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Tom Hanks Thinks Movie Theaters Will Survive—But They’ll Only Show Blockbusters

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Tom Hanks thinks theaters can survive the pandemic, but that they'll only show blockbusters in a post-COVID world. Hanks currently stars in News of the World, Paul Greengrass' latest. The film hit theaters in the U.S. on Christmas Day and will see a PVOD release three short weeks after that. Released alongside Wonder Woman 1984, the film's launch has flown under the radar because of that high profile movie's controversial release on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time.

Hanks' other 2020 film, Greyhound, was released earlier this year on AppleTV+. That film was initially slated to hit theaters on March 22, but was pushed back twice before Apple acquired the distribution rights for $70 million. Hanks has been in the public eye since the beginning of the pandemic when he and wife Rita Wilson were two of the first major public figures to test positive for the virus. They have since recovered.

While promoting his new film, Hanks told Collider in an interview what he sees for the future of theaters. The star says a change was overdue already. While Hanks believes theaters will survive the pandemic, he thinks the options they will be offering in the future will be vastly different. He says theaters will only show true event films, leaving the smaller films to go straight to streaming.

"A sea change was due, anyway. It was coming. Will movie theaters still exist? Absolutely, they will. In some ways, I think the exhibitors — once they’re up and open — are going to have the freedom of choice of what movies they’re going to play. Big event motion pictures are going to rule the day at the cinemas. News of the World might be the last adult movie about people saying interesting things that’s going to play on a big screen somewhere, because after this, in order to guarantee that people show up again, we’re going to have the Marvel Universe and all sorts of franchises.

"You want to see them [franchise films] writ large, because watching them at home on your couch actually might diminish them somehow in their visual punch. But the sea change that has been brought by COVID-19 has been a slow train coming. I think there will be an awful lot of movies that will only be streamed, and I think it will be fine to see them that way because they will actually be built and made and constructed for somebody’s pretty good widescreen TV at their home."

Hanks prediction is pretty much spot on, both because of the actor's prescience and because this change was already something that the industry was grappling with before the pandemic. Before COVID-19 rocked the industry and caused shrinking theatrical exclusivity windows and a barrage of straight-to-streaming releases, streamers like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu were already releasing mid-range budget films on their platforms. These films would have limited theatrical runs to qualify for awards shows or forgo theatrical releases entirely in favor of reaching the widest audience possible.

It's true that audiences are no longer as eager to see mid-budget films in theaters and, like Hanks says, the pandemic will only exacerbate that. While there's no telling what audiences will be like when theaters reopen fully, it's safe to say that they won't be venturing out of their homes for just any film. Warner Bros. 2021 release model could further these feelings. Profit is no longer a guarantee when it comes to dramas or comedies - instead, audiences shell out the price of a ticket for spectacle and excitement. Marvel and Disney have dominated the box office for the last several years, holding seven of the top spots in 2019. Overall, nearly every single film in the top 10 is a big budget sequel or adaptation, leaving little in the way for original films to breakthrough. Tom Hanks, who saw two of his films be released in a devastating year for exhibitioners, might know better than anyone what the future holds for moviegoing.

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