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Movie studios and their big blockbusters’ profit comes a lot from overseas audiences. Here's what we know about the impact of delayed releases.

‘Tenet’ delayed again: Why movie studios need to rethink distribution deals

If you thought you were finally going to see the inside of your favorite theater by the end of July, you thought wrong. With Christopher Nolan’s Tenet delayed again, this time indefinitely, movie theaters across the country are changing their reopening plans for mid-late August. 

Now, the first chance people will get to hit theaters for a major release would be in time for Disney’s Mulan on August 21st, but that’s not even a set deal yet. Yet, around the world, plenty of other countries where the coronavirus has been nearly eliminated are reopening their theaters with nothing new to watch. Why?

Because Hollywood is too American-centric with its news releases.

Overseas box office is big yet overlooked

We’ve heard it time and time again from movie studios: nearly half (and sometimes more) of big blockbusters’ profit comes from overseas audiences. Avengers: Endgame would never have made $1 billion in one weekend if it wasn’t for a same day international release. 

Yet so many studios delay big blockbusters overseas, aiming to give the film to American audiences first. For example, Toy Story 3, one of the highest grossing movies of 2010, didn’t get released in the UK until a month after its American release. The final Harry Potter film didn’t get a Chinese release until 3 weeks after the American release. 

Heck, even Japan and India are just getting The Addams Family reboot to their theaters. So why are these audiences so highly recognized by American movie studios yet completely ignored when it comes to anticipated releases? 

An American-centric model

It’s not like these films won’t do well overseas. Again, most major studios heavily rely on that box office to not only break even but make a profit and be successful. So why are studios so afraid of releasing these movies internationally before releasing them in America?

Simple: They know these countries will just suck it up and wait. If it’s anticipated enough, people will be willing to put up with a wait to see the film they want on the big screen. It worked with some of the top 80s movies like Ghostbusters and ET

Changing the rules thanks to COVID-19

Now, international release dates and American release dates have been getting closer and closer for years for most movies. Again, Avengers: Endgame released in nearly every country in the world on April 26th. But now, with COVID-19 under control in most Asian countries, and no end in sight in America, people are wondering why the rest of the world is forced to suffer with no new movies. 

Warner Bros. has stated that Tenet will most likely skip over the “traditional day-and-date release” as their chairman said, and get an early release overseas. But this is after weeks of using Tenet as the marker for when the world’s cinemas could reopen. 

Maybe it’s a reluctance to admit Hollywood’s staying power isn’t what it used to be, but American studios need to acknowledge that waiting until America gets COVID-19 under control is guaranteeing a loss. Right now, experts estimate theaters in America won’t be safe to reopen until September. 

Movie studios need to be financially smart

If these big studios want to try and recoup their investments, they’ll bank on the rest of the world like they always do to come through with high box office numbers. These are unprecedented times we’re living in, so to pretend like studios can rely on American income right now is unrealistic. Sure, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark will reopen the minute Tenet hits theaters.

But most of China’s big theater chains are reopening, and China is easily the second biggest box office market next to America for these films. Plus, Mulan was expected to bring in big numbers in China thanks to the Chinese actors cast in it. To pretend like these films will make no money if they don’t launch in the US at the same time is ridiculous. 

These studios are costing themselves huge bucks if they sit on these movies until the US is ready. They need to do the smart thing and release them to the theaters overseas that have opened up already. For once, only think about the cash and not the content itself.

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