Disney and Marvel Studios have once again delayed their entire slate of Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 movies, and movie theaters owners are taking that news hard, apparently. Marvel movies are (obviously) a major financial draw for movie theater chains, and with Black Widow now rescheduled for May of 2021, it will have been nearly two years since a Marvel movie was in theaters. A new interview with an executive at the National Association of Theatre Owners brings a grim forecast for the near future. Movie theaters may have to close again, not because of the coronavirus pandemic, but rather because of a lack of product.
Here's what NATO vice president and chief communications officer Patrick Corcoran told /Film, regarding the kind of prospects facing theater chains:
"We need big movies…We'd hoped that Disney would hold on, but studios have to make their decisions based on their marketing spend and their marketing plan. If they aren't certain that theaters will be open, they're going to delay. We're gratified that they're moving and not going to Disney+. That's kind of an important statement. But until we get some of that certainty, we may be seeing theaters close back down again because it's really tough, if you don't have new movies coming in, to keep the lights on. To keep paying people. You lose money being closed, but you may end up losing more money if you can't get audiences in and you're open.
If something doesn't happen soon, you're probably going to see theaters close down again until we have those markets [New York and Los Angeles] open and the studios ready to release films. We've still got late November and December that still have a fairly good footprint of titles, but it's tough to get there."
The big "X-Factor" that Corcoran goes on to sight is (surprise) money, and how much each theater chain has to keep themselves afloat:
"Some theaters have lines of credit that they can tap and keep going until they have new movies," Corcoran said. "Some do not. Some may close and then that may be permanent for some, which means they'll either get bought by somebody else or they'll stay closed. We don't really know because it's such an individual company issue. But there's a lot of distress, a lot of worry for that. There are so many variables right now, it's hard to say what a worst or best case scenario is."
Despite that bleak outlook, Corcoran praises studios for actually rescheduling these big Marvel films (and others), rather than putting them out on streaming: "The waiting is not good for studios or theaters. At a certain point, we need those movies."