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Shaken and Stirred: Welcome to the Fall Movie Death March

Cinepolis Bay Theatre, closed due to COVID with a #SaveYourCinema sign
Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Matthew Belloni
August 19, 2021

One of the many brilliant conceits of The Office was that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant set the whole thing at a paper company. All the corporate absurdities, the egos, the insults and power plays were rendered even more ridiculous because the entire business was becoming obsolete. Paper wasn’t going away entirely, but in the early 2000s, it was just funnier that a deluded fool like David Brent—or Michael Scott in the U.S. version—would be scraping for self-worth in an industry that, while it was never discussed, was being decimated by digital.

Just like the movie business today, right? It definitely feels that way. Call a film executive, ask what the latest distribution strategy is, and you’ll get a nervous laugh, then some variation on “We’re flying blind here” or “It’s informed chaos” (or, if their publicist is on the line, “We’re remaining flexible”). Eighteen months into a relentless pandemic, I’d say the sentiment is no longer panic, it’s more exasperation, and anger, and a sense that there’s no way to strategize eight to twelve weeks out because everything changes day to day. Worse, there’s no reason to think movies are going back to “normal” anytime soon, if ever.