An update on cinema re-openings as more releases are delayed

Cairns on Cinema

John Cairns

Welcome to a packed edition of Cairns on Cinema where we give you the latest news — good and bad — about where we stand with COVID-19 and the cinema re-openings.

We will begin with the good news. As you may have heard, the province of Saskatchewan has officially given the go to Phase Four, Part Two of Re-Open Saskatchewan, where indoor cinemas have been given the green light to open as of June 29. Cinemas will be at 30 per cent capacity or 150 people, whichever is lower, and distancing protocols will be in place, but the cinemas are now able to open again! Woo hoo!

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Unfortunately, that’s about it for the good news.

It turns out that while cinemas are allowed to open for movies, this doesn’t mean they will actually open right away. The word from Cineplex and Landmark is that their cinemas in the province will not open until a few days later on in the week, on July 3.

As for the Magic Lantern-owned Capitol Theatre North Battleford, they remain closed for the time being. Here is the statement posted Friday on their Facebook feed:

“While the Saskatchewan Government has said that theatres can reopen as of Monday June 29, we will not be opening at this current time.

“There are many factors that have lead up to this decision with the most important issue being that the movie studios are not releasing most new movies until this August. With no new product (movies) to show, we will lack an audience. Although we have had many requests to play older movies, this will not be successful for a full time reopening. We are looking into doing private rentals. Once we figure out the details we will let you know.

Rest assured that we are working towards our relaunch and that we miss you all and look forward to seeing you again, soon.”

Here’s the situation in a nutshell: there is a serious lack of new product for all the cinemas to show until August, and it’s all because COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc.

The big blockbusters that were supposed to be released this summer are being delayed, and everyone is affected. The major cinema chains that are opening this week are having to show a glut of second-run product from earlier in the year or even from several years ago (ie. Jaws, Ghostbusters). Tickets are going at bargain-basement prices: Cineplex and Landmark have cut prices to $5! They’re practically giving tickets away.

If they had any new blockbusters to show, the prices would not be this low, believe me. But those aren’t coming any time soon. What had been a bad situation for new releases has been made worse because of the deteriorating pandemic situation in the United States.

Until recently cinema chains had been announcing re-openings throughout the USA, and major studios had plans to roll out some big releases starting in July. Sadly, the latest spike in cases in the past week has dashed hopes for a speedy comeback. We are seeing record highs for COVID-19 cases in places like Florida, Texas and Arizona, as well as big spikes in Nevada and increases in California.

Re-openings of states have been suspended and a new round of COVID-19 restrictions have been brought in in a number of places. This has killed the momentum for a quick reopening of the movie business in the USA. (Update: no sooner have I written this than we get word that the American cinema chain AMC has announced it has pushed back its re-openings until July 30.) 

In response, we have seen a wave of new announcements by the major studios of movies being rescheduled from their opening dates:

We will start with Tenet, the Christopher Nolan-directed spy thriller. It was supposed to be released on July 17 with the idea of it being the first major blockbuster to mark the re-opening of the cinema industry. But with COVID-19 still wreaking havoc, the release was pushed back by Warner Bros. to July 31. Now, it has been pushed back again, to Aug. 12, for a midweek release. The planned release for the 10th anniversary of Nolan’s sci-fi flick Inception is also pushed back, to July 31.

Another summer release, Unhinged starring Russell Crowe, has also been pushed to July 31. This had initially been moved to July 1 in a move to beat Tenet to be the first major release to cinemas after the shutdown. But then came word it was being pushed back to July 10. Now, with COVID-19 still out of control in the States, it is being moved back again to July 31.

Also confirmed, the release date for Wonder Woman 1984 has been delayed by Warner Bros. once again. The release had already been pushed back to Aug. 14, but we now have word it has been pushed back again to Oct. 2. There had been much speculation that if Tenet was moved to mid-August that Wonder Woman 1984 would be pushed back to the fall. That is now indeed the case.

Finally, Disney has pushed back the release date for Mulan yet again, to Aug. 21. This was supposed to have been a spring release.

Just looking at these four movies, you get a good sense of what the situation is like. Hollywood is getting cold feet about releasing new movies into this dismal economic and pandemic environment, and that means there is simply not going to be a lot of new product for the cinemas for at least a few weeks.

That is about all I have to say for now about the entire movie situation. Obviously, it is still a difficult situation for everyone involved, but I guess the message is simply to hang in there. The new movies will be back — eventually.

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