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Theaters Will Survive COVID-19 Despite Exhibition’s Dire Present, Says Producer Ira Deutchman

The indie producer, distributor, and marketer has an optimistic view about the fate of theaters once a vaccine becomes widely available.

A shopper walks past a closed AMC movie theater Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Santa Monica, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is imposing an overnight curfew as the most populous state tries to head off a surge in coronavirus cases. On Thursday, Newsom announced a limited stay-at-home order in 41 counties that account for nearly the entire state population of just under 40 million people. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A shopper walks past a closed AMC movie theater Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Santa Monica, CA


With the pandemic certain to last well into next year, it’s a rock-bottom moment for movie theaters and exhibitors right now as venues continue to shutter and studios yank their content off the calendar and into 2021, or beyond. IndieWire’s box office analyst Tom Brueggemann on Sunday reported bad-to-worse news for theaters as 600 more closed, and the dearth of new product persists. This past weekend alone, grosses won’t exceed a staggering $7 million.

But not all insiders are cynical about the situation, and that includes independent film producer, marketer, and distributor Ira Deutchman. The Columbia film professor recently joined MSNBC to share his views on how theaters can evolve once a looming COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. Watch below.

“At some point, [the pandemic] is going to end and people are going to be craving communal experiences, craving getting out of the house,” said Deutchman, who is also a member of the Arthouse Convergence dedicated to community-based and mission-driven exhibition. “Since the beginnings of the movie industry, more than 100 years ago, there have been existential threats to the industry that have been somehow pushed aside, and the industry has survived. Whether you talk about the 1918 pandemic, or the invention of the home video. Everybody keeps thinking that theatrical is going to go away, but it’s a completely different experience than seeing something in the home.”

He continued, “People have to take a really close look at what kinds of movies belong in theaters, the pricing models that are actually being used at the moment, the structural problems within the movie industry, but the fact is that it’s gonna survive.”

When asked what movie theaters’ pitch to consumers could look like once the vaccine is widely distributed, Deutchman said, “I don’t think it’s going to take that much to get people back. You can make the same argument about live sports, restaurants, or any number of different types of things that are going to require people to go into communal spaces.”

Deutchman said, “The big pitch is about the audience. It’s never been about the big screen, the sound, all of those things are great in a movie theater. There’s nothing like seeing a movie with an audience.”


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