Imax CEO Rich Gelfond believes that a growing consensus around the long-standing topic of theatrical movie release windows will boost the show’s resumption in 2021 and beyond.
In addition to the big studios approving 30- to 45-day exclusive windows (half of the historical period), officially or implicitly, the executive also believes streaming services will satisfy them halfway. Netflix, Apple, Amazon Prime Video and others will meet a standard window of around 45 days for their top-tier titles, Gelfond predicts.
The CEO weighed in during an online session at Morgan Stanley’s annual tech, media and telecommunications conference. He issued a caveat, noting that Imax’s large-format sites typically only run movies for a week or two, meaning windows have never been a major sticking point for the company.
Amazon Fire TV Expands Live Programming to 200 Free Channels, Adding Xumo and IMDb TV, and Updating User Features
Nonetheless, “before the pandemic there were all kinds of swirling stories” with experts predicting “there will be no windows or short windows” and I think it was an industry overhang. Said Gelfond. “The clarity is good.”
Many studios are owned by parent companies that are aggressively moving into direct-to-consumer streaming and releasing major movies online at the same time they hit theaters. But Gelfand expects window adjustments to work in reverse as well. Tech companies, as they invest in mega-budget projects with top filmmakers and stars, will accept limited windows in exchange for the “stature” offered by theatrical engagement, he said.
“We’re going to see some of the pure streaming companies – the Apples, the Netflix, the Amazons, they’re going to change their release models because the movies won’t last 90 days like they used to,” Gelfond says. “I think you’re going to start seeing them put their films on theatrical platforms, driven somewhat by the talent, who wants to make it known, and somewhat driven by the economy.” With a theatrical release, “a film gains much more stature. … Streamers will find that they can take advantage of this with a theatrical release. “
A slew of commentary from executives in recent days supports Gelfond’s reading of the market, although in many cases they have kept their cards close to their waistcoat in terms of strategy. But Gelfond envisions a more stable environment, which will combine with growing confidence among moviegoers exiting Covid to boost the industry as a whole.
The drop in ratings on last Sunday’s Golden Globes telecast on NBC was nobody’s direct fault, Gelfond said, but it showed that “people weren’t really excited about the stars or the movies.” Streaming will never be “a place to watch a blockbuster movie,” he said.