CinemaCon continues, and we will DEFINITELY talk about the newest Envelopegate, but right now, let’s talk Barbie. Specifically, Margot Robbie as Barbie in the movie she is producing and starring in, with Greta Gerwig directing. The cast is stacked, besides Robbie there is Ryan Gosling as Ken, plus Issa Rae, Emma Mackey, Kate McKinnon, Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, Alexandra Shipp, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Rhea Perlman, Emerald Fennell, Hari Nef, America Ferrera, and Simu Liu. That’s a lot of people! But it’s Margot Barbie that’s front and center in the first look photo:
The first look at Margot Robbie as Barbie! Itâ€™s fantastic! pic.twitter.com/bGsltRXaYx— Fandango (@Fandango) April 26, 2022
I LOVE IT. What strikes me most is that Robbie isn’t made up to look plastic, she looks like a real person styled like Barbie. But! Her HANDS! The way she has her fingers pressed together like Barbie’s plastic-meld hands is PERFECT. I hope the movie is like this, that everyone just has scoop hands, and no one can pick anything up. Like totally straightforward story, dramatic even, give me 100% serious Barbie-world drama but no one has opposable thumbs. I realize this is basically the hot dog fingers section of Everything Everywhere All At Once, but that’s what I now want from the Barbie movie. I didn’t grow up with Barbie, I have no horse in this race, so maybe serious Barbie people—and they ARE out there—would hate this, but until we see proof otherwise, I am going to commit wholeheartedly to the idea that Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig are making a serious movie about Barbie except everyone has scoop hands.
As for the rest of CinemaCon, eh. Unlike Comic Con, the trailers and sizzle reels showed off at CinemaCon take weeks or even months to be made available to the public. Oh, there’s a clip of Idris Elba punching a lion? Sounds cool, bro, but WE can’t see it, so that’s the end of that conversation. What strikes me most about the news coming out of CinemaCon this year, two years after COVID ravaged the theatrical exhibition model, isn’t casting announcements or breathless descriptions of advertisements, it’s that it seems like both sides of the film industry are content to pretend like the studio-distributor relationship hasn’t fundamentally changed. John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, boasted that “simultaneous release is dead as a business model”, and while he’s right about the role piracy plays in that, in his keynote, Fithian skimmed over the OTHER changes to the distribution model.
For instance, no one is mentioning that the 90-day window is dead. A-listers like Tom Cruise and Christopher Nolan might have the clout to secure that kind of release for their movies, but as an industry standard? Gone. 45 days is going to become more and more common, as we saw with The Batman—it’s rumored Marvel will drop Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on Disney+ after six weeks, too—and for a while it will be a free for all as distributors figure out how to balance traditional theatrical release, still the most lucrative option on the table, and a cemented audience preference for watching at home.
Similarly, on Monday Sony chief Tom Rothman kicked things off with a speech in which he touted Sony’s “loyalty” to movie theaters during the pandemic, but nobody mentioned all those Sony movies he sold to streaming services. Sure, he held onto Spider-Man and Morbius (LOL) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but everything else? The smaller stuff? The family-oriented stuff? He chucked it all at streaming, but where is that in his big speech about loyalty? The attitude at CinemaCon seems to be that theaters survived the plague unscathed, but nobody was talking about theaters dying completely, the COVID conversation was and is about how the pandemic hastened audience trends and shifted the bulk of viewing to an at-home model.
Yes, people will go to the theaters for big stuff, your superheroes and Top Guns and what not. But they don’t turn out for dramas and character-driven fare. In its first week, The Northman has made less than $15 million. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a studio comedy with an A-list star, at one time a guaranteed $100 million hit, has made less than $10 million. But nowhere at CinemaCon is anyone acknowledging that the business HAS changed, and theaters aren’t as robust as they were two years ago, let alone ten years ago. Theaters are getting by with fewer movies doing shorter runs, and eventually, that’s going to mean fewer theaters, too. Not no theaters, but fewer. Between this and merger mania, the industry is shrinking, and somehow, it’s NOT a constant topic of conversation among the people actually in a position to do something about it. Instead, they’re bragging about defeating simultaneous release as if the whole industry isn’t walking around on two broken legs.
Live long and gossip,