Coming attractions: Movie theaters are primed for a comeback

As we look toward the end of the pandemic, the success of "Godzilla vs. Kong" in movie theaters that had been shuttered for a year has raised prospects for the return of movie exhibition. Correspondent Tracy Smith talks with industry experts who predict that, for movie studios and brick-and-mortar theater owners, happy days may soon be here again.

Video Transcript

- Coming Attractions are the fuel and the promise Hollywood runs on. But on this particular Oscar Sunday, questions abound as to what sort of future the industry even has after more than a year in the dark due to COVID. Tracy Smith has our tickets.

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- I just want to tell you all how happy I am to be back in the studio making a picture again

TRACY SMITH: In the 1950 film, Sunset Boulevard, washed-up screen idol Norma Desmond was both glamorous and tragic. And the same might be said for a real life movie relic at Sunset in Vine. For most of the past 60 years, the Cinerama Dome was a landmark movie palace and a true Hollywood player since the day it opened, November 7th, 1963.

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- The geodesic domed movie palace cost about $1 million to build, and the motion picture cost upwards of $10 million to produce.

TRACY SMITH: But, like so many other movie houses, The Dome shut down last year. Another casualty of the financial realities of the pandemic.

PAUL DE GARABEDIAN: The pandemic literally overnight decimated the movie theater business.

TRACY SMITH: Comscore Senior Media Analyst, Paul de Garabedian.

PAUL DE GARABEDIAN: It was so bleak that people couldn't even imagine that theaters would be shut down for a month, let alone a year. That moment changed the world for the movie theater industry and nobody saw it coming.

TRACY SMITH: And now the Cinerama Dome's owners say it'll stay closed, even after the pandemic. But even if it's closed for good, that doesn't mean that movie-going is going away. In fact, word on the street is that the movie business might just be getting ready to take off and soar to heights no one ever thought possible.

- Coming soon to a brick and mortar theater near you. A flock of big movies fighting for your attention.

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- Good morning, aviator's. This is your captain speaking. Today's exercise is dog fighting.

- Two versus one, you've got to be kidding.

- Tom Cruise's much delayed Top Gun sequel will be in the thick of it.

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- How many others are there?

- So will Marvel's Black Widow. And by the fall--

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- Come on, Bond, where the hell are you.

- -- James Bond will make an entrance.

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- You can imagine why I've come back to play.

- So why are studios now sending movies back to the theaters? You could ask these guys. Since it opened March 31st, the movie Godzilla versus Kong has been crushing it with a $30 million plus opening weekend. And that's giving the industry reason for hope.

PAUL DE GARABEDIAN: People were wondering what's going to happen with Godzilla versus Kong, and there was a huge collective sigh of relief when it over-performed by a huge margin in theaters around the globe.

TRACY SMITH: I kind of half expected starting this story that at least someone would be doom and gloom. But it's not going to be you, I mean, it says--

PAUL DE GARABEDIAN: No. Here's the thing, if Godzilla versus Kong had done $5 million instead of $32 million, then you could argue with me that the theater is the product of a bygone era, that would go extinct like a prehistoric lizard. And guess what, it's not happening.

TRACY SMITH: What's more, the movie opened day and date. Meaning that it was released on streaming on the exact same day and people still went out to see it.

PAUL DE GARABEDIAN: So it's no flash in the pan. Godzilla was a very important milestone for the industry.

TRACY SMITH: And there's something else at work here. As movies are the lifeblood of theaters, so too can theaters be good for a movie. For example, last year's Best Picture winner, Parasite according to Parasite's distributor, Neon president Alyssa Federoff.

ALYSSA FEDEROFF: I think it absolutely changed the course of Parasite to be in theaters for as long as it was. And the fact that it ran in theaters for six months straight, only made it a bigger phenomenon and more exciting for the audience.

- You miss the old life.

- Do you?

- Every day.

TRACY SMITH: Talk about exciting.

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- Now, let us talk about the wild missions we've been on.

TRACY SMITH: The Fast and Furious franchise will bring its ninth installment to theaters in July. Still fast, still furious, still wildly profitable.

FRANKLIN LEONARD: If you had told me or told the industry 30 years ago that a film franchise about fast cars with diverse stars-- it's one of the most diverse film franchises in the industry-- would become the number one movie in China ever, they would've said you were crazy. But that's exactly what happened.

TRACY SMITH: Franklin Leonard is a former movie executive who started the Blacklist, an annual survey of film producers favorite unproduced movie scripts. The ones that sometimes get lost in the Hollywood shuffle.

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- Our job is not to save one passenger convoy, it is to win the war.

TRACY SMITH: And when they do get made Blacklist films often win Oscars, like 2015's The Imitation Game.

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- Our job was to crack Enigma.

- Oh, we've done that.

TRACY SMITH: Now, because of the pandemic Leonard says even more Blacklist films could be on the way.

FRANKLIN LEONARD: As the pandemic began, you know, people were stuck at home, and if you are a movie maker, or television maker, what you want to be doing is reading good stuff that you can try to go make. And that's really what we saw happen. When this is all over and as we're coming out of it, we're going to need to share stories with each other about how we survived this moment, what it means, and what we do now.

TRACY SMITH: And what we do now, or at least soon if the experts are right, is get up off the couch and go to the movies. You can see things start to come back, what happens next?

PAUL DE GARABEDIAN: I think next up is the appreciation for the movie theater, even more so than before. There will be changes in the industry. We don't know what all of those are going to be, but don't count out the movie theater. It's making that big Hollywood comeback and we're living through it right now.