If the theater does reopen after two weeks, as currently planned, it will do so in a market where most of the major films set to be released in the near future have been delayed.
“No Time to Die,” the 25th film in the James Bond franchise, moved its release to November and “Fast and Furious 9” moved to April 2021. “A Quiet Place: Part II,” “Mulan” and “Black Widow” are also seeking new release dates.
In addition to pushing back their tentpole films, studios are experimenting with decreasing the amount of time between a film’s theatrical release and its availability at home.
Universal is making “The Invisible Man,” “Emma” and “The Hunt,” its three most recent theatrical releases, available for rental as early as Friday for $19.99, and will do the same for “Trolls World Tour” on April 10.
Martin said he thinks this experimentation is a game-changer, though he expects studios to hold their blockbusters for theatrical release.
“If this goes on for a long time and if people get really accustomed to watching new release movies in their homes instantly for a relatively low cost compared to the increasing stress and concessions plus premium ticket prices of the theatrical experience, I don’t know how quickly people are going to back to the way things were,” Martin said.
However, Martin feels that the Varsity is well-suited for such a change to occur.
“The Varsity seems to thrive on particular movies,” Martin said. “When they get a horror movie in there or a superhero blockbuster, it’s packed. All the students come out because it’s such a UNC-Chapel Hill student-oriented theater.”
The fallout of studios’ experimentation may affect the livelihood of independent theaters, such as the Varsity, well into the future.
“The real question is going to be how much closing for extended periods of time diminishes the appeal of movie theaters, especially smaller, community-based theaters like the Varsity,” Martin said.