The simple fact is that no major studio has been nimble enough to get around the pandemic’s biggest obstacles. This is partly due to Hollywood’s increasing reliance on blockbusters. In decades past, Hollywood churned out plenty of cheaper movies that relied on word of mouth and could play for months on end, slowly racking up profits. But modern tentpole releases such as Mulan and Tenet are designed to have spectacular global rollouts, packing theaters and securing massive opening-weekend grosses. Think hundreds of millions of dollars rather than merely tens of millions.
Hollywood knows how to function in only one way anymore, and that has made the industry devastatingly vulnerable this year. Funnily enough, the best-case scenario is probably something along the lines of Tenet or Mulan, films that simply break even. Until the U.S. returns to normal (which might not be until late 2021), cinema will have to take many more swings and misses. In the meantime, audiences get the worst of both worlds: They’re being pressured by studios to return to theaters in droves and being charged big bucks to watch new movies at home, all while waiting for life to be good again.