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Weekend Movie Takeaway: Screen Narrative In COVID-19

April 1, 2020
4 min read time

We're a ways off from determining the new normal, or even knowing how long that new normal may last, but every day sees developments in the film industry at least toward a unified future, with a hint of what collective movie-going will look like.

The live action Disney blockbuster Mulan was originally supposed to open in theaters this past weekend, while the week before saw a bunch more blockbusters reshuffle their release dates in order to avoid the nationwide cinema shutdown.

Practically all of Sony's line up for the rest of the year—a slate that includes belated sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the Spider-Man-adjacent Morbius, long-delayed video game adaptation Uncharted, and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway—have all been pushed back to 2021.

While that suggests that Sony believes normal filmgoing may not resume for some time, the head of AMC Theaters, one of the country's largest cinema chains, appeared more hopeful during a recent interview where he cautiously hypothesized that this year's summer movie season, traditionally the biggest movie-going time of the year, may still go ahead.

That doesn't seem especially likely at this stage, and some are even speculating that the three month cinematic window as we know it may be gone forever. This Hollywood Reporter article examines how the COVID-19 crisis-driven pivot to Video On Demand may permanently upend one of the key aspects of modern moviegoing.

It would be a huge shame if seeing movies together in the cinema went away entirely, but it's not all that hard to picture when you consider the alacrity with which studios have shifted their release models during this unprecedented time.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker showed up on VOD platforms several days early in mid-March, and is now available on home video. Sonic the Hedgehog, which may go down as the last Hollywood hit to see the inside of a theater, made an early debut on home video ahead of schedule as well.

The fact that we're all watching everything in our homes now has led to an increased intimacy between filmmakers and viewers, and that dynamic continues to flourish.

Jason Blum, the head of horror hit factory Blumhouse, has been engaging via Twitter with viewers watching The Hunt, a Blumhouse movie that made an early VOD release after being one of the unlucky films released into theaters just as the COVID crisis hit.

There has been a boom in “watch-along” events on Twitter, with TCM host Alicia Malone hosting one over the weekend for the new adaptation of Emma, another theatrical release caught in COVID's crosshairs.

And just today, master filmmaker Steven Spielberg announced the launch of a new American Film Institute movie club, beginning with the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz.

So although we're not watching movies together, many are embracing the opportunities to appreciate movies “together”. It's helping to emphasize the therapeutic aspects of screen narrative, something that has become much more apparent in the last few weeks.

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