Sony Won’t ‘Make the Mistake’ of Releasing a $200 Million Movie Until More Theaters Reopen

“You’ll see a lot of strange things happen over the next six months in how films are released… but once we get back to normal we will have learned a lot,” Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Tony Vinciquerra said

Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Tony Vinciquerra doesn’t think releasing a major $200 million film in limited theaters, with limited capacity as the country reels from a global pandemic is a smart thing to do.

But in 2020, everyone’s taking chances.

“What we won’t do is make the mistake of putting a very, very expensive $200 million movie out in the market unless we’re sure that theaters are open and operating at significant capacity,” Vinciquerra said during Bank of America’s 2020 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference.

His comments came as Hollywood struggles to get its hands around the recent release of Warner Bros. “Tenet,” which grossed $20 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. (without New York or L.A. theaters showing it). Is that good? Is it what the industry should expect right now for a $200 million film that has been touted as the movie to reignite the movie going crowd?

“Tenet” has grossed more than $150 million worldwide, but the question at hand is regarding theaters in the U.S., as the coronavirus situation is drastically different around the world.

But there doesn’t seem to be an answer. Right now, at least as far as Sony is concerned, Vinciquerra said they’re interested in learning as much as possible.

“You’ll see a lot of strange things happen over the next six months in how films are released, how they’re scheduled, how they’re marketed, but once we get back to norma,l we will have learned a lot I think and found ways to do things that are somewhat different and hopefully better,” Vinciquerra said during the conference, which was live streamed. “We have a film opening this weekend, a small film, which I think will do pretty well.

The movie, ‘Broken Hearts Gallery, won’t have a lot of competition, he said, so he expects it to have a long run.

Sony, which released the year’s highest-grossing film, “Bad Boys For Life,” back in January, doesn’t have anther blockbuster release on the schedule for 2020 after shifting its slate due to the shutdown.

The concern is no longer how do studios and how does Hollywood survive the coronavirus pandemic, but instead what does the world look like six months, a year, two years from now.

Vinciquerra said that production, especially on the TV side, has already ramped up and that things are so busy that Sony’s sound stages on the lot in Culver City are all booked up. “We’ve been trying to squeeze some of our own shows on our lot, we can’t do that because there’s no availability and there’s no stages really available anywhere in L.A. at the moment,” he said.

While film production has restarted for some projects that were already in the swing of things when the shutdown hit, Vinciquerra said that he imagines new film production will take a little longer because right now studios are having a hard time getting insurance for new productions.

“The biggest issue will be how do you produce television and film. I think you’ll find that there will be fewer people on the sets. You’ll have a lot more efficiency. You’ll do a lot more testing. You’ll do a lot more safety protocol,” Vinciquerra said. “Two things will happen from that: One, it’ll be a little more expensive, productions will be a bit more expensive because of the safety protocols and the testing and that’s going to go on for a while, even post vaccine we believe.”

They’re learning much more about how best to produce films, not just for health and safety concerns either, Vinciquerra said. They’re learning to be more efficient, as well as how they can be flexible and play with distribution models, and Vinciquerra expects the lessons of 2020 to stick around Hollywood long after the shutdown has ended.

Trey Williams

Trey Williams

Film Reporter covering the biz • trey.williams@thewrap.com • Twitter: @trey3williams



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