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  • Bex Young

2020 - The Year Without Blockbusters

Is this the first year in decades where the infamous summer period of mega-films doesn't exist?

This is what the current list of the highest-grossing films of 2020 looks like:

  1. Bad Boys for Life ($425,514,702)

  2. Sonic the Hedgehog ($306,766,470)

  3. Dolitte ($231,470,292)

  4. Birds of Prey ($201,858,461)

  5. The Invisible Man ($125, 818,165)

  6. The Gentlemen ($114,996,853)

  7. Onward ($109,513,197)

  8. The Call of the Wild ($107,604,626)

  9. Tanhaji ($52,000,000)

  10. Tolo Tolo ($51,806,311)

All of these pictures were released before Coronavirus. The last film I watched in the cinema was The Hunt (2 hours of my life that I'll never get back) and this year I made sure to watch as many films as I could on the big screen. Of course, COVID ruined that plan before it had even started but I was so excited for the summer months of blockbusters.

The highly-awaited sequel to Wonder Woman, a Top Gun sequel that was 25 years in the making, the live-action adaptation of Disney's Mulan...the summer season was going to be so busy with great movies.

From March, bad news was inevitable when it was announced that flicks like Peter Rabbit 2 and A Quiet Place 2 were being delayed by almost half a year to accommodate with the impact of Coronavirus. With this, every film studio followed suit, with some choosing to move films onto VOD release (SCOOB! and Trolls World Tour for example) which worked successfully in some ways but meant that revenue numbers might be a lot smaller than anticipated.

Now, in August, the first film to return to cinemas is Tenet, Christopher Nolan's spy thriller. Originally planned for release on 17th July, it was pushed back two weeks to the end of July before Warner Bros made the decision to release the film in late August. It's Nolan's persistence that has made sure for Tenet to not be delayed by months on end however this may not work in his favour. It's reported by The Observer that the film will need to make $450-500 million to break even after a large production budget and marketing costs. Even though cinemas across the globe are reopening, it is unclear whether Tenet will sell enough tickets to make a viable profit.

And this is the worry for studios and filmmakers who have delayed their big-bucks blockbusters to Autumn or even next summer. It's already been reported that the annual revenue numbers for the big conglomerates have dropped significantly and could drop even further. What is the recovery process for these companies, if there even is one?

Disney announced on Tuesday that Mulan will be released in September in some cinema markets (Asia has been confirmed) but they're also offering the option to buy it on DisneyPlus for $29.99. The high price is probably to make up for original ticket prices but $30 seems very steep. Previous VOD releases during lockdown have been sold for a much cheaper price so it's unsure if this is a smart move from the entertainment giant - the response on social media suggests otherwise (Culture Crave on Twitter said that 92% of people said there is 'no chance' they will pay $30 to stream the movie on DisneyPlus).

Like with any project, the creator has a desire to give the product to consumers because they're proud of it and want audiences to enjoy it (plus the money isn't too bad either). And of course, the consumer is willing to spend a determined amount for the product and the experience. Because of the pandemic, this relationship in the film industry, specifically, isn't as fixed.

The studio heads and producers are having to make difficult executive decisions that could make or break these companies. The scheduling and organising of films, whether it be the filming process, marketing strategies or release dates, is really complicated. Most decisions are made years in advance so to have a higher power come in and change everything is confusing and confounded.

They're wrestling with money or experience: do they want to make a profit or give audiences the product when the time feels right? Looking at the choices made by Warner Bros and Disney regarding Tenet and Mulan, it appears that money comes first (whether they will get the amount that they're hoping for is the big question).

So thus far, the biggest blockbuster of 2020 is the Bad Boys sequel from January. If you'd told me that at the start of the year, I would have laughed and placed my money on Mulan or WW84 taking the top spot. 2020 has been a year of disorder and change. It is the first time in years, possibly ever, that cinemas have closed over the summer blockbuster season which means there is nowhere to sell and share the big flicks that audiences and studios are most excited about.

Despite its inconvenience, I hope that the impact of COVID on the film industry has been a learning curve for those involved. It has allowed studios to explore VOD release on digital platforms on a much larger scale which has worked well on some levels (Trolls World Tour became Universal's most successful one-day rental but the blowback from not consulting theatre owners about the VOD release was disastrous). It's let consumers investigate their options when it comes to watching films: if they want the all-out cinema experience or would prefer the comfort of their own home for a similar price (to an extent...)

While it has seemed bleak without the glamour and adventure of blockbuster features, it's proved that, even though some do not agree with the format and saturation of the film genre, they're the best and brightest asset to film companies. We already thought that the summer of 2020 was going to be filled to the brim with box-office-breaking flicks but the next summer season could be even more competitive and impressive - if Coronavirus doesn't do any more damage that is...

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