Why the future of movie theaters is looking uncertain again

venom 2 let there be carnage
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”

  • Some Hollywood studios have once again started delaying their movies or selling them to streamers.
  • It’s a sign that theaters could face more complications as concerns over the coronavirus intensify.
  • Here is Insider’s guide to how Hollywood and movie theaters got to this point, and what the future looks like.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

While the North American box office has yet to rebound, there have been some signs of recovery after a calamitous 2020.

“Free Guy,” the Ryan Reynolds action-comedy, earned $28 million at the domestic box office during its August opening weekend, beating expectations, and “A Quiet Place Part II” has had strong legs at the box office since it debuted in May.

But as the Delta variant causes coronavirus cases to rise and the vaccination rate slows across the US, movie theaters could soon face challenges similar to last year, when studios delayed tentpole movies or found streaming alternatives to theaters.

Paramount has already removed its “Clifford” movie, which was slated for October, from the release calendar, and Sony delayed its “Venom” sequel by three weeks to October 15. The latter studio, without its own streaming platform, also sold the latest entry in its “Hotel Transylvania” animated film series to Amazon, skipping theaters altogether. More big changes could follow.

Read more about why Hollywood studios should delay their big-budget movies.

One major problem facing tentpoles released in the current theatrical environment is that they’re seeing big drop offs in revenue after their first weekends.

That was normal in the pre-pandemic market when movies like “Black Widow” and “F9” would have opened with significantly larger numbers at the box office. But it’s not exactly sustainable now, given that films are already at a disadvantage with a number of North American theaters still closed, pandemic-related restrictions in place, and many consumers uncomfortable returning to theaters.

Movies like “Black Widow,” “F9,” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” managed to cross the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, but these films each cost around $200 million to make. While the international box office has given them a boost – particularly in the case of “F9,” which has earned $680 million globally – prior Marvel and “Fast and Furious” movies grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.

Read more about why strong openings alone couldn’t save the box office.

Another hurdle theaters faced this year was the lack of exclusive animated movies, as many of these family films got simultaneous, or exclusive, streaming releases. It looked like that could improve as the year progressed, but now the aforementioned “Clifford” and “Hotel Transylvania” films have been removed from the equation.

Though “Space Jam: A New Legacy” performed well, the box office could have used a boost from the Pixar movie “Luca,” which went straight to Disney+ this summer. Other animated movies like “The Boss Baby: Family Business” and “Paw Patrol” got day-and-date releases on streaming platforms Peacock and Paramount+, respectively.

Read more about how a lack of exclusive theatrical animated movies hurt the box office.

The shifting relationship with talent amid streaming strategies has also impacted Hollywood, with theaters at the center of debates surrounding talent compensation.

For example, Christopher Nolan, a champion of theaters, has had conversations with Netflix, which wants to poach the filmmaker from Warner Bros. for his next movie. Nolan was heavily critical of WarnerMedia’s decision to release its 2021 movies to theaters and HBO max simultaneously. His next move will be an important indicator for the future of cinemas as big tech and streaming shake up Hollywood.

Read more about where Nolan could take his next movie.

The coming weeks will be a barometer of the more immediate future of movie theaters. If studios continue to delay films or sell them to streamers, it could be cause for concern – and a sign that the exhibition industry will continue to change at a breakneck pace.

Here’s a list of our recent coverage on the state of movie theaters as the industry looks to recover from the pandemic:

The big-picture take

Major obstacles theaters and Hollywood have faced

Evolving Hollywood strategies

Tense talent relationships

But it hasn’t been all bad

Read the original article on Business Insider

Here are the 3 most realistic gunfights Hollywood has ever produced

saving private ryan tom hanks
  • Hollywood presents a lot of misconceptions and downright errors about how firearms work and are used.
  • But sometimes the movies show things so well that even the pros use them as training demonstrations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It’s no secret that movies get a lot wrong about firearms and the ways they’re used in a fight.

From every 80’s protagonist refusing to shoulder their rifles when they fire, to the seemingly infinite magazine capacity in every hero’s gun, filmmakers have long prized what looks cool over what’s actually possible in their work, and to be honest, it’s hard to blame them.

After all, diving sideways while firing pistols from each hand does look pretty badass, even if it’s just about the dumbest thing someone could do in a firefight.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule when it comes to Hollywood’s depictions of firefights – movies that manage to offer a realistic representation of how armed conflicts actually play out while still giving the audience something to get excited about.

These movies may not be realistic from end to end, but each offers at least one firefight that was realistic enough to get even highly trained warfighters to inch up toward the edges of their seats.

1. Delta’s time to shine: ‘Sicario’

The border scene in 2015’s Sicario is worthy of study from multiple angles: As an exercise in film making, this scene puts on a clinic in tension building, and although some elements of the circumstances may not be entirely realistic, the way in which the ensuing firefight plays out offers a concise and brutal introduction to the capabilities boasted by the sorts of men that find their way onto an elite team like Delta.

Unlike the Chuck Norris depictions of Delta from the past, these men are short on words and heavy on action, using their skill sets to not only neutralize opponents, but to keep the situation as contained as possible.

The tense lead up and rapid conclusion leaves the viewer with the same sense of continued stress even after the shooting stops that anyone who has ever been in a fight can relate to, despite the operators themselves who are seemingly unphased.

As real special operators will often attest, it’s less about being unphased and more about getting the job done – but to the rest of us mere mortals, it looks pretty much the same.

2. The Gold Standard: ‘Saving Private Ryan’

When “Saving Private Ryan” premiered in 1998, I distinctly recall my parents returning home early from their long-planned date night.

My father, a Vietnam veteran that had long struggled with elements of his service had been excited about the new Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg wartime epic, but found the opening scene depicting the graphic reality of the Normandy invasion of World War II to be too realistic to handle.

My dad, who never spoke of his time deployed, chose to leave the theater and spent the rest of the evening sitting quietly in his room.

This list is, in spirit, a celebration of realism in cinema, but realism has a weight to it, and sometimes, that weight can feel too heavy to manage.

A number of veterans have echoed my father’s sentiments about the film (he did eventually watch it at home by himself), calling that opening sequence, often heralded as a masterpiece of film making, one of the hardest scenes they’ve ever managed to watch.

3. Val Kilmer helps train Green Berets: ‘Heat’

The dramatic 10-minute shootout in “Heat” has become legendary in Hollywood for good reason.

For six weeks, the film’s production team closed down parts of downtown Los Angeles every Saturday and Sunday to turn the city into a war zone, and the actors came prepared to do their parts. Production brought in real British SAS operatives to train the actors in real combat tactics at the nearby LA County Sheriff’s combat shooting ranges.

Legend has it that Val Kilmer took to the training so well that the shot of him laying down fire in multiple directions and reloading his weapon (without the scene cutting) has been shown at Fort Bragg as a part of training for American Green Berets.

Marines training at MCRD San Diego have also been shown this firefight from “Heat” as a depiction of how to effectively retreat under fire.

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘Superman’, ‘Lethal Weapon’, and ‘The Goonies’ director Richard Donner has died at 91

Richard Donner
Hollywood director and producer Richard Donner.

  • Hollywood director and producer Richard Donner has died at the age of 91.
  • Donner’s death was confirmed to Deadline by his wife and business manager Lauren Schuler Donner.
  • Donner is best known for the “Lethal Weapon” series, and the original “Superman” film featuring Christopher Reeve.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Richard Donner, a well-known Hollywood director and producer behind several 1970s and ’80s blockbusters, died on Monday at the age of 91.

Donner’s death was confirmed to Deadline by his wife and business manager Lauren Schuler Donner. No cause of death has been revealed.

Born Richard Donald Schwartzberg, the Bronx-native made his feature film directorial debut with the little-known 1968 Sammy Davis Jr. crime comedy “Salt & Pepper,” with his first big break coming in the form of 1976’s “The Omen,” starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick.

But he is best known for helming the “Lethal Weapon” series starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and the original “Superman” film featuring Christopher Reeve.

Donner was infamously cut from the Superman sequel after a litigious dispute with the films’ producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind, and replaced by Richard Lester mid-production. More than 25 years later, his re-edited version was released on DVD in 2006 as “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut” with lost Man of Steel footage.

Prior to films, he spent his career in television, including shows such as “Route 66,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” to name a few.

Tributes began pouring in as news of Donner’s death spread, with writer-director Kevin Smith calling Donner “a natural-born storyteller.”

“Richard Donner made the devil a child in ‘The Omen,’ invented the modern-day comic book movie with “Superman,” and reinvented the buddy cop movie with Lethal Weapon.'” Smith tweeted.

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The top 5 new movie releases in July, including Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’

Scarlett Johansson Black Widow
“Black Widow.”

  • Every month, the app TV Time provides Insider a list of the most anticipated new movies being released, based on the movies its US users have indicated they intend to watch.
  • “Black Widow,” Marvel’s first theatrical release in two years, topped the list.
  • The “Space Jam” sequel and Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” are also anticipated this month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
5. “Old” – in theaters July 23

Old Universal

Description: “This summer, visionary filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan unveils a chilling, mysterious new thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly … reducing their entire lives into a single day.”

4. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” – in theaters and on HBO Max July 16

space jam a new legacy warner bros

Description: “Basketball champion and global icon LeBron James goes on an epic adventure alongside timeless Tune Bugs Bunny with the animated/live-action event “‘Space Jam: A New Legacy,’ from director Malcolm D. Lee and an innovative filmmaking team including Ryan Coogler and Maverick Carter. This transformational journey is a manic mashup of two worlds that reveals just how far some parents will go to connect with their kids.”

3. “Jungle Cruise” – in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access July 30

jungle cruise

Description: “Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s ‘Jungle Cruise’ is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila — his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities — possessing the power to change the future of medicine.”

2. “The Tomorrow War” – on Amazon Prime Video July 2

the tomorrow war amazon studios

Description: “In The Tomorrow War, the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: Thirty years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) and his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 51%

What critics said: “Watching Chris Pratt fight to save the future has a certain appeal, but in the here and now, he can’t even save the movie.” — CNN

1. “Black Widow’ – in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access July 9

Black Widow
“Black Widow” is the first movie of the MCU’s phase four.

Description: “Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 83%

What critics said: “I think I can say for the first time in years about a Marvel property that the next chapter can’t come soon enough.” — Slate

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‘F9’ made more than ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ in its opening weekend at the North American box office

Vin Diesel in "F9" Fast 9
Vin Diesel in “F9.”

  • “F9” had a pandemic-best opening at the domestic box office over the weekend with $70 million.
  • It earned more than the $60 million the last “Fast and Furious” movie, “Hobbs and Shaw,” earned.
  • “F9” has grossed more than $400 million worldwide.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The latest “Fast and Furious” movie, “F9,” earned $70 million at the North American box office over the weekend, a new pandemic-best opening that topped the previous record holder, “A Quiet Place Part II.”

80% of the North American theatrical market is open, according to Comscore.

The ninth installment’s debut is also more than the last “Fast” movie’s, the spinoff “Hobbs and Shaw” in 2019. That movie earned $60 million domestically in its opening weekend and went on to gross $760 million worldwide. The eighth installment in the main “Fast” saga though, “The Fate of the Furious,” earned $98 million domestically in its debut in 2017 and ultimately made more than $1 billion worldwide.

“Tentpole sequels and horror films were already pillars of yearly theatrical revenue before the pandemic, so it logically tracks that they’re among the early standouts during this transition back into normal life for many people,” said Shawn Robbins, the Box Office Pro chief analyst.

“F9” has already grossed $405 million globally. Though the movie has slowed in the franchise’s key market China, where it opened last month, it has still grossed $217 million there (more than the $201 million “Hobbs and Shaw” earned in the region, but less than the $393 million “The Fate of the Furious” made).

It opened with $136 million in China, but fell a whopping 85% in its second weekend there with $20.6 million. The drop is dramatic, but not unprecedented. “The Fate of the Furious” fell 70% in its second weekend in China.

With more international markets still to come, “F9” will likely pass “Godzilla vs. Kong” as this year’s highest-grossing Hollywood release so far. The Warner Bros. monster mashup, which debuted in March, grossed $442 million worldwide.

“F9’s performance bodes well for other tentpoles coming up with higher ceilings of potential, but we have to be cautious in expectations during this ever-evolving marketplace,” Robbins said.

While “F9’s” opening is a positive sign for movie theaters, the industry still has a ways to go to full recovery. The strength of the theatrical market in the near future could be just as much about legs as solid debuts, according to the Exhibitor Relations media analyst Jeff Bock – meaning “F9’s” second weekend could be significant.

“The most concerning aspect is the lack of long-play films in the marketplace,” Bock said. “The key for the theatrical industry going forward is sustainability. That means either consistent openings or marathon holds.”

And the pandemic has fundamentally shifted how studios approach distribution practices.

Universal, the studio behind the “Fast and Furious” movies, has struck deals with some of the biggest theater chains to shorten the theatrical window from the pre-pandemic 75 days to just 17 in most cases, at which point it can release a movie to digital-rental platforms.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The top 9 movies on Netflix this week, from ‘Awake’ to ‘Wish Dragon’

awake netflix

  • Every week, the streaming search engine Reelgood compiles for Insider a list of which movies have been most prominent on Netflix’s daily top-10 lists that week.
  • Netflix counts a view if an account watches a movie or TV show for at least two minutes.
  • More than a month after its release, “The Mitchells and the Machines” is still attracting Netflix viewers.
  • But the biggest movie this week was an animated children’s movie, “Wish Dragon,” followed by the thriller “Awake.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
9. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” (2019)

the secret life of pets 2 fox

Description: “On a farm outside New York, Max aims to boost his confidence while in the city, Snowball attempts to rescue a tiger cub and Gidget pretends to be a cat.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 61%

What critics said: “It’s never a great sign when the biggest laughs a movie gets are during the end credits.” — New York Post

8. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (2021, Netflix original)

mitchells vs machines netflix

Description: “A robot apocalypse put the brakes on their cross-country road trip. Now it’s up to the Mitchells — the world’s weirdest family — to save the human race.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 98%

What critics said: “This is a perfect movie for the whole family, which is an all-too-rare thing to find.” — Newsday

7. “The Devil Below” (2021)

the devil below

Description: “When a team of researchers tries to find out what started a fire in a coal mine, they quickly discover that the disaster is anything but natural.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 0%

What critics said: “The heroes have all been reduced to just one or two identifiable traits: One’s a conspiracy theorist, one’s a fortune-hunter, one’s religious and so on.” — Los Angeles Times

6. “2 Hearts” (2020)

2 hearts

Description: “In parallel love stories, the lives of college student Chris and wealthy businessman Jorge intersect in a profound twist of fate. Based on a true story.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 17%

What critics said: “It’s a softheaded piece of morbid romantic treacle — two parallel cloying love stories for the price of one.” — Variety

5. “Dog Gone Trouble” (2021, Netflix original)

dog gone trouble netflix

Description: “The privileged life of a pampered dog named Trouble is turned upside-down when he gets lost and must learn to survive on the big-city streets.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said: “Home is at the center of ‘Dog Gone Trouble,’ about a lost pooch whose owner has just died. But this Netflix animated family feature is nothing to write home about.” — New York Times

4. “A Haunted House 2” (2014)

a haunted house 2

Description: “Grieving after a tragedy, Malcolm tries to start fresh with his new girlfriend and her kids — but supernatural shenanigans find their way back to him.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 8%

What critics said: “A few observational gags deliver, but all the doll-humping and chicken-slaughtering will haunt you for days.” — Guardian

3. “Home” (2015)

home dreamworks movie

Description: “When misfit alien Oh mistakenly sends a party invite to the entire galaxy, he goes on the run to avoid trouble and befriends spunky human girl Tip.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 52%

What critics said: “A surprisingly moving tale of friendship and family, dressed up as an adorably frivolous sci-fi comedy.” — Vulture

2. “Awake” (2021, Netflix original)

awake netflix

Description: “After a global event wipes out humanity’s ability to sleep, a troubled ex-soldier fights to save her family as society and her mind spiral into chaos.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 30%

What critics said: “So for those asking the obvious: Yes, Awake should put you to sleep rather quickly.” — Globe and Mail

1. “Wish Dragon” (2021, Netflix original)

wish dragon netflix

Description: “Determined teen Din is longing to reconnect with his childhood best friend when he meets a wish-granting dragon who shows him the magic of possibilities.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 65%

What critics said: “Sure, the lowbrow gags and rote combat drags the film down, but in the moments where Appelhans breathes contemporary specifics into the story, ‘Wish Dragon’ is a quirky, appealing ride.” — Polygon

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‘In the Heights’ underwhelmed at the box office, but new data suggests it’s not HBO Max’s fault

in the heights usnavi
“In the Heights.”

  • “In the Heights” underwhelmed at the domestic box office over the weekend with $11 million.
  • But data suggests it also underperformed on HBO Max compared to other Warner Bros. movies this year.
  • That means a low theatrical turnout isn’t necessarily streaming’s fault, in this case.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“In the Heights,” the new movie based on the musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, underwhelmed at the US box office over the weekend with $11.4 million.

Its haul was below projections that placed it closer to $20 million, and it failed to top “A Quiet Place Part II,” which has been in theaters for two weeks.

The Warner Bros. film, which was directed by “Crazy Rich Asians” filmmaker Jon M. Chu, was released simultaneously on the WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max over the weekend, as are all of Warner Bros.’ films this year.

But data suggests that it’s not Max’s fault that the movie disappointed at the box office. It also underperformed on the streaming service compared to other new Warner Bros. movies.

693,000 US households watched at least five minutes of “In the Heights” on HBO Max over the weekend via connected TVs, according to estimates from the analytics company Samba TV. Samba TV tracks viewership on connected TVs, which include smart TVs, streaming devices like Roku, and gaming consoles (WarnerMedia declined to provide viewership numbers for “In the Heights.”)

Other Warner Bros. releases this year, which have performed better at the box office than “In the Heights” in their opening weekends, also drove more viewership on Max, according to Samba TV data. It suggests that streaming viewership doesn’t necessarily cannibalize theatrical attendance.

Here are four Warner Bros. movies this year that debuted in theaters and on Max simultaneously, and how their opening weekends compared on Max (via Samba TV estimates) and at the box office in the US:

  • “Mortal Kombat” – 3.8 million households on Max / $23.3 million at box office
  • “Godzilla vs. Kong” – 3.6 million households on Max (five-day weekend) / $48.5 million at box office (five days)
  • “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” – 1.6 million households on Max $24 million at box office
  • “Tom and Jerry” – 1.2 million households on Max / $14.1 million at box office

Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein also implied “In the Heights” had underperformed relative to other releases in comments to the Associated Press on Sunday.

“Our experience, which is backed up on ‘In the Heights,’ is that if the movie hits a high level in theaters, it hits a high level on the service,” Goldstein said. “If it hits a low level in theaters, it hits a low level on HBO Max. They’re really very comparable.”

While “In the Heights” didn’t attract as big an audience in its debut as other Warner Bros. releases this year, it’s been a hit with critics and has a 97% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. Viewers who did see the movie also seemed to love it; it has a 95% Rotten Tomatoes audience score and an A from CinemaScore, which surveys theatrical audiences on a movie’s opening night. That means the movie could pick up steam from word-of-mouth buzz.

Warner Bros. has largely dominated the box office so far this year despite its movies also streaming, and “In the Heights” seems to be an exception.

The box office could look more balanced as more studios release delayed tentpole films this summer, though, including Disney’s “Black Widow” and Universal’s “Fast and Furious 9.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Hate going to the theater? Here’s how theaters are ruining the movie-going experience

  • Movie theaters aren’t doing enough to ensure that their audience is seeing a movie the way it is meant to be seen.
  • Many theaters have little quality control over things like screen masking and projector brightness, and it has begun to hurt the moviegoing experience.
  • We talked with two projection experts to help us understand what is going on inside the booth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Which looks better? This, or that? Well, what if I told you that you may have been paying a premium to see the worst version.

You know those black bars you sometimes see on the top, bottom or sides of a movie? They occur because movies are filmed at different frame sizes, or aspect ratios. “Lady Bird”, shot in widescreen should appear differently than “Star Wars”, which was shot in Cinemascope. A Cinemascope movie on your TV will have black bars on the top and bottom, while a movie theater masks the frame with retractable curtains. These curtains at Night Hawk Cinema in Brooklyn absorb the light and create a frame around the projected image. But take away the curtains and…

Chapin Cutler: When you don’t have masking what happens is you’ve got this gray area of screen which isn’t reflecting picture, it’s not reflecting the image. It just sort-of sits there and looks ugly. There is a move afoot by some theater circuits, I guess in order to save money, that have decided that, that’s a waste of money and they’re not gonna do it.

Narrator: That’s Chapin Cutler. He’s been working in the projection and theater business for over 40 years. The empty screen space can be distracting and takes away from the immersive experience of seeing a movie on the big screen.

Another problem? Projector brightness, which can be affected by the age and cleanliness of the bulb, along with any dirt or smudges that may be on the window of the projection booth. Some “Solo” attendees reported seeing extremely dark almost unviewable projections with a few saying that they had to struggle to see what was on screen.

Chapin Cutler: If the standard that’s been established for the amount of light that is supposed to be on the screen isn’t there, then not only does the picture look dark but you don’t see anything that goes on in the shadows. All of that information disappears.

Narrator: And if there was a 3D showing in the theater before a standard 2D showing a lens meant only for 3D movies may still be on the projector making the image two thirds darker than it should be.

Joe Muto: Showing something like that with a very low light level is gonna take away from it. If that’s the experience you walk away with that’s going to impede your positive judgment of the film, and that’s just gonna ruin it for you.

Narrator: Hurting both the team behind the movie and its viewers, and possibly creating customers who may not come back to that theater for a sub-par experience.

The issues aren’t limited to “Solo.” The past few years have seen numerous reports of theaters not doing enough to ensure quality screenings. Standard 2D movie tickets average about $9.00 in the U.S. And almost twice that in places like New York City. But is the price of admission worth seeing a movie that is not being shown the way it is meant to? You can get a full 4K movie for 15 bucks. Why bother with what may be a questionable theater presentation if you can get cinema-like quality at home?

The picture may be bigger, and the sound may be better but if you’re having a bad theater experience, take note. If a theater has a dark blurry picture or leaves empty areas of the screen unmasked try a different theater. Many are still working hard to bring you the best picture possible.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

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How ‘Saw’ became a $1 billion horror franchise after nearly going straight-to-DVD, and what the producers have planned for the future

  • The recently released “Spiral” has pushed the “Saw” franchise past $1 billion at the global box office.
  • Insiders detailed how it got there after the first movie almost went straight to DVD.
  • The franchise’s producers say they have more movies in mind and aren’t ruling out TV.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The story of “Saw” has as many twists and turns as the horror franchise itself.

When the first movie, directed by James Wan, was released in 2004, it was a box-office hit, grossing $56 million in the US and $103 million worldwide off of a measly $1.2 million budget.

Seventeen years and eight sequels later, including the recently released “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” the franchise – which is about a serial killer named Jigsaw who sets up elaborate traps for his victims – has hit $1 billion in total global box office. (“Spiral” has grossed $24 million worldwide and is getting an early digital-rental release on June 1.)

It’s an impressive feat considering that first entry was almost sentenced to the void of straight-to-DVD movies.

“You don’t know how close ‘Saw’ was to never getting a theatrical release,” said producer Mark Burg, cofounder of Twisted Pictures, which has produced every “Saw” movie.

Burg and Twisted cofounder Oren Koules liken themselves to James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, in the sense that they’ve been among the few constants in the nearly two decades of the “Saw” franchise. Like Broccoli with Bond, they are the keepers of “Saw.”

The duo, along with other “Saw” insiders, spoke with Insider about how the franchise has sustained itself over the years and what’s to come, including a prequel movie, “Spiral” sequel, and maybe TV down the line.

“When you have a concept and a world that is as developed and rich as ‘Saw’ is, there are endless possibilities,” said Jason Constantine, the Lionsgate president of acquisitions and coproductions, who has been involved with “Saw” since the beginning.

chris rock spiral saw
Chris Rock in a scene from “Spiral.”

Lionsgate has distributed every movie from 2004’s “Saw” to this year’s “Spiral,” but its devotion to “Saw” got off to a rocky start, according to Burg and Koules.

After an initial research screening of “Saw” just outside of Los Angeles that Burg and Koules said “tested through the roof,” Lionsgate set up another test screening in Las Vegas in March 2004. But Lionsgate didn’t tell the producing duo exactly where it was until the day of.

“They thought we brought in 200 of our closest friends because they didn’t think there was any way it could test so well,” Burg said.

That screening “tested even higher,” Constantine said.

“That was the turning point to realize it could really be a theatrical movie,” he said.

“Saw” was ultimately released in the UK that September and made $11 million before it even hit North American theaters on Halloween weekend in October, a weekend the franchise would own for some time after.

“It crushed and gave everybody a lot more bravado about putting the movie in theaters and spending more money” on advertising, Koules said.

Since then, every “Saw” movie except the sixth has grossed more than $100 million globally. The highest budget for a “Saw” movie before “Spiral” (which cost $40 million to produce) was $20 million for the seventh entry. Every other “Saw” cost $11 million or less, not counting marketing costs.

Burg and Koules credit the franchise’s main antagonist Jigsaw, played by Tobin Bell, with why audiences keep coming back for more.

“It’s a weird dynamic where people cheer and root for Jigsaw, but he’s not a vigilante,” Koules said.

“We always want to make sure that Jigsaw succeeds when the movie’s over,” Burg said.

“Yet we’re the two idiots that killed him in ‘Saw III,'” he added with a bit of self-deprecation.

That clearly didn’t stop fans from returning to theaters or scooping up home-video releases. Since 2004, only a handful of horror franchises have hit the coveted $1 billion mark, according to data from the research company Comscore, including “Resident Evil,” “It,” and “The Conjuring,” if we include the spinoffs of the latter. And Koules said that the “Saw” franchise has likely hit closer to $2.5 billion after accounting for home-entertainment sales.

“Hitting the $1 billion mark in global box office is a huge deal for any franchise, but in the horror genre it’s almost elusive,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst. “The ‘Saw’ franchise clearly struck a chord with audiences around the world.”

saw 2004 movie
The first “Saw” was released in 2004.

Sequels and ‘Spiral’

Nobody was thinking about sequels to “Saw” in 2004; not Burg and Koules, not Lionsgate, and not even writer/director Wan and his cowriter Leigh Whannell (who also plays Adam in the movie and has since directed thrillers of his own like “Upgrade” and “The Invisible Man”).

“I think James and I were thinking more of the first ‘Saw’ film as a demo reel for our next film than anything,” Whannell told AV Club in 2010. “Far from thinking of what should the sequels be about, we thought that we would probably make the film and then be carting that around on a DVD trying to get people to watch it. So we just really didn’t think ahead.”

As for Burg and Koules: “We just wanted to get our money back,” Burg said.

They did get their money back and then some. The pair struck down several offers from Lionsgate, including $5 million, before settling on a deal where they wouldn’t take an advance, but pay Lionsgate a distribution fee of “roughly 18% to 20%” and keep the rest. “Saw” cost just over $1 million to make and it grossed more than $100 million.

“It was more money than I’d every dreamed of in my life,” Burg said.

Despite the film’s success, Lionsgate was cautious. Burg and Koules made seven “Saw” movies in seven years, but Lionsgate never greenlit a sequel until after the previous movie was released. They were also producing the sitcom “Two and a Half Men” during those years.

“Some of it is kind of a blur to us,” Koules said.

Chris Rock in “Spiral.”

“I don’t think any of us knew when ‘Saw II’ came out what it would do,” said “Spiral” director Darren Lynn Bousman, who also directed “Saw II,” “III,” and “IV.” “It wasn’t a franchise at that point. It wasn’t until ‘Saw II’ made money that the intensity started.”

“Saw II” made $153 million worldwide off of a $4 million budget, showing that the first film wasn’t a fluke.

“You can’t have a franchise unless the second movie works,” Constantine said.

While the franchise hit its stride with the early films, it hit a slump with “Saw VI,” which underperformed compared to the previous entries with $72 million globally. The next film in 2010 was dubbed “Saw: The Final Chapter” – but turns out, it wasn’t. The seventh film got the series back on track with $136 million, but the franchise took a hiatus until the eighth movie, “Jigsaw,” in 2017.

After “Jigsaw,” the producing duo were developing a “Saw” prequel of sorts with Bell, the Jigsaw actor, when Chris Rock pitched his idea for what would become “Spiral.”

“With the first movie we tried doing a a lot more psychological horror, like ‘Seven,'” Koules said. “As the movies went on they got a lot more rough. Then Chris came along and said he wants to do ’48 Hours’ meets ‘Seven.’ We were really excited because we wanted to get back to the psychological aspect.”

Rock’s pitch was intriguing enough to lure Bousman back to direct.

“‘Spiral’ was a completely different beast for me,” he told Insider. “It’s been 14 years since I made a ‘Saw’ movie. My hope was that we would do something that was unique. With people like Chris and [Samuel L.] Jackson attached, we didn’t want to just rehash the same movie.”

“Spiral” has topped both weekends at the domestic box office it’s been in theaters, but the pandemic has held it back.

“The pandemic forced every distributor to think about multiple options for every movie on their release slate,” Constantine, the Lionsgate exec, said. “We wanted the opportunity for Spiral to be in theaters for an exclusive amount of time, but we’re also still living in a period of time where some aren’t vaccinated or not ready to go to a theater or their local theater isn’t at full capacity.”

The movie finally arrived exclusively in theaters on May 14 after a year-long delay and has earned $17 million domestically. The movie will hit premium video-on-demand services on June 1, much earlier than anticipated. It will debut on Lionsgate’s streaming service Starz in October.

“From a financial standpoint, it’s been nerve-wracking,” Bousman said. “It’s one of the first movies to usher people back. It’s been surreal.”

He added: “I don’t think the success of ‘Spiral’ will be apparent until after it’s out in the home … Going to a theater is almost a religious experience for me. It’s cathartic, especially after the last year. That said, over the last decade, home entertainment has gotten so much better. People are now more comfortable [watching movies] in their own homes.”

Koules and Burg said they are proponents of the theatrical experience, but are happy that more viewers who may not be comfortable returning to a theater will now be able to see the movie.

“We’re grateful for the people coming out for ‘Spiral’ but if certain people aren’t comfortable and want to watch it at home, that’s great,” Koules said.

tobin bell as jigsaw saw movies
Tobin Bell as John Kramer aka the Jigsaw Killer.

‘Saw’ isn’t over

Just because “Spiral” is finally out in the world doesn’t mean Burg and Koules have stopped thinking about the future of the franchise.

They still plan to make that “prequel,” which they described as a Jigsaw origin story that would be set “somewhere in the early ‘Saw’ movies where Jigsaw is still alive,” after the first film but before the third.

“We don’t want to say too much about it because ultimately we may do another ‘Spiral’ before that movie,” Burg said. “That decision will get made when we sit down with Lionsgate [this summer] and ask the best way to satisfy our fanbase.”

They expect that both movies will eventually get made (though Lionsgate has yet to officially greenlight anything). But is “Saw” a strictly cinematic experience? Maybe not quite. The producers are open to exploring TV.

“We’ve talked about for at least the last 10 years doing TV,” Koules said. “I think the evolution of TV has got us thinking. If we could figure out a way to do a great show, it’s something we would do and that would be something else from the ‘Book of Saw.’ We’ll probably do an OG ‘Saw’ or another ‘Spiral’ and then talk about TV.”

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Why the James Bond franchise could be complicated for Amazon after buying the MGM film studio

no time to die
Daniel Craig as James Bond in “No Time to Die”

  • Amazon said Wednesday that it would buy MGM, the film studio that releases the James Bond movies.
  • But producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson still have final say on the direction of the Bond franchise.
  • There won’t be a Prime Video Bond TV series without their approval.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon is expanding its film exploits.

The company announced on Wednesday that it would buy the MGM film studio, whose assets include the James Bond movies, for $8.45 billion. But the rights to the long-running franchise are more complicated than they might initially appear. MGM only owns half of Bond.

The other major players in the background of the Bond franchise are the half-siblings Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who oversee the franchise’s creative direction and own Eon Productions and its parent company Danjaq LLC.

Danjaq and MGM, which distributes the Bond movies domestically, co-own the copyright to the films. But Broccoli and Wilson are the ones with final say on the direction of the franchise. They inherited the series from Broccoli’s father, Albert Broccoli, who cofounded Eon in 1962.

In a rare interview in January 2020, Broccoli told Variety that her and Wilson were the “custodians of this character,” referring to Bond.

“We take that responsibility seriously,” she said.

Eon has produced 24 Bond movies, starting with 1962’s “Dr. No.” The 25th Bond entry, with star Daniel Craig in his final outing as the character, hits theaters in October after a long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic (it was originally scheduled for release in April 2020). Universal is handling international distribution.

Amazon’s purchase of MGM comes at a transitional period for the franchise with Craig exiting the role after 15 years and five movies.

The biggest Bond question after the MGM sale is whether Broccoli and Wilson would go along with an expansion of the Bond franchise outside of the main film series, such as a TV spinoff. As long as they’re the keepers of the franchise, it won’t be as easy as buying MGM for Amazon to capitalize on the prospects of that universe.

In other words, there won’t be a Prime Video Bond TV series unless Broccoli and Wilson want it, and they aren’t strangers to overruling ideas. The duo once nixed an idea for a “‘Smallville’-like television series that would have followed a teenage Bond at Eton,” according to Variety.

They haven’t entirely ruled out TV, though. Broccoli told Variety that they would be open to expanding the franchise to streaming.

“We make these films for the audiences,” Broccoli said. “We like to think that they’re going to be seen primarily on the big screen. But having said that, we have to look to the future. Our fans are the ones who dictate how they want to consume their entertainment. I don’t think we can rule anything out, because it’s the audience that will make those decisions. Not us.”

Amazon has placed a big TV bet on another established franchise, “The Lord of the Rings.” That will cost $465 million for just one season, including $250 million for the rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Perhaps Broccoli and Wilson would be more open to the idea of a prestige Bond series with a movie-level budget, if Amazon is willing to drop such a pretty penny.

Still, Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro, reiterated that much of Bond’s value comes from the shared theatrical experience.

Potential complications aside, the Bond franchise is a lucrative one, with $7 billion at the worldwide box office over the 24 Eon-produced films. 2012’s “Skyfall” was the first to make more than $1 billion globally and its followup, 2015’s “Spectre,” earned $880 million.

“As long as Amazon remains committed to the franchise’s roots and willing to work with its creative custodians to ensure that particular integrity remains at the series’ core, regardless of other storytelling branches the series might take, it should prove to be a highly lucrative relationship,” Robbins said.

He added that the relationship should evolve “as theatrical and streaming releases prove their ability to coexist.”

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