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Bob Iger Predicts Film Business ‘Contracts’ Post-COVID: Moviegoing ‘Just Not Worth It’ for Some

”I don’t think in a post-COVID world, it returns to what it was before,“ the former Disney CEO says in a CNN+ interview

Bob Iger may have led Disney to historic highs at the box office, but in an interview on CNN+, the former CEO added his name to the list of skeptics who think the movie business won’t ever get back to what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID got people a lot more comfortable watching New Media, app-based media in the home,” Iger told CNN’s Chris Wallace in an interview for the network’s new streaming service. “While I don’t think it duplicates the experience in the theater, it is good enough.

“And when you consider what you have to do to go to a theater, which is drive there or commute there in some form and pay for transportation, parking, etc., sit in a large room with a lot of people, to some there’s friction involved and it’s just not worth it,” he added.

While the biggest Hollywood blockbusters have done well in theaters since theaters reopened, including “No Time to Die,” “The Batman” and record breaker “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” films aimed toward older audiences have struggled to find traction as their key demographic has stayed home amid COVID-19 concerns.

Disney witnessed this first-hand with its Oscar-winning film “West Side Story,” which failed to make back its $100 million budget at the box office and, along with most of this year’s Oscar contenders, performed poorly in theaters. On the family side, Disney’s “Encanto” did decently during a one-month theatrical run in theaters this past winter. But Iger successor Bob Chapek said that its release on Disney+ was the “catalyst” that turned it into a cultural phenomenon.

Despite the pivot to streaming, Disney is still keeping a foot firmly planted in theaters with its biggest franchises, as Marvel Studios’ upcoming sequels to “Doctor Strange” and “Black Panther” are expected to be pre-pandemic-level hits barring a major COVID infection surge hurting customer confidence in moviegoing, and even though should still get a significant turnout from younger audiences. The studio is also heavily promoting the summer Pixar film “Lightyear” as a theatrical release after moving “Turning Red” to Disney+.

Iger believes that such films will still do well at the box office, but that whenever COVID-19 truly enters its endemic stage, the theatrical market will remain permanently diminished.

“I happen to think that people will still want to go to the movies, certain movies, and they won’t want to go to as many as they were going to,” he said. “So I don’t think the business disappears. I think it transforms and we’re seeing that already. And I don’t think in a post-COVID world, it returns to what it was before. I think it contracts.”

Iger’s full interview with Chris Wallace is available on CNN+.

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