Going to the movies postpandemic will be much different
21:42

Going to the movies postpandemic will be much different

Culture
Speaker 1: With the academy awards. It's a few days away. One industry that has had a consequential time during the pandemic has been the film industry. Everything from film production to the way we watch movies has completely changed. In fact, you can sit at home and watch a blockbuster movie on HBO, max, or Disney, plus this as you could in a movie theater, which leads to the question now what my guess to help me sort through a post pandemic movie industry is Russell Schwartz. He's a [00:00:30] professor at the college of film and media arts at Chapman university and someone who's behind the marketing for such films as the Lord of the rings, trilogy wedding, Crashers, elves, and many more so welcome. And how has the pandemic changed the way we watch Speaker 2: Films? Thank you, Patrick. Pleasure to be here. And I'm glad you recognized that guy behind me. Who's a dear friend who was for many years. Um, well, it's been pretty dramatic of course. I mean, obviously the, the negative side of it being that we've [00:01:00] all been forced to stay at home and the whole social distancing thing and self isolation, but, you know, from a, from a content and viewing and discoverable discoverable perspective, I think the pandemic actually has some, some benefits. Um, everybody's upgraded their home entertainment system. That's for sure. That's been a good thing. A lot of people have been discovering smaller movies, um, that they would never have gone to the, to seeing a theater TV series or all of a sudden becoming a major interest. [00:01:30] And even, you know, which is something that is most profound is the ability to watch a, a television show or a film that was produced in, in its native language, which is now being brought cast in subtitles. And that's a quantum shift because you cannot get anybody to go see a movie with subtitles in a Mo in a movie theater anymore outside of that small dedicated arthouse audience. So I thought that was pretty interesting. That's a real cultural shift. And now whether that means that we will be able to see more, [00:02:00] um, original language content on our all screen, I think it's great. You know, it's different stories, better stories, sometimes more original stories. Um, so I think it's all positive. Speaker 1: Why is that? Why, why is, why did the pandemic cause that, is it just because everybody is stuck at home Speaker 2: A lot to do with it? We have free time. I dunno, how many, how many hours a day that, uh, you save and, but I've certainly saved at least, you know, 10 to 15 hours a week driving back and forth between Chapman and [00:02:30] my home and, you know, north, north Los Angeles. I think also when people are, you know, they're in that womb of home, um, you know, more books are read, more movies are watched. Um, a lot of people did a lot of home repairs. I mean, you know, I think everybody adapted relatively well. I mean, yes, I think sort of the younger generation, I certainly, my, my, my students have gotten bad about this. And, you know, they're very frustrated and teaching online is, believe me is no fun, but [00:03:00] you know, everybody's sort gets through it. And I think now that the, um, the horizon is opening up a little bit, I think a lot of people's attitudes will, will again change, but I still think some of the habits that they picked up will not go away in terms of watching stuff at home. Speaker 1: I'm curious, what was the last film you saw in a movie theater at? What would it take to get you back into a movie seat? Speaker 2: I think probably the last movie I saw was the invisible man, which I believe opened towards this end of February last year. And that might have been [00:03:30] the last film that naturally was released theatrically. Um, what would get me back into a movie theater? Um, well, for me personally, I, I, I don't know think once the, uh, studio start releasing the big 10 poles, which I'm, I believe was not happening, right. End of may and into cheering, certainly it's gonna be a crazy summer that will obviously have a lot of impact on people wanting to go see something, you know, something new. And at the same time, I think by the early summer, a lot of, a [00:04:00] lot of people will be vaccinated. So there'll be much less of a fear of being, uh, contagion and it'll be much more manageable. So I think, you know, I think the movie business will actually have a tremendous surge over, over the summer. Speaker 2: Now, the question is, will it get to pre pandemic levels? I don't think so. Um, I think it may actually, um, take years for that to happen at the same time. One to me, one of the great benefits about the pandemic is that it is forced exhibition [00:04:30] and distribution to actually have a real dialogue about what is a window, you know, how long should, should a theater, should a movie play in a movie theater before it plays in a, you know, goes on to a streaming server. And I think the 90 day window, which is what exhibit is we're fighting tooth and nail for decades, you know, that's gone, uh, universal sort of broke it first when they made a deal with AMC to have a 17 day window. Um, paramount now has a 45 day window Disney is saying, we'll do whatever we want and they certainly can. Speaker 2: [00:05:00] And their experiment, I think the idea of, uh, of a premium payment for a gain date release is a really great idea. There's always seems to be two audiences. There's the audience that goes to movie theaters sort of continuously on a regular basis. And there's also the audience that stays at home and the audience of course, could be families, could be, you know, raising kids, careers, all that kind of thing, sort of take away from, uh, going out and doing a whole night, but at the same time, if they can come home from work and rent a movie that might be playing in a [00:05:30] movie theater at the same time, I think what Disney is doing is actually pretty interesting, um, which also allows their rev share model to become more relevant to an exhibitor where they are now participate, not only in the box of office receipts, but as well, also in the revenue receipt that comes from the streaming service. And I think that might actually also be a version of the panacea that will save the independent film business. Cause that's probably much more trouble than the 10 pole business. Speaker 1: What do you think the trends that we see so far during the [00:06:00] pandemic and then the transition back into quote unquote, the normal life, the normal world, do you ever think it will be back to normal or do you think it's gonna be this kind of hybrid? Uh, you can watch at home some of these movies or shows watch it in theaters and it's gonna be more, more options of where to view it or is it gonna be, Hey, we want to get you back in theaters. That's where the money is. Speaker 2: Well, exhibition will certainly want that. And there is an argument to have a, you know, four to five week run in a movie theater in terms of revenue that, you know, you, you'll never [00:06:30] be able to match with a, um, with, you know, with a, a two week window or even a VR D a pay per view day in day lease. The thing is, um, you know, the studios can afford to spend 50 million to open up a movie cuz they're, they're, you know, tracking it all the way down through its many, many lives and many platforms. The independence are in a much more difficult situation because they have a much lower budget and they can't really afford to let movies sit in movie theaters where they can pushing it out. I think there's two sides of the issue [00:07:00] with, um, getting people back into movie theaters. Speaker 2: I think obviously the movies have to be great or big enough or, you know, 10 polio enough. Um, and at the same time, I don't know whether exhibitors can just sit back and let the people come back to the movie theater again. I mean think about where most of them are located in malls, right. You know, and the, the building of those theaters inside those malls was all about location, location, location, but now you've got, you know, the mall BI the malls are started dying, you [00:07:30] know, fading away online. Retailing has obviously put a big dent in them. And the question is, does a movie theater become a destination when there's no other places around it? I went to a sporting goods at a mall in like home PA. And it was the only store that was open. And it was so gloomy walking down this long, long hallway of all these shutted stores, you know, to, to so I could buy a little or whatever it was. Speaker 2: Um, anyway, I don't know whether the mall, the mall environment [00:08:00] will ever come back. And I think that could have a big impact. So, um, exhibitors have got to come up a better way of enticing people back into movie theaters. Not only because of the way the, you know, what showing, but also the experience you go back to, you know, the late nineties when stadium seating started saying, you know, the slope, uh, old movie theaters, and then after stadium seating came, um, then you had some upscale theaters offering food and then they had [00:08:30] reserved seating. And then ultimately that led to all those recliner lounges that you could have. So they've always tried to do something to increase the experience. So maybe now, instead of, uh, um, you know, the theater is self upgrading, maybe the, the environment where the theater is located, maybe you now have a take those food course, which, you know, just serve all this drudgy, you know, very normal, uh, franchise stuff. Speaker 2: And you turn them into more gourmet, more farm to table. So [00:09:00] people could actually go to one of these food courts and feel they're having a decent meal that they would not, they would normally have outdoor restaurant that would be sort of considered date worthy. You gotta change the environment for people to want to go out. So it's not just about going to a movie theater, but I think you've gotta make it more enticing from, from all sides. You know, the smell of popcorn will last for a long time. I remember there was even a couple of theaters in Pasadena, the Le theater channel. I heard this, uh, during the, you know, over the past couple of months, they actually had somebody outside [00:09:30] rusting popcorn just to get that smell back into people's nostrils. So being and prepare. But I think it's gotta be something more to come back and exhibition could not, should not drop the ball Speaker 1: On this. I'd say as someone who was a, uh, movie us in high school and wore a polyester tuxedo and made that popcorn, I will never miss that smell. Um, but we, okay. So we're talking about environments of the theater and showing it, um, but another big change has actually been production of films. The environment there has changed, uh, I could think of a couple examples. Like, uh, there was this famous, [00:10:00] uh, document Tyler Perry had called camp quarantine. Um, and it was pages long that measured all these, both safety and legal ways to get back in production, including multiple weeks of quarantine before going on the studio a lot. And then multiple weeks being there, testing, switching out crew members, all these things. Um, I also know that, uh, on a smaller end, uh, I get to talk to ed burns, the filmmaker ed burns on another podcast and he was making this show and most of the location budget got eaten up [00:10:30] for implementing safety protocols for COVID. So how does the pandemic change production now and how does it change it coming out of the pandemic? Speaker 2: Well, sag, I think has about 140 page document about COVID safety, which has been pretty much, um, taken into account by the unions and the gills too. And, um, we actually even have to refer to it in our student productions, Chapman. Some of our students wanna do sag shorts and they have to go through the COVID rules. So it [00:11:00] certainly means extensive testing. Um, you have to be test if you're shooting for a week, you have to be tested at least three times. Rapid testing is not allowed. It's gotta be a more traditional test, which takes a little bit longer, uh, the amount of time to set up sanitize, break it down, test everybody. It takes off about two hours a day off of the production schedule. Um, everybody, you know, there's certain pods that people can work in, you know, a, B and C pod camera, pod, [00:11:30] directing pod, whatever sound pod they cannot cross over. Speaker 2: Um, and, and obviously if somebody is, you know, tested has been tested of on the set, it creates all kinds of all kinds of issues. So I do think now that we, most of the countries going into orange from right to orange, um, I I'm, I'm sure the sag will revise their, uh, dictates down a bit and make it a little more rational, but, you know, they did what they had to do. And, you know, nobody really knew where this [00:12:00] was all going. So they created a very, very harsh document, which, um, you know, people adapt to it. I think even on the independent side, you know, small crew filmmaking became the word of the day. You know, if you can, real only wouldn't wanna make a movie with 12 people, can you do it with five? You know, the whole testing process just made everybody much more aware, um, of what they can do and what they can do. So yes, it slow everything down. Um, but I do think, you know, as, as the regulations calm down, production will [00:12:30] continue to ramp up. Speaker 1: And how do you think, does it actually change the kind of movies being made? Are you seeing, um, a pullback from bigger cast or, um, we're not doing action movies, for example, or maybe, eh, we're gonna a musical, but the, you know, are the considerations like that being had too? Speaker 2: I think escapism in comedy would be the, would be the words to go after for the next three years. I think everybody wants to laugh and so want to do escape. And certainly, you know, the cinematic universe is a Marvel and Pixar and all those companies will certainly take [00:13:00] care of the Escapers factor. And, um, I'm not worried about the quality of the content of their movies will more common is be made, you know, uh, less drama, perhaps even though that's a very difficult thing to happen on the independent side, because they are all about drama. I don't think the, the type, the type of movie will change very much, cuz I think, you know, it's, they're still what they are. They're still escapist before and after the pandemic and perhaps even more so now post the pandemic. Speaker 1: I, I think we can tell from looking behind you [00:13:30] that there's the character of Goum from Lord of the rings famously it's a, a, a captured character. The performance is captured, but it's basically a CGI character. And one has to wonder if there is more of that going to be coming out. Just the sense of it doesn't seem like you would have to have as many crew people and as many actors right next to each other, if you're capturing their performance and it's being animated, whether it's something like Marvel or something likes, Pixar are Speaker 2: Interesting. I don't know whether you could, I dunno how many times, [00:14:00] uh, we can have deceased actors come back into the movies like we've seen on some of the star war films. I don't think, um, it's gonna necessarily change the front facing part of the, you know, the, the, the main actors, but I certainly think crowd control of crowds in the background. There's many, many things how that, that can be done. Um, you know, uh, digitally and through AI that would reduce probably the need for huge crowds. I mean, you can see how many crowds scenes are there really now that [00:14:30] are really crowds. I mean, you could, it's hard to, hard to tell the difference anymore. Even this movie started using, you know, a lot of, uh, CGI to create all the, you know, the massive amounts of H that were debating this castle, the other one. Um, so I, but I don't know whether the, um, performances of the lead talent will necessarily change. I also think, you know, new talent is always coming up and it's always fresh and there's always an audience for these people. Speaker 1: And I know we can't predict [00:15:00] the future, but as you think about the film industry moving forward, and this is a, a big helicopter crane shot view of the industry, um, is there some thing that, that comes out of that positive that comes out of this past year and a half and the movies and TV shows being Speaker 2: Made? I think the, the merging of the theatrical and the at home experience coming more together, I think it's very, very positive. And as soon as there's a way to figure out the revenue [00:15:30] and maybe maybe the box office and next year will be re the weekend box opens, which everybody Pines over, right. Maybe that'll be a combination of theatrical box office, plus the PA you know, pay view rental that weekend. Maybe that becomes a real number. So people really have an idea. That's assuming that the streamers will ever give up the kind of information. But I think getting that because even the talent wants to know more about how many eyeballs are watching my show, how am I getting compensated for, you know, you heard all the stories about, you know, Warner brothers [00:16:00] sort of getting their foot stuck when they made their big HBO announcement and Bega to really, and didn't really talk to the talent of the managers about how we're gonna compensate them. Speaker 2: So, you know, it's all, it's all, it all get worked out, but I, I do think that having an option, uh, and I'm, I'm not saying it should be a like, like Warner brothers doing free, pay, paying a movie theater and see it free at home. That may not be a terribly probable model, even though we understand why Warner theater it for this year. But [00:16:30] I think the Disney model, which is pay for it in a theater and pay for a little bit more at home, that's actually interesting, you know, because you're, first of all, the cost of a $30 screening of Mulan divided by six people, you know, is much cheaper than going to a movie theater aside from the idea of going out, which of course will always be there. But I think combining those two sources of revenue and also therefore, um, eliminating some of the additional money that's [00:17:00] spent in marketing post at theatrical release, um, you know, it's sort of an attractive idea. Speaker 2: I won't see how that plays out, but I think, and actually I think that also could set the stage for the way the independence can do it because you know, there, we know that their release strategies much slower and we, you know, and we know that they tend to really put their better movies out during academy nomination time, because that publicity is helps. What drives helps, you know, what helps drive awareness. But if you could get a day date release of [00:17:30] any movie throughout the rest of the year, and you had the distributor, your platform helping to promote it together, um, you're actually really expanding the value of a smaller dollar. Again, it, it really expands the audience. I think a lot of people have seen some of these smaller movies that were not able, they were not able to, would never have gone to see the movie theater. I think we'll only see what the, uh, ratings are for the academy awards this year. It would be really interesting. Speaker 1: Yeah. There's just so many. Um, and you can't, there's [00:18:00] also those people who like, oh, we'll go make that three week rush and try to see as many of them as we can, uh, when they get rereleased normally, um, I'm gonna give you the line last, last question here, and that is, we've talked a lot, right? We've talked about, uh, home release, we've talked about production. Uh, we've also just talked about the physical location of movie theaters and the changes that those have undergone, but is there something we're, uh, we're overlooking, uh, when we think of filmmaking, um, whether it's big budget stuff or into dependent, Speaker 2: [00:18:30] I think the movies will, will continue to get bigger and the independence will find ways to survive. Like they always have, um, I don't think the pandemic, and I don't think streaming's gonna kill the theatrical business. I don't think even the, I think the independence will have to do some more, you know, soul searching is to really what is the best way to release their movies. You, um, but again, you know, in terms of, um, opportunity certainly for up and coming filmmakers or content creators, there are a huge number of outlets right now. [00:19:00] So I think that's a very positive effect also. I mean, that's not necessarily pandemic related, but in some respects, it is now that we are all, what's the average of subscriptions that have now is about four or five each, you know, which is pretty close to what the original cable subscription was, but all those platforms are constantly looking for, you know, a new product, interesting product. Um, they can get it at a price. And I think it's at a great opportunity for young emerging filmmakers to sort of take advantage of that and be able to, you [00:19:30] know, have platform that didn't exist a couple months ago or that were not sort of sanctioned, you know, or became legitimate until the pandemic. So I think that probably helped a lot too. Speaker 1: And before we officially wrap up, I wanna give you a chance, is there something you wanna bring up that we didn't get to Speaker 2: Talk about? Well, we, we didn't talk about the, the quality of the awards, the movies that were being nominated this year. Speaker 1: Yeah. Let's talk about that Speaker 2: Then. Yeah. All right. It's an interesting idea because only two of the eight movies were sort of studio produced Chicago seven and [00:20:00] black Messiah, um, which is, you know, probably two or three less, that would, that would normally be the case. But what I think you're gonna see now is, you know, the Kennedy membership has gone on for about 6,500, to almost 10,000 in the past three or four years, cuz of all these initiatives to try to get more diversity, a younger audience, younger membership, and also more international. But those audiences put together actually will probably continue to nominate more of the smaller movies cause that's what they [00:20:30] like better. You know? So I think it's, it'll be interesting to see how award shows play out over the next couple of years when a bigger, um, nominating group that the academy has, will not necessarily mean, uh, the bigger movies will be nominated. Speaker 2: You know, a lot of these people who are now members of the academy did not work in the guilds that produced, you know, black widow. So they don't feel compelled to vote for it necessarily. I think there's gonna be some sort of a sea change. So the [00:21:00] way that we've seen the movies nominated this year may not be all that different than it'll be next year. However, that does not bode well for you in shift, it does not vote well for ratings. And I think, you know, I think probably the whole award's world is, you know, is, is due for reconciliation as well. It's too many shows. The windows are too long, you know, et cetera, et cetera, so that that'll have to work out Speaker 1: Well, Russell, I wanna thank you for taking time and chatting with me today. And I also feel like I have have a lot of, of movie watching to Speaker 2: Have to do now. We [00:21:30] all have to catch up. We all have to do that's for sure. Yeah. All right. Well, enjoy yourself and go to the movies.

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