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Die-hard movie fans still love the big screen in Hollywood

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Moviegoers flocked to Los Angeles-area cinemas over the weekend, eager to turn the page on the pandemic that forced them to spend a year watching movies from home.

For months, executives from Hollywood’s biggest studios and theater chains have said that when massive markets like Los Angeles and New York finally reopened, combined with a successful deployment of a Covid-19 vaccine, the pent-up demand would revive their struggling businesses. Now, after theaters opened in New York two weeks ago and those in Los Angeles this weekend, the industry will have a clear glimpse of just how desperate moviegoers can be to return to theaters.

Before the pandemic, Los Angeles made up about 8% of domestic films, as the Americas’ largest metropolitan theatrical market, according to media measurement firm Comscore.

I didn’t even care which movie was going to play. I just wanted to get back to the movies, said Ken Ruiz, a 52-year-old computer programmer and part-time comedian who bought a ticket to see Walt Disney on Friday. Co.

s latest animated film Raya and the Last Dragon at the company’s famous Hollywood theater El Capitan.

The theater, a historic treasure that opened in 1926, is located on one of Los Angeles’ busiest thoroughfares, Hollywood Boulevard. At home and other theaters in Los Angeles, masks are required and capacity is capped at 25%, or 100 people, whichever is less.

It’s kind of a moving day, Mr Ruiz said, his eyes teary after his first visit to a cinema since March 2020.

El Capitan CEO James Wood was also excited to see the theater reopen. After working there for nearly two decades, Mr Wood rose to his current position just before the lockdowns closed public spaces. Every day since has led to Friday, he said.

I was completely focused on that moment, said Mr Wood, happy that two of the four days of screenings ended as police sealed off the street with yellow tape after an SUV entered a nearby convenience store. People want to come back to the movies.

Kelly Marie Tran, left, a cast member in the Disney animated film “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and co-director Carlos Lopez Estrada, present the film to audiences Friday at El Capitan.


Photo:

Chris Pizzello / Associated press

Data collected by the National Research Group, which has tracked the sentiment of moviegoers for 40 years, indicates that 57% of those polled before the weekend said they were satisfied with the prospect of returning to theaters, up from 19% in April 2020.

Los Angeles is the cinema capital of the world. Thousands of its inhabitants work in the entertainment industry, wish to work there, or depend on the sprawling economic activity generated by film and television production. So when many of the city’s theaters opened at reduced capacity on Friday for the first time in a year, people showed up and in some cases filled all available seats.

Although theaters in the United States have slowly reopened in recent months, attendance has been slow as Hollywood studios put aside highly anticipated films such as Paramount Pictures Top Gun: Maverick, starring Tom Cruise, and the latest film. by James Bond, No Time to Die, by MGM Holdings Inc.

Seeing all the movies continue to be pushed back and pushed back kept breaking my heart, said Allison Sharpley, who ventured to her favorite local theater, AMCs Century City 15 on Friday, so she could see the promising young woman. Oscar nominee from Universal Pictures.

Like Raya and the Last Dragon, Promising Young Woman can also be streamed at home.

The 45-year-old healthcare worker now works in a vaccination clinic and dispenses up to 400 vaccines per day. She said she tried drive-ins during the pandemic to support Hollywood because many of her friends work at the company. But sitting in a car or watching from the house doesn’t compare, she says.

I didn’t want to see Wonder Woman for the first time on my little 32 inch TV. There is something about this experience and sharing that experience with a group of other people. That’s why I’m coming, she said.

But a lot of people have watched Wonder Woman 1984 at home like AT&T Inc.s

The Warner Bros. film studio released the film both in theaters and online in an effort to attract consumers to its brand new HBO Max streaming service.

During the pandemic, Hollywood studios like Warner Bros., Disney and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures all released more new movies online, a move that has put many theater owners on their heels. It used to be that theaters coveted the window of exclusivity, the time when movies were only available in theaters was the foundation of their business.

Domestic box office revenue fell to $ 2.2 billion in 2020, from $ 11.4 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association.

With the new opening of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest theater chain, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.

says 98% of its theaters are now operational. But the country’s second-largest chain, Cineworld Group PLCs Regal Entertainment Group, has yet to reopen in America. Third channel Cinemark Holdings Inc.

now has about 90% of its theaters open.

The world’s largest streaming service, Netflix Inc.,

doesn’t depend on selling theater tickets to generate revenue, but the company still chose to show its black-and-white film Mank in select Los Angeles-area theaters ahead of this year’s Oscars on April 25. Some moviegoers went to the theater on Friday to see on the big screen.

Mank, which won more Oscar nominations than any other film this year, goes behind the scenes of directing what many critics call the greatest film of all time, director Orson Welles Citizen Kane.

Almost 80 years ago, Mr. Welles hosted the Hollywood premiere of the films at El Capitan in May 1941.

Copyright 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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