Dear Movie Studios,
Hi there. How are you? I hope this correspondence finds you well.
The reason I’m writing to you today is to address the increasingly frequent postponement of the many blockbuster films that were slated to be released this year but have been shelved until sometime in 2021 (thanks in no small part to the theaters traditionally used to showcase them not really being a thing right now).
Now, before I say anything else, I would like to commend you for operating under the assumption the world might actually make it to 2021. That’s the kind of optimism we need some more of at this point in time, and while I personally continue to have my doubts we’ll ultimately be able to drag ourselves across 2020’s finish line, it’s nice being able to remind myself there’s still a chance I might still be able to see No Time To Die at some point.
I want to stress I understand why you’ve decided to deprive us of not only the James Bond movie you promised us this year but other virtually guaranteed hits like Dune, Black Widow, and Top Gun: Maverick (among plenty of others). I get it; this pandemic thing has upended all of our lives and you guys aren’t immune. I’ve been forced to add a mask to the requisite “phone, wallet, keys” list I check off every time I leave my house and you guys have to worry about recouping the billions of dollars you’ve invested in the various projects that have been impacted. I like to think I can sympathize with your current situation.
I’m pretty sure the last time I stepped foot in a movie theater was when I went to see 1917, and like many people, there’s nothing I’d love more than to be able to visit one again. Going to the movies is great; there’s nothing better than the adrenaline rush that comes with smuggling in some soda and candy and just getting a chance to do nothing but pay attention to the screen for a few hours. It never gets old, and in a day and age filled with the distractions we’re constantly bombarded by, getting to escape from the outside world for a bit is as welcome as ever.
However, for as much as I enjoy going to the movies, there’s one particular thing I like significantly more: not dying. That’s taken priority over getting the movie theater experience for the time being, as there is a zero percent chance I’d subject myself to the risks that come with attending a screening right now. Based on how the industry is currently looking, I’m far from the only person with this mindset, as sitting in an enclosed space with total strangers for hours on end is the textbook definition of “a living nightmare.”
Now, it’s safe to say the bold strategy to release Tenet in the midst of the current situation (after repeatedly being forced to delay it because of it) did not pay off as hoped. The fact that people didn’t come out in droves to see Christopher Nolan’s worst-reviewed film so far wasn’t exactly a shocker but props where props are due to Warner Bros. for still trying to market it as the biggest movie in America, which was technically not not true. I respect the hustle.
Tenet was supposed to be something of a trailblazer that would herald the grand return of movies that would follow its lead once it became a resounding success, but instead, it was the equivalent of an Oregon Trail travel party whose members all died before making it to the third stop on their journey thanks to a combination of dysentery, snakebites, and ill-advised wagon-caulking. It doesn’t take a genius to see the path it attempted to forged is fraught with danger so it’s understandable you’ve decided to stay in a holding pattern for a bit.
I want to see Tenet. I really do. I love Nolan’s movies and was eager and ready to have my mind twisted like a football player’s ankle at the bottom of a pile following a fumble, but as I’ve stated, I care more about staying alive. Consequently, I’m more than happy to wait to watch it in the comfort of my own home (a place I’ve also been sneaking candy into for years).
These leads me to why I’m writing this letter in the first place: it’s time to read the room, acknowledge reality, and bite the bullet by giving the people what they want—no, need—right now. I know there are financial realities that can’t be ignored, but if you’re really as into corporate social responsibility as some of you would like people to believe, there is perhaps no more philanthropic act you could perform right now than making these long-awaited movies available on demand.
Don’t overthink it. Just do it. It’s that simple.
Tenet might’ve been a flop, but do you know what wasn’t? Trolls World Tour. The animated sequel hit streaming platforms in the early days of self-isolation, and as the father of a five-year-old daughter, I didn’t have to think twice when it came to forking over $20 to rent it. I wasn’t the only one, as it raked in almost $100 million over the course of three weeks. For perspective, Tenet has made less than half of that domestically since it hit screens, and while there’s obviously no way I can prove it would’ve performed better if it had been beamed directly into homes across Amerca, I firmly believe it would’ve pulled in more than what it has at the box office so far.
Of course, the only real way to know if the Trolls approach can be replicated is if one of you is brave enough to replicate the experiment. Unfortunately, we’re currently dealing with a bit of a bystander effect issue and it’s up to one of you to break the stalemate by making the first move. MGM: you have a golden opportunity to be a hero just like the iconic character at the center of No Time To Die if you’re that studio. Paramount: why not beat them to the punch with A Quiet Place Part II? Warner Bros.: I know the Tenet thing didn’t work out too well but why not try to make up for it with Dune?
Oh and you might want us to believe the new Wonder Woman movie is actually going to come on on Christmas, but c’mon; no one’s really buying it. Why not throw it up on a streaming service instead? If the success of the other 128 Marvel movies that have been made is any indication, there’s no shortage of people who would buy Wonder Woman 1984 the second it hit something like HBO whatever the hell their streaming service is called today. How much longer are you expecting us to wait to find out how the hell Chris Pine is in that movie when homeboy died in the first one?
I know, I know. You are most likely to counter my suggestion by saying that these movies were meant to be seen on the big screen, and hey, for all we know, plenty of things could change between now and next year that would make me comfortable with going to a theater again. Hell, I’d probably go to see something I rented at home if I enjoyed it enough again just to get the full experience, as watching Tom Cruise dogfighting on the big screen in Dolby surround sound would certainly hit differently than watching him do the same on the 50″ TV in my living room.
I might be assuming there are more people like me than there actually are, but that’s not the point. The world has basically turned into an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? by now; the rules are made up and the points don’t matter. Money still might, but whatever. It’s time to put some faith in the audiences you made these projects for but continue to dangle in front of them like a carrot on an ever-extending stick.
You might not be able to put a price on the goodwill you’d be able to generate if one of you unexpectedly announced you’re dropping a big-budget film in a couple of weeks but you have to assume it would generate an insane amount of buzz. The internet would collapse upon itself on one of those rare occasions where it does so out of pure joy as opposed to the hopeless and despair traditionally responsible for doing so. We don’t need to hear Black Widow has been delayed yet again but learning it’ll be available to stream for $25 when November rolls around would be huge.
ScarJo, FloPugh, Harbour, and my couch? Let’s go, baby!
2020 is a year defined by adjustments and pivots. Everyone from restaurants to bands to schools has been forced to make changes on the fly to best navigate the constantly changing state of affairs and It’s time for you all to do the same. Don’t just keep postponing things. That’s lame. It’s a cop-out. Think outside the box because that’s what this year requires you to do.
Do the right thing, Movie Studios. It’ll pay off in the end (unless it doesn’t, and if that’s the case, then I’ll have no problem admitting that was totally my bad).
Stay safe out there,