The latest indefinite postponement of Thor: Love And Thunder will impact not just fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise, but also the local cinema industry itself as a whole.
According to Koh Mei Lee, chief executive officer of Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) and chairman of the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE), it is a huge setback for the cinema industry when major releases are postponed or cancelled without notice, like Lightyear last month and, now, Thor: Love And Thunder.
“The cinema industry really suffered during the pandemic, because we were closed for half of 2020 and 2021. So, this year, now that we are open, content is very important to us,” said Koh in a phone interview with The Star today (July 14).
“We are just starting to recover in May and June. We see that movie goers returning to the big screen to watch their favourite blockbuster movies.”
Thor: Love And Thunder was originally scheduled to premiere in Malaysian cinemas on July 7. However, on July 1, it was announced that the movie had been postponed to July 21. Then on July 13, GSC announced that the movie had been postponed again, this time indefinitely, with no reason for the postponement given by the film's distributors, The Walt Disney Company (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.
Besides having to hand out refunds to fans who had already bought advance tickets for the movie, Koh also said the loss in revenue from a blockbuster like Thor would be devastating to the cinema industry as a whole.
She added that the latest MCU movie, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, raked in about RM47mil in the box office, and the cinemas were expecting the latest Thor to make about RM60mil to RM65mil.
“Thor is a big Marvel blockbuster, and a movie that cinemas as well as movie goers have been anticipating for a long time,” Koh said. “If you compare it with the reception we got for other MCU movies Dr. Strange and Avengers Endgame, we estimate a loss of about four million admissions (if Thor does not show)."
Mohit Bhargava, chief marketing officer of TGV Cinemas added that it’s not just the cinemas that suffer when major movies are cancelled without notice.
“When people go to the cinemas, of course that is the main attraction. But they also have lunch and go shopping at the same time. So the loss of four million visits to a shopping mall will make a huge impact on the local GDP,” he noted.
Mohit also warned of a rise in piracy if movies are not shown in cinemas here.
“If people can’t watch the movie on the big screen, they will turn to other platforms, like downloading it illegally from the Internet. So that’s another major loss in revenue for us and the country," he said.
“A rise in piracy will also weaken Hollywood's confidence in releasing movies here. We want to come across as a stable industry where studios can invest in, and make sure that movie goers and fans have a steady supply of entertainment,” added Mohit.
In June, Pixar movie Ligthyear was taken off the cinema schedules in Malaysia, with the Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF) clarifying that the distributors, also The Walt Disney Company (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, were the ones who made the decision not to screen the movie here after refusing to comply with certain conditions, including removing certain parts which promote the LGBT lifestyle.
While Koh and Mohit declined to speculate on why Thor: Love And Thunder, has been postponed indefinitely, they hope that an official explanation would be forthcoming.
“We hope to get some clarification, whether from Disney or the relevant authorities, to help us understand the reason for the delay and hopefully find a resolution for it as quickly as possible.
"We want to understand, why is this movie not shown here? Will it impact future movies that are going to be released here? Because if it does, and all the major movies are going to be cancelled like this, then it won’t be sustainable for the cinema industry,” Koh said.
“Right now, we are being kept in the dark, and have only been told that the movie is delayed,” said Mohit.
“We need to understand what is the underlying issue, and we hope that Disney or the authorities can shed some light on it. Once we know the issue, then we find a way to resolve it. Otherwise, we're just shooting in the dark.”