With The Theatrical Experience in Flux, I'm Concerned About the Smaller Movies

Tuesday, July 14, 2020
With movie theater openings being pushed back because of the pandemic, the concern has mostly been about the biggest tentpoles, namely Tenet and Mulan because those are supposed to be the first out of the gate. There are a lot talk about what it means for the theatrical experience, but it's the uncertainty of the smaller movies that is scaring me more.

Smaller movies already have a hard time gaining audiences, even during the Oscar bait season of the fall. But there were movies that were supposed to come out in the spring that have had to change their plans. Some, like The High Note, hopped on the VOD train, which was probably the right move for the more mainstream movies. When people were looking for new things to watch, they were there and the studios and everyone else can get some money during quarantine and not have to change their release slate in the fall. Others who had deals with streaming services for after their theatrical runs went straight to streaming like Palm Springs. Others whose runs were cut short are being put to VOD earlier was probably initially planned in order to keep buzz going, especially those worthy of Oscar buzz like First Cow. But there were others that are still waiting new release dates or strategies, and they are in limbo.

Two in particular that were added to my most anticipated films list the moment I saw the trailer were Promising Young Woman and The Green Knight.

Promising Young Woman is the directorial debut of writer/director Emerald Fennell, who is behind the second season of Killing Eve and as an actress in known for playing Camilla in The Crown.

I love revenge thrillers with women at the lead, so that is something that will always pique my interest. The cast is stacked, and there's more amazing people who aren't featured in the first trailer. But the talent behind the scenes is also interesting. One of the production companies behind it is Margot Robbie's company LuckyChap Entertainment, and though it's a pretty young company, they are making really interesting choices about the projects they pick.

The Green Knight is written and directed by David Lowery. 

It stars Dev Patel based on the Athurian legend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and it's being released by A24. Those are all things I like separately, but putting them together is exciting for several reasons. One is that Dev Patel is the lead in a medieval period piece and that's exciting. Two, it's not the same Arthurian legend that's been retold hundreds of times on film, it's one that I had to actually look up. 

These are two interesting films where no new release plan has been announced. No date for a pending theatrical run, no streaming, no video on demand. And these are just films that had been announced and had trailers released before the coronavirus put us in this stranglehold and that incompetence has kept us there.

The real threat to the theatrical experience is not whether blockbusters will be released. It's whether small or mid-budget films will still be able to be seen on the big screen, or will streaming do what it's been doing to television the last decade.
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