Tom Hanks Believes COVID-19 Has Forced An Important ‘Sea Change’ In The Movie Theater Industry

Throughout the year, the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us across the globe without a lot of places to go other than our couches. With that reality, many of us have been able to keep up our movie and television viewing intact, but have missed going out and seeing a movie on the big screen with an audience full of people, and so have struggling theaters. The circumstances have caused quite a bit of shifts, to which News of the WorldsTom Hanks is now putting his two cents in.

It's been a heated discussion among the industry, with filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve and Tenet’s Christopher Nolan speaking out against studios (namely Warner Bros) trading exclusive theatrical experiences for more straight-to-streaming releases. According to Tom Hanks, it’s been a trend that the industry was headed for either way. In his words to CinemaBlend:

A sea change was due anyway. It was coming… The sea change that has been wrought by COVID-19 has been a slow train coming. I think there will be an awful lot of movies that will only be streamed and it will be fine to see them that way because they are actually built, made and constructed for somebody’s pretty good widescreen TV they have at home. And there will be other movies that will be playing in that window, and people will flock to them in order to see them on the big screen while they have the chance. But without a doubt, we are actually in the big curve of change that I think has been due.

For some time, theaters have been struggling to market certain movies, such as dramas or small independent films, for the theaters, and Tom Hanks thinks it’s been time for the industry to evolve for a while. Most movies can be enjoyed without a big screen or movie ticket. Hanks does believe movies like the Marvel and DC films are made for a theatrical experience and will continue to be the lifeblood for theater exhibitors. Hanks also said this about the theatrical experience:

Even in Los Angeles, it’s a bit hard to go to the movies isn’t it? You gotta drive, you gotta park. You gotta be there at a very certain time. I love the Arclight… There's also a theater that was charging $27 a seat so that people could bring you the nachos. They didn’t even have a snack bar where you could stand in line. And you had to order from somebody, which means as you’re watching Rocketman as I did, somebody comes by and says ‘Can I get you some more cheese on your nachos.’

It’s true. His anecdote makes it clear that theaters are not always accessible to the public anymore, and they have been struggling to the point of raising prices and offering food and beverages. Hanks is all about going to the theater, but is advocating for a balance that he believes Hollywood is heading to. In his words:

When I was a kid and the ABC Sunday Night movie played the first half of David Lean’s Bridge Over the River Kwai in 1:3:3 with commercials, I was still convinced that it was one of the greatest motion pictures I’ve ever seen and it was as primitive a display as possible. It may have even been in black and white. I don’t think we had a color television the first time and you had to watch the second half on Monday night. That didn’t take away from my enjoyment. Now of course with Netflix and other streaming services, we have the ability to sit and watch a movie anytime we want to on our couch. If the movie is really great and engaging, you can still come away from that experience thinking that was one of the greatest motion pictures I’d ever seen. I experienced that just recently with Chernobyl.

If a movie is truly great, or in this case a television show as truly spectacular as HBO’s Chernobyl, one doesn’t need a big screen to become entranced by the filmmaking and greatly appreciate it. Hanks reminiscenced on his childhood, watching the war movie at home on television and still coming away with adoration for the film he had seen.

Tom Hanks’ News of the World will be debuting in select theaters on Christmas Day. Check out what critics are saying about the Western ahead of its release.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.