Hollywood says 'the big screen is back' to rally movie-goers

Repeating the slogan ‘the big screen is back,’ Hollywood actors, directors and executives previewed upcoming films in an industry-wide effort to promote movie-going as vaccinations increase and safety restrictions ease. — AFP pic
Repeating the slogan ‘the big screen is back,’ Hollywood actors, directors and executives previewed upcoming films in an industry-wide effort to promote movie-going as vaccinations increase and safety restrictions ease. — AFP pic

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LOS ANGELES, May 20 ―  Hollywood movie studios yesterday promised a summer of high-octane car chases, epic explosions and edge-of-your-seat scares to lure crowds back to cinemas after they were devastated by extended closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Repeating the slogan “the big screen is back,” actors, directors and executives previewed upcoming films in an industry-wide effort to promote movie-going as vaccinations increase and safety restrictions ease.

“Just being back in the theater again feels so powerfully good,” Star Wars director JJ Abrams said, standing in front of a giant screen at an AMC Entertainment theatre in Los Angeles.

“Being in a big, dark room with strangers ― screaming and laughing and experiencing the power of that ― is a human, natural need,” he added. “I think it's going to come back in a pretty roaring way.”

Skeptics worry, however, that viewers who devoured streaming content during the Covid crisis might be reluctant to get off the sofa and head to a box office.

To entice them, Hollywood will unleash a boatload of films including Walt Disney's Cruella and Black Widow, Universal's Fast & Furious movie F9, Warner Bros. musical In the Heights and many others just in the coming weeks.

Many of the films were held back by studio executives who hoped they could wait out the pandemic and generate blockbuster ticket sales once movie-going returned. The studios need box office receipts to help recoup the costs of big-budget movies.

Executives said they were encouraged by recent box office tallies overseas. In China, buddy-cop comedy Detective Chinatown 3 opened in February with US$398 million (RM1.65 billion) in ticket sales, a record debut in a single country.

“When the story is great, the audience definitely will come,” said horror filmmaker Jason Blum. “I think we have to trust them to do that.”

Industry leaders are planning the first-ever Cinema Week in the United States in June, in the vein of Restaurant Week with special events and promotions. Part of the message, according to organisers: “It's time to break up with your couch.”

Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaking at yesterday's event, offered a similar sentiment.

“Now is the time to wind down this pandemic period,” Schwarzenegger said. “Now it's time to get back to the big screen.” ― Reuters

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