In less than a month, Disney will release the CGI remake of “The Lion King.” It likely will make a ton of money.
It will be Disney’s latest success in a line of 2019 blockbusters, from “Avengers: Endgame” to “Aladdin” to “Dumbo.” But it’s this Disney-dominated summer that has me worried about the fate of movie theaters.
My line of thinking is this: Disney has front-loaded the summer movie season with its films to make sure all will be available for the launch of its streaming service, Disney Plus, in the fall. I think it’s preparing for an inevitability: People aren’t going to the movies as much as they used to and studios are jumping to streaming.
This is not to say Disney is completely giving up on going to the cinema (2019 still has “Frozen 2,” the bookend to the “Star Wars” trilogy and the sequel to “Maleficent”), but after a decade of hooking people on only going to the movies for Marvel films and live-action remakes of nostalgic properties, what will be left in its wake?
If it’s what we’ve witnessed this year so far, it’s dreary. While there have been several successful original films, like Jordan Peele’s “Us” and the Elton John biopic “Rocketman,” most have either been sequels or remakes. And even in the cases of non-Disney sequels, there have been a lot backfires, including follow-ups to “Men In Black,” “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Shaft.”
So where is this all leading for people who enjoy going out to the movies? It’s a question New York Times reporter Kyle Buchanan asked in his piece, “How Will Movies (As We Know Them) Survive The Next 10 Years?” to some of biggest filmmakers and actors working today. The answers reeked of anxiety and uncertainty.
One of the biggest problems is giving people something that’s worthy of choosing over the many choices they have at home with streaming media. The question then goes to what will people get out of the house — will it just be things we remember from our childhood and blockbusters with some type of built-in universe?
That may be so, as we’re seeing more conventional comedies and dramas like Netflix’s charming romantic comedy “Always Be My Maybe” and the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy “Murder Mystery” go straight to streaming. Meanwhile, the few original comedies that still dipped their toes in the theatrical waters, like “Booksmart” and Seth Rogen’s “Longshot,” barely do well enough to make their budgets back.
But there are still cases for the theatrical experience outside of big franchises. As we’ve seen with “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Us” and “Moonlight,” as well as just about any Tyler Perry or Kevin Hart film, people of color still turn out to the movies in droves. Horror fans will show up to a movie if it’s deemed important or, at the very least, scary. They’re movies that demand a communal experience.
As actor Octavia Spencer, who recently starred in the low-budget horror film, “Ma,” said: “Studios are going to have to play an outside game and look at the demographics that are under-served, then bring the stories that they want to see to the theaters.”
As a champion of the movie-going experience, I think there’s nothing better than gasping or laughing along with a big crowd. It’s something I hope we don’t lose. While I celebrate those giant franchises, I also want a place for movies that have original concepts and jokes. And I’d like for it to be somewhere outside of my living room.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live