The pandemic changed our movie viewing habits. Even with the re-opening of cinemas on November 10 last year and the return of popcorn and full capacity on March 1, things aren’t anywhere near normal.
Pre-pandemic, dates and weekend plans were made around movie going, spur of the moment decisions were made to go watch a movie to wait for traffic to ease up. At alert level 2, many cinemas did not operate on Mondays and Tuesdays and at alert level one, a number of theaters in the multiplexes still remain closed on those days.
When I do check for what’s playing, it comes as no surprise the one movie that’s had legs is “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” It opened on January 8 locally and it’s still running. “The Batman” which opened March 2 is still going strong. “Marry Me,” a rom-com with Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson quietly opened and left. The third film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile,” and even the Academy Award nominated, “West Side Story” directed by “Steven Spielberg” had short-lived runs.
Just going on this personal observation, it appears studios need extraordinary superheroes and big franchises to lure movie goers who have invested in large screen monitors, little projectors (for the wall or a white sheet) for their own homes.
Not too long ago — you’d ask what or who you would risk Covid for. These days, you ask what or who is worth your commute and gas expense. There’s this funny meme circulating that goes (virus emoji) March 2021: Not allowed to travel more than five miles; (gas pump emoji) March 2022: Can’t afford to travel more than five miles.
This echoes what Jake Coyle of the Associated Press wrote in November of last year, “Well before the pandemic, superheroes and spectacles were already a bigger and bigger slice of the box-office pie. Right now, they’re closer to the whole meal.”
Michael Bay’s “Ambulance” opened last week. It’s a heist film with Jake Gylenhaal, Yahya Abdul Mateen and Eiza Gonzalez. A veteran needs money to pay his wife’s hospital bills, his brother convinces him to go on a bank heist, of course things go south and the pair hijack an ambulance which happens to also be carrying a wounded cop. It’s based on a 2005 Danish movie, “Ambulancen.”
In the 90’s I can see this being quite popular — it comes with shades of 1994’s “Speed” and 1996’s “Heat.” I keep thinking, do people still do physical bank robberies? People are now scamming and phishing. The heists are virtual but also, there are no car chases involved—not too cinematic.
Also out is Disney/Pixar’s “Turning Red” which is directed by Domee Shi who did the heartwarming short, “Bao.” “Turning Red” is about a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian girl who turns into a red panda when she gets excited.
There’s just so much a movie without Batman or Spider-Man have to contend with these days — streaming, piracy, Covid risks, gas prices. Not to mention our current focus on the elections. Are we looking at world where cinemas will just show “event movies?” In which case, maybe our IMAX cinemas have to get back on line at some point. Or maybe the prices may vary — higher prices for a blockbuster and lower ones for the rest?
People still love the movies but how we watch, what we watch and where we watch have all changed so much. — Karen Kunawicz
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