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Granger at the Movies: Tectonic Twists in the Movie Industry

Now “Mulan,” Disney’s live-action version of the original animated film, following a young woman in China who poses as a man to take her father’s place in the war against the Huns, will make its debut on Friday, Sept. 4.

To watch “Mulan” you will not only need a subscription to Disney Plus, but you’ll also have to pay an additional $30 to rent it; for this video-on-demand, you can either use the payment card you have on file or choose the option to pay with a different card. As long as you maintain your Disney Plus subscription, you only have to pay $30 once to watch it as many times as you like.

Originally, “Mulan” was projected to bring in more than $1 billion at the box-office, so Disney executives are eager to see what kind of money it will generate — both in film rentals and subscriber growth.

While some drive-in theaters have popped up, drawing eager moviegoers by showing popular older releases or independent, pre-Coronavirus films, how long they will continue to draw crowds depends on when the weather cools off.

On Aug. 20, AMC will reopen more than 100 U.S. theaters. The world’s largest movie chain is celebrating its centennial at 1920 prices — 15 cents on opening day — implementing new health and safety measures that include wearing masks, lowering theater capacity and upgrading ventilation systems.

In the long run perhaps the most significant change in the entire industry occurred late in July, when AMC Theaters and Universal agreed to shorten the theatrical ‘window’ (the length of time that a movie has to play in a theater). Previously, it was 90 days. Obviously, studios will keep their biggest blockbusters in theaters as long as they’re attracting customers.

But now, Universal can transfer its less-lucrative films to rental platforms, like iTunes or Amazon, after 17 days. Other studios, like Warner Bros. are moving some of its titles to digital-only exclusives, while Paramount and Sony are selling off a portion of their movies directly to Netflix and Amazon.

It’s a business model that’s never really been tried before. When Hollywood’s motion picture industry began, studios like Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, 20th Century-Fox and M.G.M. owned their own theaters; they had complete control over their distribution of their films.

Then in 1948, an antitrust law banned this practice in what was called the Paramount Consent Decree, forcing the studios to sell off their theater chains, ending what was known as vertical integration. That soon gave birth to the multiplex.

Just recently, a New York judge granted the U.S. Justice Department’s motion to terminate the Paramount Consent Decree, meaning that studios could, once again, own their own movie theaters. In her 17-page opinion, US District Court Judge Analisa Torres explained that the possibility of studios colluding to shut out independent features or other theater chains seems unlikely.

Besides, Disney already owns the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where it plays its own movies, and Netflix owns Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, along with Manhattan’s Paris Theater.

As a result, it seems inevitable that several of the major theatrical multiplex chains will probably go into bankruptcy and/or get smaller. They’ve already furloughed staff, applied for federal assistance and raised money through debt offerings, but they still have to pay rent and honor lease obligations.

Last-but-not-least, what will happen to the Academy Awards?

In the past, high-prestige movies launched in the fall festivals, hoping to get a good audience reaction, buyers and media recognition. Those that played well hired publicists and began their marketing campaigns, aimed at critic recognition which would, ultimately, lead to Oscar nominations.

But that’s all changed. Most film festivals, like Telluride and Comic-Con, have been canceled; others will be digital only.

When Academy has pushed back the Oscar telecast by two months — from Feb. 28 to April 25, 2021 — the Hollywood Foreign Press Association grabbed the Feb. 28 date for their 78th Golden Globes ceremony, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The date changes extended the eligibility period, giving many films more time to finish production and reach audiences without sacrificing their chances for Oscar contention. Precedents for changing Oscar broadcasts include a flood delay in Los Angeles in 1938, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

But the motion picture industry has never suffered anything like this 2020 pandemic. Even during the 1918 Spanish Flu, Hollywood production continued and most theaters remained open.

One can only wonder what will happen next …


Susan Granger

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

Now “Mulan,” Disney’s live-action version of the original animated film, following a young woman in China who poses as a man to take her father’s place in the war against the Huns, will make its debut on Friday, Sept. 4.

To watch “Mulan” you will not only need a subscription to Disney Plus, but you’ll also have to pay an additional $30 to rent it; for this video-on-demand, you can either use the payment card you have on file or choose the option to pay with a different card. As long as you maintain your Disney Plus subscription, you only have to pay $30 once to watch it as many times as you like.

Originally, “Mulan” was projected to bring in more than $1 billion at the box-office, so Disney executives are eager to see what kind of money it will generate — both in film rentals and subscriber growth.

While some drive-in theaters have popped up, drawing eager moviegoers by showing popular older releases or independent, pre-Coronavirus films, how long they will continue to draw crowds depends on when the weather cools off.

On Aug. 20, AMC will reopen more than 100 U.S. theaters. The world’s largest movie chain is celebrating its centennial at 1920 prices — 15 cents on opening day — implementing new health and safety measures that include wearing masks, lowering theater capacity and upgrading ventilation systems.

In the long run perhaps the most significant change in the entire industry occurred late in July, when AMC Theaters and Universal agreed to shorten the theatrical ‘window’ (the length of time that a movie has to play in a theater). Previously, it was 90 days. Obviously, studios will keep their biggest blockbusters in theaters as long as they’re attracting customers.

But now, Universal can transfer its less-lucrative films to rental platforms, like iTunes or Amazon, after 17 days. Other studios, like Warner Bros. are moving some of its titles to digital-only exclusives, while Paramount and Sony are selling off a portion of their movies directly to Netflix and Amazon.

It’s a business model that’s never really been tried before. When Hollywood’s motion picture industry began, studios like Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, 20th Century-Fox and M.G.M. owned their own theaters; they had complete control over their distribution of their films.

Then in 1948, an antitrust law banned this practice in what was called the Paramount Consent Decree, forcing the studios to sell off their theater chains, ending what was known as vertical integration. That soon gave birth to the multiplex.

Just recently, a New York judge granted the U.S. Justice Department’s motion to terminate the Paramount Consent Decree, meaning that studios could, once again, own their own movie theaters. In her 17-page opinion, US District Court Judge Analisa Torres explained that the possibility of studios colluding to shut out independent features or other theater chains seems unlikely.

Besides, Disney already owns the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where it plays its own movies, and Netflix owns Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, along with Manhattan’s Paris Theater.

As a result, it seems inevitable that several of the major theatrical multiplex chains will probably go into bankruptcy and/or get smaller. They’ve already furloughed staff, applied for federal assistance and raised money through debt offerings, but they still have to pay rent and honor lease obligations.

Last-but-not-least, what will happen to the Academy Awards?

In the past, high-prestige movies launched in the fall festivals, hoping to get a good audience reaction, buyers and media recognition. Those that played well hired publicists and began their marketing campaigns, aimed at critic recognition which would, ultimately, lead to Oscar nominations.

But that’s all changed. Most film festivals, like Telluride and Comic-Con, have been canceled; others will be digital only.

When Academy has pushed back the Oscar telecast by two months — from Feb. 28 to April 25, 2021 — the Hollywood Foreign Press Association grabbed the Feb. 28 date for their 78th Golden Globes ceremony, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The date changes extended the eligibility period, giving many films more time to finish production and reach audiences without sacrificing their chances for Oscar contention. Precedents for changing Oscar broadcasts include a flood delay in Los Angeles in 1938, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

But the motion picture industry has never suffered anything like this 2020 pandemic. Even during the 1918 Spanish Flu, Hollywood production continued and most theaters remained open.

One can only wonder what will happen next …


Susan Granger

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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