Brian Grazer And Ron Howard: Movie Theaters Will Turn Into Broadway — And Don’t Expect Tom Cruise To Wear A Mask Onscreen


Imagine Entertainment partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer expect COVID-19 to have an impact on Hollywood for some time to come — just not necessarily on screen.

“This period of our lives will not be in the history of film,” Grazer declared during the duo’s virtual appearance at the Wall Street Journal‘s Tech Live conference. “You’re not going to see an action movie with Tom Cruise and he’s wearing a mask.” For writers and filmmakers, the pandemic “will be a period that doesn’t really exist.”

Turning to business fundamentals, Grazer said, “it probably does accelerate viewer trending” toward streaming and other home viewing. (Grazer and Howard have embraced that shift already and plugged their forthcoming Netflix film, Hillbilly Elegy, during the session.)

“On the other hand, movies and cinemas should be restored,” he continued. “When that happens, I don’t know, but it’s singularly one of the greatest art forms of the 20th century. For audiences, for people to go into a theater without a political agenda and experience something this emotional and have that emotion be ignited with a group is a magnifier. And there’s no other replacement for it.”

Howard agreed and said of theatrical moviegoing, “I don’t think it’s going to evaporate.” Even so, he added, it will look a lot different on the other side. “The multiplexes are going to become a little bit like Broadway in a way,” Howard said. “That’s where the expensive projects go. It’s to get as many people in there to create memorable events.”

While that’s a natural environment for family fare, horror and comedy, Howard said, “there’s also going to be a place for dramas playing out on big screens, more sophisticated fare for perhaps older audiences. The exhibitors are going to find that price point” where the economics can work.

More than just movies will play in multiplexes, Howard predicted. TV premieres and other series fare will likely pop up more than ever in big-screen environments.

“We’ve already seen trends toward home entertainment. I feel it in my own viewing habit,” Howard said. “But I also think that the content you will see on those screens might change. The lines between what’s a movie and what’s a television show are blurring anyway. But I think that theaters and distributors and platforms are going to be looking to offering audiences those kinds of shared experiences, which build fan bases.”

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