Won­der Woman di­rec­tor warns movie-go­ing could be­come ex­tinct

Business World - - Arts & Leisure -

LOS AN­GE­LES - Patty Jenk­ins’ new Won­der Woman movie has been de­layed three times dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. Now, the di­rec­tor is sound­ing the alarm that movie-go­ing it­self is un­der real threat.

This as Warner Bros. said late Mon­day that it is de­lay­ing the re­lease of Dune and The Bat­man movies, an­other set­back for the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try hit by COVID-19 pan­demic lock­downs and so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures that have closed the­aters world­wide.

Jenk­ins is among dozens of top Hol­ly­wood di­rec­tors ap­peal­ing to the US gov­ern­ment to pro­vide a fi­nan­cial life­line to cin­e­mas. With­out it, she warned, the cen­tury-old tra­di­tion of go­ing to the movies could dis­ap­pear from Amer­i­can cul­ture.

“If we shut this down, this will not be a re­versible process,” she said in an in­ter­view from her home in Los An­ge­les. “We could lose movie the­ater-go­ing for­ever.”

While the­ater at­ten­dance has re­bounded in some coun­tries fol­low­ing a global shut­down in March, the US mar­ket is strug­gling. The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of The­ater Own­ers said 69% of small and mid-sized cin­ema com­pa­nies could be forced to file for bank­ruptcy or shut­ter per­ma­nently.

On Mon­day, the world’s sec­ond-big­gest cin­ema chain, Cineworld, de­cided to tem­po­rar­ily close its UK and US movie the­aters in an at­tempt to sur­vive a col­lapse in film-mak­ing and cin­ema-go­ing.

Credit rating agency Fitch promptly down­graded the com­pany. “Our base-case fore­casts in­di­cate that, the com­pany’s cur­rent liq­uid­ity lev­els may only be suf­fi­cient un­til Novem­ber to De­cem­ber 2020, as­sum­ing no re­volv­ing credit fa­cil­ity (RCF) ex­ten­sions,” Fitch said in a state­ment.

Ms. Jenk­ins said wide­spread clo­sures would lead Hol­ly­wood stu­dios to stop in­vest­ing in films for the­aters, and turn to stream­ing in­stead.

“It could be the kind of thing that hap­pened to the mu­sic in­dus­try,” she said, “where you could crum­ble the en­tire in­dus­try by mak­ing it some­thing that can’t be prof­itable.”

Ex­pen­sive ac­tion movies like Won­der Woman would be much less com­mon on stream­ing, she said, and au­di­ences would miss out on the ex­pe­ri­ence of watch­ing on a big screen in a large group.

“I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where the only op­tion is to take your kids to watch a movie in your own liv­ing room,” she said, “and not have a place to go for a date.”

Some of this year’s ma­jor Hol­ly­wood films, in­clud­ing Walt Dis­ney Co.’s Mu­lan, skipped cin­e­mas and went straight to stream­ing. Ms. Jenk­ins said that op­tion is not un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for her se­quel, Won­der Woman 1984. Her 2017 Won­der Woman film took in $822 mil­lion at box of­fices world­wide.

The fol­low-up star­ring Gal Gadot as the lasso-wield­ing war­rior is now sched­uled for re­lease by AT&T, Inc.’s Warner Bros. on Christ­mas Day in De­cem­ber. It had orig­i­nally been set for June.

Ms. Jenk­ins said she was watch­ing the progress of the pan­demic and hop­ing that Won­der Woman can lead a re­turn to cin­e­mas that gives peo­ple a wel­come es­cape from re­al­ity.

“I re­ally hope that we are able to be one of the very first ones to come back and bring that into ev­ery­one’s life,’ she said.

WARNER BROS. DE­LAYS THE BAT­MAN

DUNE,

Dune, a sci-fi movie di­rected by Cana­dian di­rec­tor De­nis Vil­leneuve, is now sched­uled to open in Oc­to­ber 2021, in­stead of De­cem­ber. The re­lease of The Bat­man, star­ring Robert Pat­tin­son, has been moved to the spring of 2022 from Oc­to­ber next year.

Movie re­leases have been get­ting de­layed even af­ter re­stric­tions were eased, with peo­ple still wary of step­ping into cin­ema halls, and many the­aters still not op­er­a­tional.

Ear­lier, the film­ing of The Bat­man was also shut down for two weeks af­ter a mem­ber of the pro­duc­tion — widely re­ported to be Pat­tin­son — tested pos­i­tive for the new coro­n­avirus. Film­ing re­sumed in Bri­tain last month and Warner Bros. never con­firmed or de­nied re­ports about Pat­tin­son’s di­ag­no­sis.

Dune has gained a lot of trac­tion for its cast that in­cludes 24-year-old Ti­mothee Cha­la­met, who was nom­i­nated for an Academy Award for his role in the 2017 film Call Me by Your Name. The re­lease of the new James Bond movie No Time to Die from MGM and Com­cast Corp.’s Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures has also been de­layed un­til April 2021.

JURAS­SIC WORLD SE­QUEL PRO­DUC­TION SUS­PENDED

Mean­while, pro­duc­tion of Juras­sic World: Do­min­ion from Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures has been sus­pended for two weeks af­ter a few peo­ple on the set tested pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus dis­ease 2019 (COVID-19), di­rec­tor Colin Trevor­row said on Wed­nes­day. “All tested neg­a­tive shortly af­ter, but due to our safety pro­to­cols we’re go­ing to pause for two weeks,” Mr. Trevor­row wrote on Twit­ter.

Film­ing on the di­nosaur ad­ven­ture movie re­sumed in Eng­land in July un­der strin­gent pro­to­cols for the cast and crew to con­tain the spread of the coro­n­avirus. Pro­duc­tion had been halted in mid-March be­cause of the pan­demic, which shut down movie and tele­vi­sion sets around the world.

Mr. Trevor­row did not iden­tify who had tested pos­i­tive on the movie, whose stars in­clude Chris Pratt and Bryce Dal­las Howard. Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures, part of Com­cast Corp, an­nounced Tues­day that the re­lease date for Juras­sic World: Do­min­ion was be­ing pushed back one year to June 2022. —

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