The pandemic changes Hollywood, maybe forever

A century later, during another pandemic, films face the same critical situation. Photo: AP

"No more new 'movies' until the flu is over," read a New York Times headline on October 10, 1918, as the deadly second wave of the Spanish flu raged, the AP reports on its website.

A century later, during another pandemic, movies - no longer needing quotation marks - face the same critical situation. But not because no new tapes have been produced. In streaming services, video on demand, virtual cinema and movie theaters, films have not stopped being released despite the covid-19. The New York Times itself has published more than 460 new movie reviews since mid-March.

And although until recently the vast majority of those releases have not been made with Hollywood-style fanfare, eight months after the pandemic began that is changing. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. tested offering "Mulan," a $ 200 million production, as a premium film on its growing Disney + streaming service, where it will also premiere the Pixar film "Soul." December 25 (at no additional cost). WarnerMedia announced last week that "Wonder Woman 1984," a movie that could have grossed $ 1984 billion at a normal summer box office, will hit theaters and HBO Max simultaneously next month.

It is not yet known for sure how the film industry will survive the pandemic. But it is becoming increasingly clear that Hollywood will never be the same again. Just as the Spanish flu wiped out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID-19 is changing Hollywood, accelerating digital reform and potentially reordering an industry that was already evolving.

"I don't think the genie will return to the lamp," said veteran producer Peter Guber, president of Mandalay Entertainment and former CEO of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new study system. Instead of MGM and Fox, it will be Disney and Disney +, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock. "

Many of the twists and turns in 2020 can be traced to unusual circumstances. But several studios are making more long-term changes to streaming. WarnerMedia, the AT&T conglomerate owned by Warner Bros. (founded in 1923), is now led by Jason Kilar, the former CEO of Hulu. Last month, Disney CEO Bob Chapek, heir to Robert Iger, announced a reorganization to emphasize streaming and "accelerate our direct-to-consumer business."

Universal Pictures, owned by Comcast, has aggressively pushed video-on-demand, or video on demand. Their first big foray, "Trolls 2: Wolrd Tour", sparked a lawsuit with the owners of the cinemas. But during the pandemic, Universal struck unprecedented deals with AMC and Cinemark, the first and third-largest networks, respectively, to greatly shorten the viewing window (usually three months) to just 17 days. After that period, Universal can carry premieres that failed to raise a certain amount at the box office to digital rent.