Being a champion of exhibition, and the first tentpole filmmaker to get movie theaters up and running with Tenet, it should come as no surprise to hear that the movie’s filmmaker Christopher Nolan and his wife, producer Emma Thomas, headed to the multiplex recently in Irvine CA, showing their full support for theaters. In fact, we hear they’ve been twice since the big circuits reopened during the pandemic, and it wasn’t self-serving to check-in or promote Tenet.
Regal Cinemas tweeted out a photo yesterday on social media, writing, “Thanks for stopping by Regal Irvine Spectrum Christopher Nolan #TENET.” We hear that Nolan and Thomas were there to see Tri-Star’s Broken Hearts Gallery, and we understand last week they also watched Armando Iannucci’s Searchlight feature The Personal History of David Copperfield.
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Exhibition is in greater dire straits right now as most major studios have delayed their fall releases deeper into the calendar and with consumer confidence still on the fence about returning quickly to the multiplex. Movie theaters need more filmmakers like Nolan, and stars like Tom Cruise (who caught a London screening of Tenet with filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie in London and posted on social about it at the end of August) to send out good vibes. Never more than now has the divide between the major studios and exhibition been greater, and a more concerted effort (and I mean more) has to take place to sell the message, much like the streamers do in TV spots about their brand on national TV, that it’s OK to return to movie theaters. Circuits have gone to great lengths in their cleanliness COVID-19 safety protocols, and there have been no known cases around the world connected to contracting COVID at a movie theater. The message that movie theaters are safer than bars and restaurants has to be louder — because lawmakers like NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo just aren’t registering that. And exhibition can’t do this all on their own in financially promoting that message (do you hear me, studios??) in a big blast after months of being shutdown and facing liquidity problems.
Recently, Nordstrom tapped fashion social media influencers who communicated their experiences about how comfortable they felt returning to stores and shopping with peace of mind during the pandemic. It’s that type of out-of-the-box thinking that exhibition needs to send in their message that theaters are safe. People crowd beaches and lake fronts (we’ve all seen the pictures), and even though the virus reportedly isn’t as much of a threat outdoors, movie theaters are far from packing people and big practitioners of social distancing with checkboard seating and 25% auditorium restrictions.
Soon after all the big theater chains closed down due to the pandemic in mid-March, Nolan penned a piece in the The Washington Post, “Movie Theaters Are a Vital Part of American Social Life. They Will Need Our Help,” asking the U.S. government to remember the nation’s movie theaters and their workers in any plans for financial relief.
Wrote the five-time Oscar nominated filmmaker, “The movie business is about everybody: the people working the concession stands, running the equipment, taking tickets, booking movies, selling advertising and cleaning bathrooms in local theaters…a vital part of social life, providing jobs for many and entertainment for all,” adding “As a filmmaker, my work can never be complete without those workers and the audiences they welcome.”
Nolan also wrote back in March, “In addition to the help theater employees need from the government, the theatrical exhibition community needs strategic and forward-thinking partnership from the studios.”
Studios, exhibition can’t go at this alone.
— Regal (@RegalMovies) September 15, 2020
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