In case you missed the memo: Ben Affleck is kind of a big deal.
The man can lead a major motion picture like say Justice League or better yet, The Snyder Cut of the Justice League. Yet, he has really made his name with the mid-budget to indie film like Good Will Hunting, The Town, and Argo–for two of the three, he won an Oscar.
Yet, following the decimation of COVID-19 on the entertainment world, Ben Affleck doesn’t feel too good about the future of his own sweet spot in cinema, as he shared with EW.
I don’t know what will be the reality post-COVID. Who knows what the theatrical business will be like. What I think has happened is that people have grown accustomed during this time to watching from home.Ben Affleck, EW, SEPT. 2020
The sad thing is: He’s right. Want to read more? It’s not fun…
It’s the End of The World As We Know It…
Typically, one movie star’s opinion on an entire industry doesn’t create much of a fuss. But when that star is Ben Affleck, Oscar-winning screenwriter, actor, director, and champion of the mid-market film, it carries some weight. And as far as he sees it, the outlook is grim because, as the case usually is, this is all about money.
I think after COVID movies like The Town, movies like Argo, all the movies I made would effectively end up on streamers. There will probably be like 20 to 25 movies a year that are distributed and they’ll all be big IP movies, whether it’s the type of movies that Disney makes like Aladdin or Star Wars or Avengers, something where you can count on the low-end being half a billion dollars worth of business.BEN AFFLECK, EW, SEPT. 2020
This “new normal” we are experiencing in the social distancing world of going to the movies (or not) seems to be a franchise-friendly environment only. That’s where the branding lives, the marketing moves, and the casual fans tend to visit.
Be honest: Argo was a fantastic movie, but you saw it on DVD, didn’t you?
Even Ben Affleck knows that tidbit of insight. The film costs $44.5M to make, but the opening weekend for the theatrical run earned $19.4M. It was a steady pace of mediocre earning. Then, when Oscar stuck his bulbus nose into it, people jaunted to the local theater to see what all the fuss was about…that’s where the $99M U.S. and $232M global earnings arrived.
Not for nothing, but Ben Affleck knows that too, which is probably why he is saying this. Not even Oscar, it seems, can get people off their pleather sofa and park their tail in a movie theater these days. Namely not for a film people thought was about a person.
“Argo? Who the hell is Argo? What a stupid name. Anywho…where’s the next Harry Potter film?”
Welcome to the Walmart of Winning Cinema
While cinephiles who still cherish the movie-going experience pray he’s wrong, he may have a point. Even Affleck hopes he is wrong, but the new normal economy shows us people are still skittish about actually going to the movies…even though they have no problem going to restaurants and grocery stores.
Yet, this is where Ben Affleck thinks we are:
I think it’s going to be very, very difficult for dramas and sort of mid-budget movies like [The Town] to get theatrical distribution. You’ll either see massive, massive movies getting huge wide-scale distribution or small movies doing little prestige releases in a few theaters but mostly being shown on streamers. I think that’s for better or worse, and you can draw your own conclusions, but that would be my best guess about the direction of the movie business just based on what I’m seeing now and experiences I’m having trying to get stuff made.BEN AFFLECK, EW, SEPT. 2020
Be honest with yourself.
Are you scared to go to the movies? Does seeing an indie encourage you to get of your butt and hit the cinema? Are you the type of person saying, “I’ll only risk it for another Marvel or DC movie?” If so, Ben Affleck is talking to you.
You see, it seems the VOD may not be such a bad thing after all. Hollywood has figured out how to monetize its offerings. Mind you, not too successfully, but maybe that’s a learning curve.
One we hope creates an eternal traffic jam because we’ll miss the movies. Ben, what do you think?
Who knows what the theatrical business will be like. What I think has happened is that people have grown accustomed during this time to watching from home. It benefited The Way Back, for sure. It had just come out so I think the ability to see a new movie at home enabled us to get many more viewers than would have come out to a theater to pay money to see a sad movie about an alcoholic dealing with the death of his child. People have now been acculturated to streaming and watching movies at home in ways they weren’t before, which probably accelerated a trend that was already taking place.BEN AFFLECK, EW, SEPT. 2020
This is a trend for the sake of public safety. Unfortunately, for the mid-market movies and its directors like Ben Affleck, that trend may become one of private luxury.