Warner Bros. Pictures is planning to end their theatrical online press screeners after May and resume in-person press screenings.
I decided to check in with the studio after hearing a report in a critics group. On one hand, I am not surprised that the studio is “slowly but surely returning to theatrical-only screenings as theaters are open and operating.” However, the good news here is that they will be working with their regional teams. The studio will handle things accordingly should any issues arise as they start getting back to pre-pandemic in-person press screenings.
I’m of mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I want to get back to watching movies at theaters when I become fully vaccinated in May. But on the other hand, what if–G-d forbid–my glasses fog up inside the theater? Would a digital press screener be an option? We’ll find out in June, I suppose. I’m in a state where the mask mandate remains in place unless you’re actively eating or drinking. I’m not about to munch on a full tub of popcorn during the entirety of movie. At the same time, I’m not sure I want to wait for the home release for every Warner Bros. film as long as mask mandates remain in place.
But beyond mask mandates, the key thing to factor here are the capacity limits. When cities and states have capacity limits in place, it means select press get invites. I didn’t receive invites to screenings of Tenet or Godzilla vs. Kong. I know they happened because of friends posting on social media. But again, I said last year that I wasn’t going back without being vaccinated. When select press get invites, it hurts marginalized film press. It bares repearing that diversity is really important in film criticism. This is what brought down Wonder Woman 1984‘s Rotten Tomatoes rating. Beyond that, diversity needs to be considered when doing junkets, too. But this is another story for another day.
Among the studios that have resumed in-person screenings, some are also offering the screener links. I haven’t heard what Disney’s plans are for Cruella yet. We’ll just have to wait and see. But beyond this, I don’t think anyone–myself included–wants to watch a watermarked press screener of Black Widow for their first viewing.
As of now, one studio is making the decision to stop sending out press screeners after May and resume pre-pandemic in-person screenings. Listen, just because we’re vaccinated, it does not mean the pandemic is over. I might be getting my second shot soon but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to let my guard down. In all honesty, I’m of mixed feelings about this decision. For one, I’m only going to attend press-only screenings. Before the pandemic, just about every Warner Bros. screening that I attended were promotional screenings. These screenings are not limited to just press.
When it came to the previous digital screeners for the theatrical slate, I’ve been very critical of the rollout. It’s pretty bad when I didn’t get a chance to watch Wonder Woman 1984 before the review embargo lifted. Not just that but I was in one critics group that had an awards nomination deadline before the screeners were sent out. When it came to Godzilla vs. Kong, it was rather frustrating to be told one thing about press screeners only to see them end up being sent while I was offline for Shabbat and the first two days of Passover. When I’m coming out of a three-day chag, the last thing I want to do is watch a new film. What’s most frustrating about both roll-outs is how select press got to view the film before the social media embargo lifted!
Tom and Jerry screeners weren’t sent out until the Thursday night before releasing in theaters and HBO Max. That isn’t good news for any film, studio or indie! Purim started that night and because of the Jewish holiday, I waited until the film launched on the streaming service before watching. This meant being late with my own review and losing out on all the page views. I’m not going to lie when I say page views are everything when a lot of big studio films are still being delayed.
New York doesn’t seem to be reopening in full anytime soon. California expects to fully reopen by mid-June. In Illinois, it sounds like neither Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Mayor Lori Lightfoot are on the same page. Moreover, case numbers have been rising in the Cook County suburbs so I expect limits will stay in place for a while. Every state is different.
I want to go back to movie theaters and comic cons but at the same time, I’m not about to fully let my guard down. On this end, I made the decision to invest in KN95 masks back in January. At the same time, there’s the main issue of glasses fogging. This would mean having to wait until Warner Bros. films launch on HBO Max if digital press screeners are not an option. June is under a month and a half away and there’s no telling what numbers and capacity limits will look like.