Published on July 12th, 2020 | by gareth0
Why We Did Not Have More Movie Panels Scheduled For SDCC At Home
A few days ago I wrote a story that looked at some the films that might be previewed at SDCC. Since the show was being done virtually the usual format and programming would be different than what would happen in a standard year. As anyone who’s ever attended the show will tell you long lines and people camping out are common for those trying to get into Hall H for the Saturday programming which is where studios often present first look trailers, images, and information about upcoming cinematic offerings. These panels are often accompanied with multiple celebrities and surprises which explains the huge demand to attend.
There were also other movie related panels throughout the show and while Hall H is often the venue of choice there are also things from props and collectibles on the main floor and countless other activities.
While I am already missing the thought of seeing the San Diego light rail system decorated with the latest artwork from upcoming seasons of new and returning television shows; I certainly am eager to find out new information and see what’s coming when cinemas are able to reopen and eventually resume normal operations.
Imagine my surprise when it came out that “Bill and Ted Face the Music” would be the only significant upcoming theatrical release to hold a panel.
After bit of speculation it actually make sense to me why so many studios opted out from taking part. While we may no doubt see trailers released before, after, and during the show; I think that in many ways trailers like filming itself may be very much on hold.
A recent survey found that only a fraction of moviegoers would resume going to cinemas within the first month of their reopening. A slight jump said they would come in a month or two following reopening, but the vast majority said they would wait until 2021 and only if there was a viable treatment, vaccine, or severely declined numbers of infection.
Seeing how the 2020 movie year basically ended in March and that the planned summer reopening is not going to happen with case spiraling out of control throughout the country; many similar films have been pushed back to later this year or 2021.
With several films have already completed principal photography for 2021 and the fact that there will be a rush on filming once it is safe to resume wide scale; this creates a perpetual logjam for studios and their release dates.
Some may opt to release their 2020 films at the first viable spot on the schedule. Others may decide to be more strategically placed which often is due to budget or thematic content as it’s not wise to release a Christmas film in the middle of spring.
There will also be a rush to recoup investments and try to overcome losses that have been sustained during this time but again the issue of what to do about the 2021 schedule remains.
One line of thought has the summer movie season being even more crowded and competitive than before with 2020 and 2021 scheduled releases going head-to-head with one another. While this may be good from a fans perspective it is not an ideal business model as more and more films will be in competition with each other for what may still be a diminished theatrical audience. Audiences have seen what happens in a crowded summer when one blockbuster stifles others causing studios to rethink release dates and give anticipated blockbusters to three-week windows before they attempt to go up against them. Now double or triple the possible number of planned releases and you can see the problem.
Another option would be to spread films out throughout the year. It used to be believed that only the summer and holiday release window was appropriate for a large budgeted film as they needed kids out of school and people with time off to make them more viable.
“Twister” was released in February and was a big FX laden film that would likely otherwise have been scheduled for a summer release. The film did exceptionally well and showed Hollywood that films can and will draw significant audiences throughout the year which resulted in more and more large budget films arriving in March and April versus the window between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
As such studios may opt for this approach and put smaller budgeted releases and delayed films out earlier than anticipated but strategically placed so as not to be overwhelmed by competition.
With this in mind it just makes sense as to why we did not see an abundance of movie panels as the studio themselves privately does not know when the films will be released. Warner Bros. steadfastly believed that “Tenet” would be release theatrically in July; and it became abundantly clear that it was not going to happen. While they moved it back a month; that again seems extremely optimistic and unlikely to happen especially that reports say that they need 80% of scheduled screens to be available along with close to normal capacity in order for the film to recoup its large investment.
Essentially Hollywood is stuck in limbo as they have seen time and again pushing back the date only to have to do it again later is a frustrating proposition for fans and studios alike. Many concert acts scheduled for the summer and fall have already canceled and booked for approximately the same time next year, which is what several movies ended up doing as numerous 2020 releases have already been pushed back to next year. Is very likely that the studios are doing this with trailers for anticipated films as until there is a clear path for cinematic reopening and fans back in theaters; they simply are going to take a wait-and-see approach before hyping any upcoming release.