Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal by R.T. Watson on March 5, 2021.
A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, Hollywood studios and movie theaters hope a recovery is on the way.
Some theaters in two of America’s biggest box-office markets, New York City and San Francisco, will be open this weekend after being closed for the better part of the past year. As cities slowly reopen public spaces and more Americans receive vaccines for Covid-19, moviegoing is poised for a comeback, though there is a long way to go before all the nation’s screens are flickering alight.
Theater owners are gearing up. Some Hollywood executives are advancing film releases that had been delayed. And for films scheduled to open in theaters in coming weeks, customer interest in returning, plus box-office results in New York City and San Francisco, will begin to test the wisdom of studios’ unprecedented decisions in the past year—namely to premiere films simultaneously in theaters and on digital streaming services.
Movie theaters elsewhere in the US have been open for months, including in Florida, Texas, and Ohio, but box-office results have been grim. The largest few movie-theater markets in the US make up a large percentage of box-office revenues when a film comes out. …