What Did You Think of “The Suicide Squad” and the State of Movie Theaters? (My Thoughts)

At movie night this weekend, we watched the new movie by James Gunn, “The Suicide Squad.” It follows a group of supervillains turned anti-heroes as they attempt to destroy a secret facility and its devious contents.

Short review: I enjoyed it! It features a number of characters who are fun to root for, a number of funny moments, a great soundtrack, some interesting backstories, and some commentary on the US as a “world police.”

I think my two favorite aspects of the movie were (a) the character-level stakes (you learn right away that any character is disposable, so every time a character is in trouble later in the movie, there’s a very real chance that they may not make it through the scene) and (b) the visuals, particularly how we’re invited to see through the eyes of a few different characters (notably Harley Quinn and Polka-Dot Man).

If the film had been released pre-COVID, I have no doubt that it would have earned $100 million on the opening weekend, but the combination of the pandemic and the movie’s availability on HBO Max resulted in a US box office of only a quarter of that amount. We watched it from home on HBO–I still haven’t been back to a theater, and with 1 million new COVID cases in the US over the last week, I can’t see that changing for quite a while. If you love watching movies in the theater as much as I do, please get vaccinated!

I can understand why studios are proceeding with releases despite the pandemic: They can either make some money now and strike a streaming deal….or they can sit on the movie and make $0. Can you believe that Legendary Studios has made more money from the Dune Imperium game than the Dune Imperium movie?!

This is just my personal experience, but as someone who used to get really excited about movies leading up to their release and compelled to watch everything on opening weekend, the last 18 months has potentially changed me forever. I still get very excited about movies, and I will pay to watch them at home on opening weekend. But if that option isn’t available, I’m happy to wait. That happened with F9, it happened with Minari, and it will happen with Free Guy this weekend–I’ll watch them when I’m ready (and when Megan is ready).

I wonder if I’m not alone in that change. If so, I think we’ll see almost every studio shift to a method similar to Disney+: Whether its on their streaming service or someone else’s, they’ll charge for you to watch the movie at home on opening weekend, or you can go to the theater and pay less.

The challenge, as I see it, is how much they’ll charge for different types of movies. Like, I paid the $30 to watch Black Widow. Megan and I are curious about Cruella, but not $30 curious. So we’ll watch it when it’s available for free in a few weeks. Similarly, if a movie isn’t available for streaming until a month or so after the theater release, I’m inclined to spend less on it. The best moment for me to get out my wallet is opening weekend.

My hope is that studios will consider the marketability of a movie when pricing the opening weekend cost–if not, I’m sure they’re leaving money on the table, as the pandemic has conditioned us to be patient.

What did you think about The Suicide Squad, and what are your thoughts on the state of theaters (and the future)?

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