(LOS ANGELES) — This summer movie season was supposed to begin May 1, with the release of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow film.  But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of theaters worldwide, that and other would-be event pictures were postponed, or released early via streaming.

But as pandemic numbers stabilize in some states and businesses begin to open, Hollywood executives are still holding out hope for July, and that moviegoers will return to their local theater. 

As an example, the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s thriller Tenet even defiantly tagged the coming attraction with the words “IN THEATERS” to its advertised release date of July 17.

“I call it ‘mask-worthy movies’,” one studio marketing exec tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Are people willing to put a mask on to see your movie?”

There is some data to back up that cooped-up movie fans may be ready to risk it.

THR notes that participants in a survey from the National Research Group said 35% would go to a movie today if they could, if the theaters would take precautions like more cleaning and staggered seating. 

The trade reports that the National Association of Theatre Owners is looking to take out star-studded ads touting such safety enhancements, in an effort to get people back to the movies.

The trade cautions studios now not only have to sell audiences on their film, “but the idea of moviegoing itself.”

Russell Schwartz, an ex-marketing exec at Relativity and New Line Cinema-turned college instructor, agrees.

“Movies are still escapist, and people want to get away more than ever,” says Schwartz.  “But now the marketing effort will be 20 seconds to sell the movie and 10 seconds to sell the audience on the idea of even going to the theater.”

By Stephen Iervolino
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