2020 has been a rough year for the theater industry, with movie theaters the world over fearing a collapse in the absence of new movies to showcase. Now, theaters are making a tentative comeback, but the future remains highly uncertain. In a recent interview discussing his upcoming western drama News of the World, Tom Hanks stated his belief that theaters will soon become the exclusive domain of big-budget franchises like the MCU.
"A sea change was due, anyway. It was coming. Will movie theaters still exist? Absolutely, they will. In some ways, I think the exhibitors - once they're up and open - are going to have the freedom of choice of what movies they're going to play. Big event motion pictures are going to rule the day at the cinemas. News of the World might be the last adult movie about people saying interesting things that's going to play on a big screen somewhere, because after this, in order to guarantee that people show up again, we're going to have the Marvel Universe and all sorts of franchises."
The debate over the domination of franchise features at the box-office has been a fierce point of debate in Hollywood for years, with 2020 throwing the whole argument into sharper focus. For Tom Hanks, small-to-medium-budget movies increasingly taking the streaming route is an acceptable option, since their full impact can be felt on a home screen just as well as in cinema halls.
"You want to see them [franchise films] writ large, because watching them at home on your couch actually might diminish them somehow in their visual punch. But the sea change that has been brought by [the global health emergency] has been a slow train coming. I think there will be an awful lot of movies that will only be streamed, and I think it will be fine to see them that way because they will actually be built and made and constructed for somebody's pretty good widescreen TV at their home."
Many prominent filmmakers would disagree with Hanks, like Martin Scorsese, who has long decried the habit of theaters of giving more shows to franchise movies at the expense of smaller films. In a previous interview, Hanks had explained his belief that a well-made film with a good story will retain its good qualities regardless of whether you watch it on streaming or in theaters.
"When I was a kid and the ABC Sunday Night movie played the first half of David Lean's Bridge Over the River Kwai in 1:3:3 with commercials, I was still convinced that it was one of the greatest motion pictures I've ever seen and it was as primitive a display as possible. It may have even been in black and white. I don't think we had a color television the first time and you had to watch the second half on Monday night. That didn't take away from my enjoyment. Now of course with Netflix and other streaming services, we have the ability to sit and watch a movie anytime we want to on our couch. If the movie is really great and engaging, you can still come away from that experience thinking that was one of the greatest motion pictures I'd ever seen. I experienced that just recently with [the HBO show] Chernobyl."
Directed by Paul Greengrass, produced by Gary Goetzman, Gail Mutrux, and Gregory Goodman, with a screenplay by Paul Greengrass and Luke Davie, News of the World is based on the novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles and stars Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in the lead roles.