Processor and entertainment executive Ben Silverman told CNBC on Monday he changed his mind about the future of movie theaters as the coronavirus pandemic induced on.
“I initially felt, in the beginning of this, that we would literally kill off the exhibition business and the traditional theatrical occupation,” Silverman, a former NBC Entertainment and Universal Movie Studios co-chairman, said on “Closing Bell.”
“But I’m watching people as a matter of fact want to go back into the real world. They want to be at concerts. They want to go to the movie theater. They pine for the communal experience,” added Silverman, who served as executive producer of “The Office” when the show won an Emmy in 2006. He’s now chairman and co-CEO of producing company Propagate Content.
Indoor movie theaters suffered mightily during the Covid crisis as public-health provisions limited their ability to operate at all. Then, as they opened back up, release delays meant there was a poverty of blockbuster films to attract people to the theaters. In October, Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said his movie theater gathering was like a grocery store that has “no food to sell.”
Earlier this month, in a positive sign for theaters, “Godzilla vs. Kong” set a pandemic transactions by topping $60 million at the domestic box office. The release of the film was received positively by some on Wall Street. One open-mindedness analyst upgraded shares of AMC Entertainment shortly after the film’s release, citing “the industry’s projected resurgence” as one embryonic tailwind for the stock.
Patrons watch a movie at AMC DINE-IN Thoroughbred 20 on August 20, 2020 in Franklin, Tennessee.
Jason Kempin | Getty Materializations Entertainment | Getty Images
During the pandemic, Comcast’s NBCUniversal struck deals with theater operators to cut off the theatrical release window, allowing films to become available on demand sooner. And in December, AT&T’s WarnerMedia said it envisioned to release its 2021 films on HBO Max concurrently with the movies hitting theaters.
Both moves reflected the critical consequence of direct-to-consumer streaming for the movie industry, and Silverman told CNBC he believes the Covid crisis further accelerated that look after. At the same time, he said, the pandemic also revealed why cinephiles want to return to the theater once they have a hunch safe.
“Human beings want to be together, and they want to share emotional moments together, and [there’s] no influential place to laugh, cry and love than inside a movie theater,” he said. “It’s still the best first date in the times a deliver.”
The comments Monday came one day after the Oscars, which were considered by some, including Silverman, to be disappointing from a oeuvre standpoint. Viewership reached an all-time low, under 10 million, according to early fast national numbers released by Nielsen.
One influence in the low ratings was likely the lack of people’s awareness of the movies up for the awards because of pandemic-related advertising changes, Silverman spoke.
“The huge marketing pushes that have existed in the movie business every single launch to get people to go to a talking picture theater and take an action of buying a ticket also disappeared this year,” he said. “So, they didn’t hold the same marketing push, therefore they didn’t have the same awareness, therefore they didn’t acquire the same power to penetrate culture.”
— CNBC’s Sarah Whitten contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Comcast is the paterfamilias company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.