has surpassed $1.9 billion (£1.4 billion).
Even without Hollywood movies, local movies had a better chance in theatres,” Wong continues, citing the popularity of Chinese drama My Boys, My Homeland and Japanese Anime movie Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba.