With many theaters around the United States still closed, AMC Theaters saying that they will be out of money by the end of the year, and Regal having just closed all of their theaters once more, the theatrical experience is becoming more of a rarity in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most adapted modern authors – Stephen King – recently returned to theaters and the experience left him feeling terrible.
In a tweet posted on October 11, 2020, Stephen King spoke about this visit to theaters and how dire things have become for the industry: “I went to the movies last night. First time since February. No problem social distancing. Saturday night, 7 screens, 4 total customers including me and my nephew. I feel terrible for the film industry.”
With studios pushing back films and moving their focus to streaming, theaters have had an uphill battle over the last few months. Many opened around the country (as apparently they did where Stephen King lives) due to the release of Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, but despite Nolan’s statements that the film had to be seen on a big screen, audiences did not come out in droves as theaters and Warner Bros. had hoped. Six weeks after its release, Tenet has made slightly more than $48 million. By comparison, last year’s flop Gemini Man also only made $48 million in its entire run.
Stephen King isn’t just an onlooker here, he’s heavily involved in Hollywood and the movie making business. This has been an extremely odd time for theaters, as revival releases and drive-in showings have been a large part of the overall box office in recent months, as newer releases have struggled.
For example, The War with Grandpa was the #1 film for the weekend of October 9-11, with only $3.6 million. Last Columbus Day weekend, Joker was the #1 film in its second weekend with over $55 million. While Tenet is still holding near the top of the box office at #2 with small intake each week, the rest of the box office is full of oddities. 1993’s Hocus Pocus is currently the #3 film in the country, while 2017’s Coco and 1980’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back are both in the top ten.
In an interview with CNBC, Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations said, “If the U.S. government would have taken this seriously when the shutdown began, and mapped out a comprehensive plan of action, we’d all be sitting in our favorite theaters right now, watching Hollywood blockbusters in their normal habitat. Bock continued, “Now, because of the lack of leadership, theaters across America are on the verge of bankruptcy with no real cinematic savior in sight.” Stephen King, like the rest of us, has taken note.
Despite how depressing the state of theaters is right now, Stephen King is also surely disappointed that he might not get to see some of his own works adapted on the big screen any time soon. In just the last year, King had three films receive a theatrical release, Pet Sematary, It Chapter Two and Doctor Sleep. Currently, Stephen King has over a dozen film adaptations of his work in production. These include Her Smell director Alex Ross Perry’s adaptation of The Dark Half, a new version of Firestarter from Blumhouse Productions, From a Buick 8 from The Boy director William Brent Bell, Revival from Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan, and The Tommyknockers from Saw director James Wan.