Producer Ben Silverman: Covid closures won’t kill theaters, as moviegoers like that communal experience

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Producer and leisure govt Ben Silverman instructed CNBC on Monday he modified his thoughts about the way forward for film theaters as the coronavirus pandemic dragged on.

“I initially felt, in the beginning of this, that we would literally kill off the exhibition business and the traditional theatrical business,” Silverman, a former NBC Entertainment and Universal Movie Studios co-chairman, stated on “Closing Bell.”

“But I’m watching people really want to go back into the real world. They want to be at concerts. They want to go to the movie theater. They want the communal experience,” added Silverman, who served as govt producer of “The Office” when the present won an Emmy in 2006. He’s now chairman and co-CEO of manufacturing firm Propagate Content.

Indoor film theaters suffered mightily during the Covid crisis as public-health restrictions limited their ability to operate in any respect. Then, as they opened again up, release delays meant there was a dearth of blockbuster movies to draw folks to the theaters. In October, Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger stated his movie show firm was like a grocery retailer that has “no food to sell.”

Earlier this month, in a constructive signal for theaters, “Godzilla vs. Kong” set a pandemic report by topping $60 million at the domestic box office. The launch of the movie was received positively by some on Wall Street. One fairness analyst upgraded shares of AMC Entertainment shortly after the movie’s launch, citing “the industry’s projected resurgence” as one potential tailwind for the inventory.

Patrons watch a film at AMC DINE-IN Thoroughbred 20 on August 20, 2020 in Franklin, Tennessee.

Jason Kempin | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

During the pandemic, Comcast‘s NBCUniversal struck offers with theater operators to shorten the theatrical release window, permitting movies to grow to be obtainable on demand sooner. And in December, AT&T‘s WarnerMedia stated it deliberate to launch its 2021 movies on HBO Max concurrently with the movies hitting theaters.

Both strikes mirrored the important significance of direct-to-consumer streaming for the film trade, and Silverman instructed CNBC he believes the Covid disaster additional accelerated that shift. At the identical time, he stated, the pandemic additionally revealed why cinephiles need to return to the theater as soon as they really feel protected.

“Human beings want to be together, and they want to share emotional moments together, and [there’s] no greater place to laugh, cry and love than inside a movie theater,” he stated. “It’s still the best first date in the world.”

The feedback Monday got here at some point after the Oscars, which have been considered by some, including Silverman, to be disappointing from a manufacturing standpoint. Viewership reached an all-time low, under 10 million, in keeping with early quick nationwide numbers launched by Nielsen.

One issue within the low scores was possible the dearth of individuals’s consciousness of the films up for the awards due to pandemic-related promoting modifications, Silverman stated.

“The huge marketing pushes that have existed in the movie business every single launch to get people to go to a movie theater and take an action of buying a ticket also disappeared this year,” he stated. “So, they didn’t have the same marketing push, therefore they didn’t have the same awareness, therefore they didn’t have the same power to penetrate culture.”

CNBC’s Sarah Whitten contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Comcast is the dad or mum firm of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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