At 8 o’clock on a Saturday night, the scene outside the Regal LA Live & 4DX theater complex in downtown L.A. would normally be packed. Moviegoers would be rushing to arrive by showtime, packing crosswalks and backing up traffic on a busy Olympic Boulevard. Across from the cineplex, taco trucks would be drawing their own crowds.
On this particular Saturday night, however, with California’s stay-at-home order in effect, there were no cars, no moviegoers, no movies.
Of course, there were supposed to be movies. These are a few that theaters across the country would have been playing in recent days: “A Quiet Place Part II,” which was set to open just as stay-at-home orders began. The live-action remake of Disney’s “Mulan.” The James Bond film “No Time to Die.” Marvel’s “Black Widow,” which would have opened Friday.
Coming weeks would have seen the releases of “F9,” the next “Fast & Furious” sequel; “Wonder Woman 1984"; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights”; and “Top Gun Maverick.” Those potential blockbusters will have to wait for later theater premieres while dozens of other films head for streaming or premium video-on-demand releases. Meanwhile, the theaters themselves remain in limbo, with no substantial summer slate of films anticipated until July, when it’s hoped that Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” will open, followed by a very different awards season. For as The Times’ Justin Chang and Glenn Whipp discuss in their conversation of summer movies past, there’s nothing like the Xanadu of a giant screen, air conditioning, darkness, Milk Duds and a big Hollywood movie in a packed theater.
While movie studios are planning safe ways to get cameras rolling again, theater owners work out plans for reopening multiplexes, documentary makers are finding socially distant ways to shoot, and film professionals all over are discussing the ways their jobs will change in a post-quarantine Hollywood.
We asked L.A. Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin to capture Hollywood’s movie houses in this pandemic moment — all lighted up with nothing to play. It’s part of our special report, “Reopening Hollywood: What’s next for movies?”
— Laurie Ochoa, Sunday Calendar editor
The Regal LA Live & 4DX
I wish it were possible to see a big dumb blockbuster surrounded by people in a movie theater. ... Am I losing my mind, Justin? Are you jonesing for an overpriced box of Milk Duds too?
For pure summer moviegoing pleasure ... “There’s Something About Mary.” What a movie to see in a packed house; I laughed so hard during the hair-gel scene that I was afraid I might pass out.
The New Beverly Cinema
Theaters opening now, I think, is a bit silly. There’s no content to show, and people are going to be nervous about congregating.
It will be a methodical, gradual return. Folks will come back, we just have to see how quickly.
I don’t really imagine you’re going to be doing giant scenes with thousands of extras right off the bat. But ... I believe protocols will evolve to create workplaces where crews, who are hungry to get back to work, will feel safe.
It’s going to be an interesting test of creative thinking and ingenuity. I don’t think there’s a standard way in which this is all going to progress.
The Fairfax Cinema
I love sharing stories and watching them together on the big screen, being part of audiences that laugh or get scared or get thrilled together. ... We’re going to have to adapt ... but I do think that a desire for the communal experience is who we are.
To me, watching a movie on TV or a show on TV or streaming is the equivalent to a Zoom call, whereas seeing a movie in a theater is the equivalent of a live meeting.
Los Feliz Theatre
Instead of five people going to shoot an interview, maybe there are two. Vérité filmmaking is going to be harder.
If there’s a movie awards season this year, there’s only one certainty: Like everything else in this pandemic-altered world, it’s not going to look like anything we’ve ever seen before.
How will Hollywood creatively address the ‘new normal’ where social interactions like hugging, handshakes and other contact between people will be depicted on screen? That won’t be depicted the same way post-pandemic.