“PVOD is a failed experiment,” Gelfond said during an online appearance Wednesday at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference. “The numbers haven’t worked in a pandemic, so how would they work in a non-pandemic?”
Results from PVOD releases — viewership, revenue, etc. — have not been made public, Gelfond noted, and that’s not a coincidence. “Everyone in the industry understands that for 10 years there have been different direct-to-consumer offerings,” he shrugged.
Disney earlier this month released Mulan as a premium title available only through its Disney+ streaming service. Universal, with theaters completely closed in the springtime due to COVID-19, put out Trolls World Tour via PVOD and a number of other releases have taken a similar path. Only about 70% of U.S. theaters have opened back up — but not New York or LA.
After clashing publicly with AMC and other exhibitors over the Trolls move, Universal in July signed a groundbreaking pact with AMC that enables select titles to end their theatrical runs after just 17 days.
Nevertheless, he continued, “that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes to the windowing in other ways. … But I don’t think that particular model is going to get real traction.”
Streaming may be an “alternative for mid-level movies,” Gelfond conceded, but for the kinds of high-end blockbusters that are Imax’s specialty globally, theatrical is the only way to fly. As he explained during the duration of the 35-minute session, the grosses in China and elsewhere for Tenet and other recent titles prove that theaters remain vital.
Because of the massive delays in production in recent months and the inability for many planned 2020 titles to get released, the slate in 2021 is packed, Gelfond said. “There’s really a backlog,” he said. “We know there’s a lot in the can.”
The pileup will “sort itself out” and eventually become a smoother sequence, he said, but “If we had to add a blockbuster release, we couldn’t find more than a one-week run for it in our next year’s slate at the moment.”