On this episode of The Playlist Podcast, Charles Barfield, Mike DeAngelo, and Brian Farvour are joined by a very special guest, Rolando Rodriguez, the CEO and President of Marcus Theatres. For those unaware, Marcus Theatres is the fourth-largest cinema chain in the US and fifth-largest in North America with more than 1,100 screens. And with 2021 upon us, we thought this would be the perfect time to speak with an expert on the theatrical release business about the struggles of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as what the exhibition industry is going to do to make sure it survives and thrives in 2021.
Over the course of the conversation, Rolando talks about lessons learned from 2020 and the pandemic, which shut down Marcus Theatres (and every other cinema) for most of the year. He also explains why Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” wasn’t the savior of the theatrical experience that many were hoping for.
“[‘Tenet’] was a great movie, but it’s like watching a chess game,” said Rodriguez about the film’s struggles at the box office. “And I also felt that consumers were ready to just have fun and to go in and just watch something that’s fun and makes you laugh and not overly complicated. Look, the director is a genius. I love him, and I love the film. But I would say if there would have been a more family-friendly [film] like ‘The Croods,’ I think families were just ready to go and get out in droves and see a movie that was just fun and funny and whatnot. Regardless, our expectations were certainly higher.”
He added, “When we opened up with ‘Tenet,’ there was one option. That was the only movie we had in the marketplace. So that also limited the audience and the people we could reach.”
The discussion also turned to what theaters need from studios if they hope to survive in 2021.
“We’re operating under the premise of losing less money than being closed. Think about that,” Rodriguez said about the current state of the exhibition business. “That means we’re keeping the art form alive. We’re keeping the businesses open. So, when [studios] start releasing their films, theaters are open. They’re ready to go. So, we’re making an investment. We’re asking…you don’t have to put out all of your blockbusters, but put out a couple of films in January and February that at least keeps us going, so that we know in March we can hit a lot harder. But we still need something in January and February.”
We also dive deep into streaming and how theaters and platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max can coexist and prosper together. But before that fully happens, Rodriguez thinks streaming platforms will have to compete against each other.
“[Streaming] is becoming overly saturated,” he explained. “How many streaming services do you want to name off? And how many streaming services can any consumer carry? At $10 or $15 a pop, how many are you going to carry?…I think they’re going to heavily compete against each other. And I think there’s going to be a challenge for them, that at some point in time, some of those are going to have to go away. “
You can hear the full interview in the podcast below:
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