I don’t know too much about the financial intricacies of the studios, theaters, streaming platforms, but it seems to me — based on what we’ve seen in the marketplace over the last six months — that proper blockbuster movies will not fully return at home or in theaters until the pandemic is over. Theaters are shutting down again, while some chains like AMC say that they are going to run out of money by 2021. Studios, meanwhile, still need to earn some money while they’re waiting for theaters to reopen, and they’re sitting on a lot of fully finished films that were originally scheduled to be released in 2020. However, they also need money now, so they are selectively unloading films to streaming networks, which are paying top dollar because the streaming wars are still in their infancy and they are eager to come out on top, so the competition for these offloaded titles is intense.
You could argue that this is bad for the future of theaters, but I don’t think so. Until we start seeing studios consistently unload good movies, I’m convinced that they’re still holding their best stuff back until theaters reopen (which is why, e.g., the MCU is not going to release Black Widow or Eternals to a streaming service). After all, if there were more money in streaming and PVOD than in theatrical, Candyman would be out right now because that is precisely the kind of film that people would pay $20 to watch at home two weeks before Halloween.
There is not more money in PVOD, and so the studios are trying to stay afloat and put some money in the coffers by selling lesser movies to the streaming outlets. It’s worth noting, too, that most of the movies that have moved to streaming have not been that great: The Lovebirds, Tom Hanks’ Greyhoud, Seth Rogen’s American Pickle, Artemis Fowl and even Mulan, which seems to have fizzled on PVOD and at the International box office.
So, while reports that Amazon is paying Paramount $125 million for Coming 2 America might sound bad for the future of theaters, I’m more inclined to believe that Paramount is cashing in on a movie they don’t think can earn a huge profit, even once theaters reopen. (Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat sequel, likewise, is heading to Amazon Prime Video, potentially for the same reasons.)
Indeed, I don’t think that’s bad for the future of theaters — again, 90 percent of the major titles have been delayed into 2021 instead of being released to streaming/PVOD — but I don’t think it’s necessarily promising for those movie titles when the studios decide to take the risk-free money without gambling on a bigger upside in theaters. I do think that Soul is probably the one exception because Disney+ is willing to spend a lot of money to continue to grows its subscriber base, as they did in spending $75 million for the rights to stream Hamilton. But as for Coming 2 America? I think Paramount unloading it to Amazon speaks more to the mediocre quality of the movie and/or the limited theatrical upside than it does to the future of movie theaters.
Coming 2 America premieres on Amazon on December 18th, a week ahead of its original theatrical release date.
Header Image Source: Paramount Pictures