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Stephen Galloway doesn't mince words. “This is the death of the movie business as we knew it,” says the Chapman University film dean who was a 30-year top editor at The Hollywood Reporter. The data is damning: In 2020, COVID-19 closed two-thirds of U.S. movie theaters and reduced ticket sales by 80 percent. Insiders predict that 5,000 of North America's 41,000 or so movie screens will likely stay dark in 2021.
That's the bad news. But wait: There's good news, too — especially for grownup movie fans over 50. The early 2021 arrival of a vaccine gives hope that the pandemic will subside, and theater owners hope that their new safety practices will make viewers flock back to theaters. “The vaccine is the first step in building consumer confidence,” says Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Thankfully, movie theaters have put the safety and health of their patrons at the top of their priority list, and thus far it's paid off with no incidences of COVID-19-related outbreaks reported at the multiplex anywhere in the world."
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Will 2021 produce better movies for grownups?
What's more, there are rays of hope for the kinds of movies favored by grownups — not just superhero tentpole blockbusters, but prestige films, which often feature talent over 50. “Creating appealing content for mature and sophisticated viewers will go a long way in luring reticent patrons back to theaters,” Dergarabedian says. “It will take some time, but mature audiences will eventually make their way back to theaters, and it will behoove both the studios and the theaters to work together with a combination of great movies and a welcoming and clean in-theater environment to draw this influential and important demographic back to the cinema."
Granted, it's blockbusters that keep theaters alive, and their survival depends on huge, youth-oriented movies like the Bond film No Time to Die, whose release has moved — tentatively — from summer 2020 to April 2021. Galloway thinks theaters will concentrate even more on big, silly blockbusters and not even try to attract more mature viewers.