Battle of the movies


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While big movie producers were thriving through digital release, AMC Theaters around the globe were shut down, making $0.

Kelsi Seltenreich, Memorial Staff Writer

In March of 2020, everything changed. Businesses all over America closed, most travel came to a stop and many people’s busy lives suddenly slowed down. Along with the chaos, movie theaters had to close their doors.

With theaters no longer open, companies like Disney and Universal either had to postpone the public premiere of their new films or chart a new path and release them another way.

“Trolls World Tour” (the sequel to “Trolls”) was scheduled to debut in theaters on April 10. Since that was no longer an option, Universal came up with a new plan: the movie was released on the original premiere date, but as a digital rental available on multiple platforms for $19.99.

“In three weeks of digital release, “Trolls” sequel has made more money for Universal Pictures than original did during five months in theaters,” Wall Street Journal said.

Following Universal’s success, Disney decided to release select movies that were scheduled for theaters straight to their streaming service, Disney Plus.

Disney’s “Artemis Fowl” and “The One and Only Ivan” were released digitally around the time they would’ve premiered in theaters. Disney did lots of advertising for the movies and it led to more people subscribing to their streaming service. The franchise also released “Hamilton” to Disney Plus on July 3, though the movie wasn’t scheduled to be released in theaters for another 15 months. Disney’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, thought that it was a good time to share the film with the world.

“In this very difficult time, this story of leadership, tenacity, hope, love and the power of people to unite against adversity is both relevant and inspiring,” said Iger.

On Sept. 4, Disney is going to try something new. They will release the live action “Mulan” on Disney Plus, but in addition to having a subscription to the service, people will have to pay $29.99 to watch the movie. They are calling it “Premier Access.”

However, Disney didn’t release every scheduled film. “Black Widow” was supposed to hit theaters back in May, but when that couldn’t happen they decided to postpone the release because it’s such a big movie. Its new release date is Nov. 6,  and they hope theaters will be able to survive until then.

While these changes may have brought success for film makers, movie theaters were hit hard. They didn’t have any business for months, in order to avoid large crowds fewer people are attending and movie companies may consider digital releases instead of the theater even if the coronavirus is no longer a threat. The world’s largest movie theater chain, AMC Theaters, expects to have lost $2.1-$2.4 billion within their first quarter.

Some theaters can’t open yet due to rules set in their city or state. The New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that later in the month the gyms in the state would be allowed to open, but not the theaters.

“Movie theaters are not that high on the list of essentials,” Cuomo said.

The pandemic shined light on opportunities for films in the digital world, still padding producers pockets, but the movie theaters are the real victims.

Contact Kelsi Seltenreich at [email protected]