One of the outcomes of the global health crisis is that as movie theaters shutter, Disney has had to delay the release of some serious blockbusters.
Perhaps the highest-profile delay was of the live-action Mulan that was set to hit theaters in March. The film was pushed back almost immediately after having its world premiere. Now, it is set to debut July 24 and could potentially debut to low-capacity theaters in order to maintain social distancing. Although this could make it seem like Disney would gross less if the theaters can’t seat as many viewers, Hollywood expects that films can succeed even with fewer seats in the movie theaters — here’s why.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, film executives think that films can be successful with theaters at a lower capacity. Paramount president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson is quoted, “Even at reduced capacity because of social distancing, there would be plenty of seats for the summer release schedule the way it is mapped out now.”
As it turns out, it’s not uncommon for theaters to go with 50% or more of their seats unfilled on the weekends and still have the business be profitable. It’s rare that a movie showing is sold out already, so even if demand remained the same, theater owners are confident in being able to seat viewers in a distanced pattern.
The suggested seating arrangement has come to be called “checkered seating” and would have guests sitting every other row, with seats between each guest on the occupied rows. This could slash capacity in theaters to 25% to 50% capacity.
Disney understands that theaters are rarely full under normal circumstances. CEO Bob Chapek mentioned that the Mulan release date is firm and that attendance in theaters generally runs at about 25% capacity on weekdays anyway.
Besides, even as seating in each theater is limited, there should be more screens available to show a movie. Distancing and capacity won’t be as much of an issue if five different screens are showing Mulan at one cinema. This could occur thanks to the fact that there will be fewer new films releasing for a few months as the film industry works to get back into a routine.
President and COO of Ted Mundorff summed up film industry feelings saying, “I’m happy to max out at any capacity we have to abide by. It means people want to come back to the movies. And 50 percent would be a very healthy crowd.”
We will have to see if all of these factors play out as anticipated once the film debuts in July!
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Will you be headed to theaters to see Mulan in July? Tell us in the comments!