Last Friday, Paramount shuffled their release dates again, including pushing Top Gun: Maverick from the patriotic and military-movie friendly July 4 weekend to November 19. Now, we are learning the reason for that move, or at least one of them, is that Tom Cruise wants to do a full world press tour for the film, which would not be possible this summer as many places around the globe, including Europe and Japan, continue to see new waves of COVID outbreaks. The hope, then, is that by the late fall the world will be “back to normal”—we keep using the word “normal” like we’re not all psychologically traumatized by the last year—and Cruise can embark on an actual, real press tour. Because you know Tom Cruise doesn’t Zoom anywhere but outer space.
Honestly, a good old-fashioned, press-the-flesh global publicity tour would be a sign that things in the industry are back to normal. But a sign that “normal” is forever changed is that the theater closures have begun. Arclight and Pacific Theaters announced last night they are closing permanently, at least in the current iteration. A studio could always buy the real estate as of 12:01 AM on January 1, 2022, when the Paramount decree is officially dead and distributors can, once again, become exhibitors, but for now this is the first national chain to shutter in the wake of the pandemic. (Alamo Drafthouse previously went into bankruptcy, but they will remain open, though with fewer locations.) This news is especially bad for West Coast cinephiles because it puts Los Angeles’s famed Cinerama Dome in jeopardy, as Arclight owns the legendary domed theater. It’s landmarked, so it probably won’t be demolished, but will it remain a movie theater or become, like, a Tesla dealership? Nobody knows.
Consumer confidence in movie theaters is rebounding, and we should have a halfway decent summer movie season, followed by an even more robust fall. If you’re concerned about movie theaters, it can’t come too soon, though I still expect 2022 to bring a slew of studios buying out theater chains. The Arclight/Pacific footprint—about 200 screens in the US—is probably too small for studios like Disney and Amazon, but it could do very nicely for Netflix. They don’t really care about movie theaters, but it would give them a national release option for filmmakers who DO, and they could ride to the rescue of a historic theater once again and save the Cinerama Dome. (They’ve previously saved the Paris Theater in New York and the Egyptian in LA.) Saving the Cinerama Dome, even if they don’t buy out the Arclight chain, would build a lot of goodwill. Not “Tom Cruise will make a movie for us” goodwill, though. They’d probably have to send him to Mars for that.