The future doesn’t arrive all at once, like someone just flicked a switch. It goes back and forth as the new ways gradually muscle out the old. Which is a fancy way of saying if you want to check out the future of cinema, now’s the time to visit your local multiplex.
For most of this year – same as every other year – there’s been two or three new major films starting each and every week. But not this week: this week there’s nothing new (well, nothing major) starting.
That’s because last week Frozen II hit cinemas (also Knives Out, which is great but was just counter-programming by a smaller distributor), and the Disney sequel was seen by everyone as such a sure thing at the box office that nobody wanted to put their film up against it for two weeks in a row.
And after that?
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker starts mid-December, and again, it’s the only (big) movie out until the Boxing Day flood.
For almost a month, if you want to see a new movie at the cinema all you have to choose from is Disney movies. And sure, if you like Disney movies there’s nothing bad about this news. They’re not even the same kind of Disney movie, so it doesn’t exactly feel like you’re being denied a choice of what to watch. But it doesn’t take much to see where this kind of thing is going.
If Disney can get their film production up to, say, twelve big movies a year that can attract this kind of treatment, then we’re looking at half a month every month where the only new movie out is a Disney movie – Star Wars, Marvel, their animated titles, whatever they can get to work from the Fox catalogue now they own them too.
And that only leaves half a year for every other kind of movie to get into cinemas: if other studios manage to make their own big blockbuster series – Warner Brothers with their DC movies, Universal has the Fast & Furious films, Sony usually has a James Bond movie up their sleeve – then where’s the room at the cinemas for anything else?
When people (okay, it’s usually me) complain that there are too many superhero movies and fans say “there’s only like, six a year”, this is what I’m really complaining about: increasingly a certain kind of blockbuster isn’t just dominating the discussion about movies, they’re also taking over the physical space required to screen a movie to the public.
It’s one thing to dislike superhero movies, or Disney movies in general, when they’re just one of two or three movies out that week: when they’re the only movie out this week, and nothing new is released the next week, and then the week after the only thing being released is another Disney movie, then pretty soon if you don’t like Disney movies you’re not going to go to the movies at all.
Which is no doubt fine with Disney (and anyone else who can survive off making Disney-style movies), but if you like seeing anything else on the big screen – maybe horror, maybe crime, maybe just something that isn’t loud and colourful – this is the kind of future you don’t want for Christmas.
Written by Anthony Morris