Friday, October 16, 2020

What’s left in cinemas now that Hollywood blockbusters have vanished

What's left in cinemas now that Hollywood blockbusters have vanished

Disney’s Mulan went straight to streaming. The James Bond movie No Time To Die was postponed to next April. Marvel’s Black Widow was bumped to May. The Pixar animation Soul is going straight to streaming. The new version of the sci-fi epic Dune was pushed back all the way to October.

Australian comedy: Jack Thompson with (from left) James Cromwell, Dennis Waterman, Roy Billing and (behind) Zachary Wan in Never Too Late.Credit:Bradley Patrick

That added to all the other blockbusters that had already been postponed to next year including A Quiet Place Part II, Fast and Furious 9 and Top Gun: Maverick.

“Bond moving was the big one followed by Black Widow,” Hoyts chief executive Damian Keogh said. “The industry is bleeding money – the theatrical business. We’re getting a little bit of help from JobKeeper but it’s not enough to cover everything so everyone from the majors to the independents is feeling the pain.”

But Mr Keogh saw hope during the school holidays that Australians still want to go to cinemas. So what’s left for movie fans?

The short answer: comedies, smaller-scale films and retro screenings until three Hollywood-backed sequels on Boxing Day: Wonder Woman 1984, Peter Rabbit 2 and The Croods 2.

Michael Caton and Sam Neill are brothers who haven't spoken to each other in decades, despite living on neighbouring properties in Rams.

Michael Caton and Sam Neill are brothers who haven’t spoken to each other in decades, despite living on neighbouring properties in Rams.Credit:Roadshow

Four Australian films are being released before Christmas, starting with Never Too Late, a comedy starring James Cromwell, Jacki Weaver and Jack Thompson about four former commandos escaping from a war veterans home (out October 22).

Then comes Rams, with Michael Caton and Sam Neill as feuding sheep-farming brothers (October 29); A Lion Returns, about a radicalised Arab-Australian returning home after fighting in Syria (November 5); and The Furnace, about an Afghan cameleer on the run with a mysterious bushman (December 10).

The American comedies include Mel Gibson as Santa Claus in Fatman (November 19), Robert De Niro as a feisty grandfather in The War With Grandpa (December 3), Free Guy, with Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller who discovers he lives in a video game world (December 10); and the long-time-coming Eddie Murphy sequel Coming 2 America (December 17).

Out on Boxing Day: Peter Rabbit 2.

Out on Boxing Day: Peter Rabbit 2.Credit:Sony

Then there are national cinema festivals. The Italian Film Festival, which finishes this weekend, is followed by the Indian (virtual from October 23), Korean (October 29), British (November 10) and Japanese (December 4).

Retro screenings include Bond, Hitchcock and Rocky double features.

Even so, the chief executive of Independent Cinemas Australia, Adrianne Pecotic, said 50 per cent of smaller cinemas faced permanent closure within six months without urgent government support.

“Country towns are going to wake up and the only cinema in their region is going to be gone,” she said.

For Mr Keogh, the big question was when would the crisis end.

“We were hopeful we were going to start a recovery in July,” he said. “Now we’re hoping that’s going to be mid-to-late December. If that gets extended into March, if that gets extended into July, the industry is on its knees.”

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