Independent Theaters Testing Virtual Screenings

Before you get super excited by the words “virtual theater” (like me), as some are billing it, the reality is it is essentially $12 VOD for movies that should be showing in independent theaters. If they weren’t closed.

The title to the theater shown above, “virtual screenings”, is more apt.

Though some “virtual theater” screenings began rolling out around March 20, the weekend of March 27 has the first full crop of movies available to watch, from slick noir to sardonic comedies to repertory titles from the 1970s to Oscar nominees. If you’re looking to see something new and exciting this weekend — and support independent theater at the same time — then here are 15 options available right now.

15 movies you can buy a “virtual ticket” to this weekend – Vox

The problem with this idea is it goes only part of the way. It’s not as virtual as even very dated tech currently currently allows.

What about an Oculus virtual reality app version of your theaters? Oculus/Facebook where are you right now? See: Watching Movies on Oculus Go

What these independent theater owners should be doing is personalizing the movie watching experience. How about scheduled watch-a-longs where a host has a chat during the virtual screening (see: 2nd Annual Halloween Mystery Movie Event Features 4 Shudder Movies)? Or maybe, the ability for a 3D virtual panoramic tour of your independent theater, choose your seat and then the movie plays, a la Second Life theaters.

Virtual Reality 3D Theaters emulate the social experience of the movie theater

The other part of this that is undesirable is the theater owners should already have been doing this. Waiting for the pandemic makes the “virtual screening” pitch seem — and probably is — desperate. If they were embracing virtual reality all along, including handicapped and disabled patrons who cannot as easily attend regular screenings, then this promotion of their virtual theater now would be more genuine and worthwhile. They would be supporting those moviegoers who wanted to come more often to their theater but weren’t as easily able to do so.

So, that’s why I think simply making movies available for VOD at $12 a rental and labeling them “virtual screening” just doesn’t go far enough.

I’m not a theater owner, but giving all of them this free advice: start investigating this tech and embracing it into your business ASAP. Make your patrons feel like the theater is still open, the lifeblood is there, the only thing missing are brand new wide release movies (and you should be plotting and planning to get those pictures screening — like Trolls World Tour that’s coming this Friday, yes, how about a Trolls World Tour viewing party?!).

Good business ideas are out there begging to be grabbed by the creative, the innovative, the wise. Those independent theater owners have a chance at surviving the pandemic.

The virtual playbook already exists. This might be one time where forced social distancing promotes virtual reality as an opportunity it’s never experienced before.

Virtual Screenings – what do YOU think?

Would/will you support your local independent theater through virtual screenings? Or do you, like me, think $12 (or so) VOD rentals, even when the theater gets to keep a meatier chunk of the ticket sale, isn’t quite enough in 2020?

Drive-Ins In Some Areas Are The Only Way To Watch New Movies Outside of Streaming

The closest drive-in theater to us was supposed to open on March 27 … it is now delayed

Last wrote about drive-in movie theaters in October 2019 (see: Drive-In Movie Theaters), and I just checked the closest drive-in theater to us in Washington State and it would have opened this coming weekend.

Nope.

That drive-in theater has decided to delay their planned March 27 opening date. So, we will not be able to take in any alternate drive-in movie option in our area, at least.

Other moviegoers elsewhere in the United States do have some drive-in theaters to visit. This is what’s making up the bulk of the domestic box office sales as of this writing.

Among Onward‘s top 30-grossing theaters this past weekend, drive-ins repped 25 of them. For Invisible Man, 20 out of its 30 theaters earned money from drive-ins, Call of the Wild‘s saw 15 out of 30, and Bloodshot 14 out of 30. All of Onward‘s top 20 theaters were drive-ins, led by the Glendale 9 in Glendale, AZ with close to $10K. 

Drive-Ins Still Selling Tickets At Box Office Wiped Out By Theater Closures: Coronavirus – Deadline

Do you have any open drive-in theaters near you? Would you go? Would think these experiences would provide decent social distancing — at least for the movie viewing portion, not so much for concessions.

About 5% of China Theaters Reopening

Hey, it might only be 5%, but it’s a start.

State media CGTN reported that 486 theaters were open for business on Friday. On Monday, financial publication Caixin said the number had risen to 507, representing less than 5% of all cinemas in commercial operation prior to the virus outbreak.

China Theaters Begin to Reopen as Coronavirus Threat Recedes – Variety

If we look at the timeline, China closed theaters first, about 45 days ago, so if they are starting to reopen as the virus recedes, then we’re about 45 days out in the United States from seeing the same situation occur here.

Meanwhile, in Washington state where we reside, they just put a two-week order for people in non-essential businesses to stay at home. Both of our regular jobs are considered essential, so this will have no impact on us, but just thought I’d throw that out there.

45 days. It gets better. Theaters reopening anywhere sounds like life starting to return to normal.

Collapsing Theatrical Windows Are Not The End Of Cinema Life As We Know It

A lot of doomsday news out there right now and it’s getting tougher to avoid and stay positive. I’ve been saying almost since this blog started that the theatrical window needed to be reduced (see: It’s Time To Shrink Theatrical Window To 30 Days). 90 days is too long to wait for streaming. We’re in a “now, now, now!” society and any business that doesn’t adapt will die.

I didn’t write about this in October with any vision that there would be this coronavirus forcing hands, but if the movie theater chains would have been more receptive to streaming six months ago, they’d better be able to sell streaming as an alternative viewing option now. Remember how they dug in and wouldn’t let The Irishman screen in theaters because Netflix wasn’t honoring the all-too-sacred theatrical window?

What comes around goes around.

Vudu is advertising movies as “theater at home” I like that graphic (see top of post), but don’t care as much for the slogan. It’s not theater at home and can’t be unless you have a decent sized room with theater seating, a giant TV screen and superb sound quality.

Some people do. Most of them are wealthy. For the rest of the world, these are merely movies that were meant to be in the theaters, but currently are available at home because there is no where else to show them.

Studios are trying to ring some cash register anywhere during the current virus climate.

While the on-demand model may work or at least mitigate the damage for some movies that are shut out of theaters due to the virus, Greenfield says,“the math really doesn’t work” for big films. For low-budget or mid-range movies, releasing them on demand remains a gamble — an exercise in trying to solve an equation when variables are unknown.

Coronavirus Forces Movie Studios to Reckon With Collapsing Theatrical Windows | Hollywood Reporter

I tend to agree that for films with budgets exceeding $100 million it’s not likely to be as profitable, which is why when theaters can reopen they will and the big tentpole movies will encourage people to return to theaters.

Speaking from my own point of view, I want the theatrical window to shrink so more new movies that aren’t wide releases can be available sooner. There are dozens of movies that don’t even show up in local theaters that we’re unable to see. A few of them I’ve profiled here that I really wanted to see — but couldn’t (yet). If those movies launched simultaneously in limited screenings and on demand streaming, I could see more of these new movies.

Will admit again, as have done several times before, that we aren’t average moviegoers. We’re extreme moviegoers. We’ve seen around 100 new movies in theaters in the last six months, when the average moviegoer sees 3-4 movies in theaters a year. We’re not the norm.

The bigger problem than the theatrical window is film budgets. Studios need to go back to being more penny-pinching with film budgets. This will make it easier to turn a profit no matter how they decide to release films. Simultaneously releases for say movies with $10 million and less budgets will allow studios to explore new income opportunites.

And theater chains needs to get with the program. AMC has an on-demand streaming division, but it seems to be left out of their current gloom and doom conversations. Why aren’t they getting more creative about these options right now, actively and excitedly promoting them?

AMC is promoting on their website “theater on demand” which is their version of VUDU’s Video On Demand rental service (you can buy Onward from Disney for $20). Personally, I don’t see as much value in a rental for $20, but do see buying the movie for $20 as worthwhile. Heck, throw in bonus and behind the scenes and it makes for an at home price even more attractive.

Instead, AMC, is out there moaning and groaning about all their fixed costs and $0 revenue coming in and how they need a loan to keep their business afloat.

Aren’t they making any money from their (“new”) streaming? Must be greater than $0. Something isn’t adding up here.

Regal Closes All US Theaters, Suspends Billing for Unlimited Pass Customers

This is a sad day for movie theater fans. Finding a movie to play in a theater — any theater — in any United States city? Difficult, perhaps soon to be impossible. AMC and Regal Cinemas have closed all their U.S theaters.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter they expect most, if not all, cinemas in the U.S. to follow suit and go dark in the coming days, much as in Europe and parts of Asia. Regal is the first U.S. circuit to make a blanket announcement.

Regal to Close All U.S. Theaters Indefinitely Amid Coronavirus Pandemic | Hollywood Reporter

We’re down in Las Vegas right now and yesterday we caught — literally — the last showing of The Hunt ⭐️⭐️ at 4:30pm at the Boulder Station casino in Las Vegas. We then tried to go down to the Palace Station for the Cinebarre and it was already closed (see sign above).

We received a note from our Regal Unlimited app that they are suspending billing temporarily. We were both wondering if we’d be billed $42 USD for the month when there were no movies we could see, even if we wanted. Turns out that Regal already has planned this out. Good for them. We wish the theaters were still open, but appreciate not being charged for something we are now unable to use.

Unconfirmed as of this writing, but I believe Cinemark theaters in Las Vegas are still open — they are showing movie times as of moments ago — so movies can still be seen in those theaters, but who knows how much longer they’ll hold out.

MGM has closed down their 14 properties on the strip in Vegas, and that alone feels weird. Even during 9/11, which by the way, we were also in Las Vegas, everything stayed open.

How long will these theater closures last? We tried asking questions but even the employees we spoke to were told nothing. Only that they needed to close and there were no answers as to when the theaters would reopen.

Sad, sad days.

Will Social Distancing by Movie Theaters Truly Provide More Protection Against Viral Infection?

Will admit that I kind of laughed when I first learned abut “social distancing” by the movie theaters.

I mean, really, it’s like people going into a frenzy over buying toilet paper and water at the grocery store. They are putting themselves at greater risk by shopping where there are tons of people. The more people you’re around, the greater chance you’ll encounter someone infected, therefore increasing the chance you’ll be infected.

CEO and President Adam Aron said, “With this action, we are facilitating the ‘social distance’ between guests who still want to see movies on a big screen.”

AMC capping ticket sales in effort to prevent spread of COVID-19 | Coronavirus | kctv5.com

Theory is nice, but that’s about it for practicality. If we’re using common sense, anyway.

Come on, if someone coughs into the air somewhere inside the theater … the particles will circulate throughout the theater (we saw this graphically depicted on film in the movie Outbreak, see: Outbreak (1995) Trending on Netflix). What we need is some sort of self-contained suit when we enter the movie theater to truly, fully protected against infection by an infected moviegoer.

Yeah, i know, not practical to have a containment zone, spray, then climb into a suit breathing only air from a tank, but that would be the only way virtually guaranteed not to catch an airborne virus.

(still have risk of hole in suit)

I’m no expert, but putting two seats between each moviegoer to protect against an airborne virus inside a room is like using a broken condom and hoping you’ll have some added protection.

Fresh air and not being in the proximity of anybody who is infected is the only thing that protects us against being infected. When they quarantined all those people on the cruise ship, those who weren’t sick were almost certainly guaranteed to get sick breathing all the same reconstituted air of other infected passengers.

I like the Wynn Casino idea of thermal scanning of anybody entering the casino. Those with an abnormally high body temperature — a known virus symptom — will be discreetly asked to leave. Now, that is protecting other patrons and a smart use of technology.

When we visit movie theaters, even when there was no virus threat (let’s face it, in flu season that has never been a reality), we typically attend during off busy times (besides opening nights of course). Matinees, day time, when traffic is reduced. This does more to protect us from infection than social distancing.

We’re still going to see movies, regardless the risk, because if we catch the virus, we’re both healthy and don’t have any major illnesses. If I was a little older and had some health issues I’d stay home, stay away from people in gathered locations as much as humanly possible. Wouldn’t go shopping (I’d have it delivered and left outside) then when the delivery person is gone, I’d pick it up. I would go into hermit mode, which would be my advice for anybody old and sick. But then I’d give those people the same advice during any flu season. Stay away from others as much as possible.

People die every day for a wide variety of reasons. This particular virus outbreak is being handled with a degree of panic never seen before. Panic will not help anybody. Calm, reasonable response to the situation will. Take a deep breath, the experts will find a vaccine and in a few months — hopefully — this will all be behind us.

Meanwhile, stay vigilant. That’s great advice no matter what is going on the world around us.

Opening 3-12-2020 in Theaters: Bloodshot, The Hunt, I Still Believe

Wednesday! Week #11 of 2020 (3/12-3/15/2020). We get the 7-11 store equivalent of a Big Gulp of wide release movies this week.

Vin Diesel starring as Valiant Comics superhero Bloodshot, the only non-Disney/Marvel and non-DC movie based on a comic book character. A movie that was dropped from release in 2019 for being too politically incorrect about hunting people. Another movie, this one faith-based, from a true story about a popular country singer-songwriter who falls in love and has his faith challenged by tragic illness.

Bloodshot
[FIRST LOOK]

I’m intrigued by the trailer and Vin Diesel in an adaptation of a comic book character. This seems like a darker story, not Joker-dark, but somewhere between Batman and Joker.

Anticipation: 7/10

The Hunt
[FIRST LOOK]

Don’t know why I enjoy stories about humans being hunted in a safari-like setting, but this premise is appealing to me. My concerns are more about how much politics play into this. The President made this movie out to be a political hit job on conservatives. I will be bummed out if this goes down some preachy path.

For that reason alone, I’m slightly less interested in this than Bloodshot.

Anticipation: 6/10

I Still Believe
[FIRST LOOK]

Regal Cinemas sent me an early screening in IMAX offer for this one. I kind of wish this would have been released in/around Valentine’s Day. Some might be turned off by the religious undertones, but I think that could be a powerful part of the picture. Ready the tissues, this could be a real tear-jerker.

Anticipation: 4/10

ANTICIPATION for Week #11: 3/12/20 MOVIES

How much on scale of 1-10 anticipating the 3-12-2020 movies?

  1. Bloodshot – 7/10
  2. The Hunt – 6/10
  3. I Still Believe – 4/10

Are there screenings in our area to see these movies?

The movies are confirmed wide screenings available at theaters in our area with screenings available starting on 3/12/20. As mentioned above, I Still Believe has one advance IMAX showing tonight at 7pm. That is a conflict with my work schedule, so not sure I’ll be able to make it, but am interested. Also, not sure why IMAX would be necessary for the film, but maybe it would be worth seeing. All will be watched, rated and reviewed.