Lionsgate Vice Chairman: Pandemic Changed Theatrical Business Forever

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Lionsgate Vice Chairman Believes the Pandemic Permanently Changed the Theatrical Business

“All of those windows are being sliced and diced dramatically,” Burns argues

Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns thinks there is no going back to the pre-pandemic business model for theaters.

“I think the theatrical business is changed forever. And it probably took a pandemic to actually start to move that along,” Burns said during a Goldman Sachs conference on Wednesday, arguing that the industry will see more windowing deals similar to the agreement between Universal and AMC, which allows the studio to take films out of the theaters and put them on streaming after only 17 days.

“The idea that we have three weekends theatrically and then some sort of rev share arrangement… that’s certainly interesting,” he said, noting that Lionsgate would be interested in a similar type of arrangement. Burns pointed to the studio’s upcoming movie “Antebellum” as an example of a future, multi-platform model for theatrical releases.

The Janelle Monae-led film will get a theatrical release in international territories, while at the same debut on demand for purchase, before eventually going to a streaming service. “All of those windows are being sliced and diced dramatically,” he said. “I think for the next few years, we’re going to have a lot of different options of how we’re going to release those theatrical titles.”

The sluggish performance of “Tenet,” the first major new release of the COVID-era and the pushback of other major films like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Candyman” means that the theater business will continue to struggle to bring in customers, who are already wary of sitting in an enclosed theater amid a still ongoing pandemic. But Burns thinks that, when the pandemic has run its course and theaters will be able to hold full audiences again, big blockbusters will still start off in theaters.

“I think it’s going to depend on the consumer and depend on for us to figure out what the economics model is, but do I foresee that ‘John Wick’ and that the next ‘Hunger Games’ movie are going to be a theatrical release? Yes, I do. However, will the windows change? Yes, they probably will.”

Burns’ comments came in a bit of contrast to IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond, who spoke earlier in the day. Gelfond described premium VOD as a “failed experiment” and said he doesn’t see too many other deals similar to Universal-AMC.

“I just don’t think that model is going to catch on,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of the studios and I don’t think they’re interested in that model. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be changes to the windowing in different ways, but I don’t think that particular model is going to get real traction.”

Trey Williams contributed to this story

Tim Baysinger