Hollywood ponders post-pandemic future of cinemas

A man cycles past a shuttered movie theatre in Times Square following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, on March 17, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

As Hollywood prepares to celebrate the Oscars on Sunday (April 25), movie theatres are trying to lure back audiences that have been streaming films at home for over a year.

Some cinemas have closed permanently while others are trying to recover and hope that a string of delayed blockbusters will produce a moviegoing rebound.

Reuters asked actors, directors, writers and producers what they see for the future of cinemas. Their replies have been edited for length and clarity.

Director James Cameron

PHOTO: Reuters

"I do think what we'll see when we do return to the cinema is that films that celebrate that particular art form of sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers and looking at a very large screen with a very loud sound system is going to become a more focused and ritualised thing.

It's the only place where the art dominates. When you watch something on streaming, the other people in the room with you are welcome to interject, to pause, to go to the bathroom, to text, to do other things."

Director Chloé Zhao

PHOTO: Reuters

"For 300 people to laugh and cry at the same time, strangers, not just your family in your house, that's a very powerful thing that I don't think we're ever going to give up.

The question is, are the theatres actually going to be there? I'm actually more worried about those original theatres, those little small theatres in small towns. They are so beautiful, and they're so important for the community."

Actress Gal Gadot

PHOTO: Reuters

"I don’t think that the theatres are going away. I think that, just like with live concerts that we all love to go to, the theatres, they just give us a different experience. "

Writer and director Aaron Sorkin 

PHOTO: Reuters

"As convenient as watching a move on a streaming service like Netflix may be, it is not a substitute for the shared experience of being part of an audience, when a whole group of strangers laughs at the same time, is silent at the same time, gasps at the same time, cries at the same time.

Going to the movies is what we do on a date. It's what we do with our friends on a Friday night, with our families on Saturday. We are not going to stop going to the movies. I can't wait to be part of an audience again."

Actress and director Robin Wright

PHOTO: Reuters

"Once this pandemic starts to lift and everybody gets vaccinated and we can get back to the new norm, I think the world's going to open up the way it was and so will theatres.

I pray, because there's nothing like the experience of sitting in the cinema and watching a movie with others next to you. That's an energy that I think just fuels the experience."

Filmmaker Eddie Huang

PHOTO: Reuters

"I do think that there is going to be a movement back to theatres. ... It's not the same to watch a film at home.

That's not why we make it, you know?

It's like eating food without a plate. And it's cool, you can stand and eat. But it's better with a plate and a fork and a knife."

Writer Suzan-Lori Parks 

Instagram/suzanloriparks365

"I'm not sure what the future might look like. It might depend on money.

I think a lot of decisions these days, maybe fortunately or unfortunately, are driven by money.

How much money do people want to make? Where do they want to put their resources?

I think it's really important for people to be able to come together and experience things as a community."

Romanian Director Alexander Nanau

PHOTO: KCRW

“I’m not afraid that people will not return to the cinemas, I think that is a need that we all have and it will come back.

Maybe not in the numbers we knew before, because it becomes a commodity that we have faster access to the films in your own home.”