After a bleak few years, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige shared his thoughts on the supposed 'demise' of movie theaters.
The MCU figurehead has been through the wringer since March 2020, along with every other studio executive in the business. As the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic shut much of the global movie business down, studios like Marvel have to adapt.
While things have started to level out three years later, the entire process has been called "painful" by some Marvel Studios brass, a sentiment Kevin Feige apparently echoes.
Kevin Feige on the Future of Theaters
Appearing on The Movie Business Podcast, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige discussed his worries for the future of theatrical releases and what alleviated some of his concerns.
The Marvel Studios president brought up an anecdote about a discussion he had with an unnamed person in the movie business, where Feige asked if theatrical was over as a business model for the film industry:
"I was talking to somebody, and I will not namedrop, but I was on a Zoom with a group of people and I sort of shared this, ‘Is it gonna go away? Is the movie business gonna go away?’ And this very smart person said, ‘It’s not.’"
This unnamed executive told Feige, "It’ll take about three years" but it will eventually "get better:"
"He said, ‘It’s gonna take a few years,’ and this person said three years, and this was almost three years ago [around 2020]. [They] said, ‘It’ll take about three years to get better.’ And I thought, ‘That’s horrible. I want it to take six months to get better.’ And this very smart person turned out to be right."
This "very smart person" compared the theatrical experience to sports, lamenting that "anybody can watch any football game they want on television," yet "every week, hundreds of thousands, millions of people still go into stadiums:"
"But this person also said, I’m not a sport fan, but this person said, ‘Look, anybody can watch any football game they want on television. But every week, hundreds of thousands, millions of people still go into stadiums in freezing cold, in the rain, with a ton of people, driving, parking, overspending for a beer and a hotdog, because that shared experience is necessary for humanity."
This unnamed source said that if fans "start to see stadiums empty at sporting events" one day, then Hollywood can start worrying about movie theaters:
"And that if one day, you start to see stadiums empty at sporting events, then you can start worrying about theatrical. But, that’s not gonna happen, because you need this shared experience.’ So, my prognosis for the future is very positive, and there’ll be lots of change and lots of disruption, but people still wanna be in a theater, and cry, and cheer, and laugh together. And you’re seeing that this holiday season and hopefully we’ll see it continue to build and grow next year.”
Then when prodded with the idea of "the demise of theatrical [being] predicted every four or five years," Feige then joked about the cyclical nature of the "movie theaters are dying claims:"
“It’s incredible and I’ve seen quotes that people present about the fall of theatrical, thinking, ‘Oh yes, this is a new hot take.’ And then you realize, it’s from Variety from July of 1928.”
Does Marvel Have to Worry About Movie Theaters?
Despite the last couple of years looking a little dire for the future of movie theaters, it does not look like Hollywood needs to ring the alarm quite yet on the theatrical experience.
Marvel Studios specifically is going to be okay. These big-budget spectacles still can have long legs at the box office. Films like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Avatar: The Way of Water have proven this.
However, just because the theatrical experience is not going away, does not mean it will not look different than it did before. Maybe Kevin Feige does not need to worry, but the producers of prestige dramas, romantic comedies, and anything other than the blockbuster popcorn-crunching fare could have a reason to be nervous.
There will still be breakthroughs in the space (like Everything Everywhere All at Once), but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an already present trend of audiences not showing up at the theater for anything but the latest Tom Cruise action movie or super-powered release.
So yes, movie theaters are not going anywhere, but if the big-budget spectacles of Marvel and DC can be compared to the NFL's packed stadiums, basically anything else has turned into small-town high school volleyball being asked to fill that same 100,000-person stadium and coming up short.
Kevin Feige's latest big-screen epic, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, comes to theaters worldwide on Friday, February 17.