Cinema owner says pandemic proves streaming can’t kill the silver screen

An exterior view shows the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 movie theatre in New York, U.S., in this undated handout photo.

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, Canadian movie buffs are getting a rare chance to see some flicks before Americans.

After months of movies being delayed until next year, or going direct to streaming, many U.S. studios are now releasing their films in Canada ahead of U.S. markets.

The latest SpongeBob movie hit Canadian theatres on Aug. 14, with no set release date for American audiences. Russell Crowe’s latest thriller flick Unhinged got a one-week head start in Canada, while director Christopher Nolan’s spy movie Tenet will also get a week’s advance showing in Canada.

Vince Guzzo, president and CEO of quebec-based Cinémas Guzzo and star on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, said there are a few reasons why Canadians are getting a sneak-peek.

“I think what’s happened is that we’ve been able to convince them our theatres are over 75 per cent open,” said Guzzo. “While the capacity in them may not be anywhere close to 100 or anywhere close to 50, we’re open.”

 Vincenzo Guzzo, president of Cinémas Guzzo.

He said test runs in Canadian markets can help studios make decisions about promotional budgets, and how quickly they’ll want to move movies from theatrical releases into secondary markets such as online rentals and streaming services.

“They’re not really doing us a favour – they’re just being intelligent about it,” he said.

Guzzo explained that the pandemic has shown that streaming services such as Netflix won’t actually displace movie theatres, because studios stand to make more money when they take a share of ticket sales on blockbusters.

He said they don’t make more money if a movie gets more views on Netflix.

Hollywood studios have delayed the release of some major blockbusters which were set to hit theatres this summer, such as

the latest James Bond flick No Time to Die

and

the new Ghosbusters franchise reboot, which was largely shot in Alberta

.

“Up to now, I think every movie that went straight to Netflix or straight to streaming is a movie that should’ve gone there in the first place,” said Guzzo.

“Anybody who tries to sell you this theory that Trolls was a huge success by going streaming and making 100 million in three weeks, I’d like to remind them that 100 million in streaming when 90 per cent of North America was quarantined doesn’t impress me.”

Trolls also made money not by going to major streaming services, but by being available for online rental.

Guzzo also mused that the three-hour Scorsese film The Irishman, which went almost directly to Netflix, was too long and boring for theatres.

He said despite COVID-19 and physical distancing restrictions, theatres aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

He said he’s never seen a financial model where a blockbuster movie like The Avengers makes as much money as it did without first going through theatres.

“This whole belief that convenience is going to make you more money, it doesn’t work,” he said.

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