Virtually all theaters, save for a few drive-ins here or there, have been shut down in the U.S. since mid-March. It's expected that most major chains, such as AMC, Regal and Cinemark will open back up in July, which is when there will be some new movies to show in the form of Christopher Nolan's Tenet and Disney's live-action Mulan remake. While certain movie lovers are eager to see these titles on the big screen, it's expected they will have a muted box office debut.

Proper box office tracking is virtually impossible at a time like this, but both of these movies would otherwise be opening in the middle of the summer season and would likely see huge openings, possibly in the $100 million range. In a recent interview, John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, Tempered expectations a bit. Here's what he had to say about it.

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"Our members are motivated to make sure that these films do as well as possible. We feel like Disney and Warner are demonstrating their belief in the theatrical model by doing this, so we're going to go the extra mile. I think that traditional windowing will make sense for these movies. They will play a lot longer in theaters than they would have a year ago. They won't open to the kind of numbers they would have a year ago, but there's going to be tremendous word-of-mouth."
"People are going to love Tenet and share that on social media. People are also going to talk about how impressed they are with how seriously theaters are taking their responsibility to provide a safe environment. These films will also have staying power because people will be so sick of being stuck in their houses that they're going to flood to cinemas."

Tenet is currently scheduled to arrive on July 17 and is one of the few big summer movies that didn't move from its release date. Mulan, meanwhile, had been set to arrive in March and box office tracking suggested it was going to rack in the dough, somewhere in the $90 million neighborhood. The remake is now set to arrive on July 24. Under normal circumstances, they would be facing a ton of direct competition. But with virtually all other new movies pushed to at least August, and in most cases much later, that won't be the case.

Be that as it may, the situation will be restrictive. Theaters will be operating with limited capacity and social distancing guidelines will need to be strictly enforced. There's also the matter of just how willing people will be to head to a movie theater right now, which is truly the X-factor in all of this. John Fithian, speaking further, detailed some of the measures being taken by NATO to ensure guest safety once theaters open up again.

"We've put together a task force of our members, as well as experts on health and safety and supply chains. We're planning for how we open up our seating so we can adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. We're encouraging companies to lean in on reserved ticketing and to train their staff to prevent congestion in the lobbies. Members are staggering showtimes so everyone isn't arriving at the multiplex at the same time. We are considering innovative ways to sell concessions in order to reduce human contact. And we're making sure that employees stay home if they feel sick."

The silver lining for these movies is that, without direct competition, they could play for weeks on end without a significant drop in box office. After all, that's how Avatar originally became the highest-grossing movie of all time back in 2009/2010. Perhaps that older model of allowing something to breathe and play in theaters longer could be the wave of the future. Time will tell. This news comes to us via Variety.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott