Evolution of Character – Emma Woodhouse

There exists a stereotypical viewpoint over the works of an author like Jane Austen.  The books that she wrote over the course of her all too brief life have been the inspiration for many costume period dramas that more often or not are targeted towards middle-aged women heading to the movies with their friends after an afternoon lunch at a local wine bar.  Sure, Austen’s fan based has skewed female over the years, but it is such an underestimation of her impact on literature.  Her works are evocative of an era in pre-Victorian England, but the themes therein throughout her novels are just as provocative today as they were back when she wrote them.  On the surface, her novels are comedies of manners, but they also tackle harder issues such as class differences, the roles of women in society, and perhaps most pointedly, the manners of sexual activity.  She was not afraid to point out the abuses that men enact upon the “fairer” sex, and also challenge the definitions of masculinity and femininity in her novels.  Though still bound by the constraints of her time, Austen still managed to prove her free-thinking ideals through her writing.  It’s probably why she has endured so long as a favorite writer to many, because her writing was so ahead of it’s time.  As women have gained more equality over time, Austen’s novels take on a far more nuanced poignancy, as modern day critics begin to view Jane Austen as a pioneer for cementing a feminine voice within the canonical institution of Western Literature.

What particularly stands out in Jane Austen’s writing are her heroines.  In contrast to her contemporaries, Austen wrote about women burdened by societies expectations and constructed narratives that gave her female protagonists more control over their own destinies.  In the single most famous sentence of any of her works, the opening passage of her 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, she wrote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”  In a few simple words, she diminishes down exactly what men expect of the women in society, so that throughout the rest of the novel, she can focus far more on the complexity of her female characters, and how they challenge these “truths.”  In her short lifetime, Jane only published four novels, with two more (Persuasion and Northhanger Abbey) published posthumously.  Each of her novels focuses on much of the same thing, women torn between their independence, societies expectations, and falling in love.  But for the most part, she also goes out of her way to draw sympathy from the reader towards her heroines throughout the narrative.  Except for one.  With her fourth, and last published novel, Emma (1816), Jane Austen set out to in her own words, “take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”  With the character Emma Woodhouse, Jane created what may end up being her most richly complex character overall; spoiled rich and hopelessly naive, and yet endearing in her pursuit of self-realization and personal satisfaction.  What is interesting about Emma is that she is a character so far ahead of her time, that translating her story to modern day diminishes nothing from Jane Austen’s original vision of the character.  That is what has given Emma Woodhouse such an interesting presence on film throughout the years.  What follows is an interesting collection of some of her most noteworthy screen appearances, with some interesting contrasts that enrich the character and Austen’s writing even further.

JUDY CAMPBELL from EMMA (BBC FILM) (1948)

It may be surprising to know that Emma’s cinematic presence actually emerged relatively recently, as opposed to the other works of Jane Austen throughout the years.  Pride and Prejudice famously made it to the big screen in 1940 with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, but Emma would have to wait another half century before that would happen.  Instead, the story of Emma Woodhouse made it’s debut mostly through the medium of television.  The first ever adaptation of the novel outside of theater was this televised production put on by the BBC network in England.  Unfortunately, because the BBC never kept back-ups of their aired content due to their routine of recycling old tapes (Doctor Who fans know about this all too well) the original broadcast of this film is lost to us, surviving now only in scant still photographs like the one above.  It’s hard to judge how well this version translates Austen’s story, but it is interesting noting how this version came to be.  The project was spear-headed by actress Judy Campbell, who played the title role in addition to writing the teleplay adaptation.  A colleague of notable playwright and actor Noel Coward, Campbell was popular performer in her native England and she used the new medium of television to give herself a creative spotlight in the post-War years.  No doubt she viewed Emma Woodhouse as an ideal role to play, showcasing her knack for comedy as well as drama.  Other roles of hers that have survived throughout the years give us a sense of her talent, and you can imagine what she likely brought to the character in her performance.  Sadly, the lack of forward thinking on the part of the BBC has prevented this very first adaptation from surviving to the present day.

DOARN GODWIN from EMMA (BBC MINISERIES) (1972)

Given a couple decades to learn that it’s better to preserve for posterity, the BBC finally revisited the story of Emma Woodhouse again, this time with a version that was intended to last.  The lavishly produced mini-series (which also aired here in the States the same year on PBS) leaves no stone un-turned in the 6 episodes devoted to telling this story.  With that amount of time, the series does give an extensive amount of time to developing all the characters within the fictional village of Highbury.  The character of Harriet Smith, Emma’s friend and “pet project”, gets far more extensive development of character here, as we see the effects of Emma’s meddling in her advancement take a hold over the prolonged story-line, played effectively by actress Debbie Bowen.  Where I think that the mini-series falters slightly is in the depiction of Emma Woodhouse herself.  Actress Doran Godwin’s portrayal is perhaps a bit too restrained for the character.  Emma has to be nosy and at times very rude, but Godwin’s Emma is a bit too refined.  It’s perhaps because the BBC was churning out all these similar themed period dramas, including others based on Jane Austen’s other novels, that Doran Godwin was just filling in that expected Austen heroine persona, which she does convey well enough.  But, remember, Emma Woodhouse is not the same kind of character.  Her growth as a character is in discovering her own faults and that’s something that I don’t believe comes through in this telling of the story.  Emma, as a character, is Jane Austen’s critique of misplaced confidence among the idle rich, and it’s something that in many ways calls for a less conventional portrayal.  As classy as Doran Godwin’s performance is, it’s perhaps too refined for what the character needed.

ALICIA SILVERSTONE from CLUELESS (1995)

Of course, this is as far from conventional as you can get for adapting a Jane Austen novel, and in doing so, it managed to hit a bullseye.  Writer and Director Amy Heckerling took Jane Austen’s Emma and brought it up to date with a very contemporary re-telling.  To capture the essence of Austen’s vision of wealth mixed with naivete over gender roles and sexual destinies, she changed the setting to the one place that still fits within those conventions today; Beverly Hills, California.  In doing so, she transformed Austen’s high-spirited but naive heroine from a rosy-faced pre-Victorian debutante to a dim-witted but open-hearted American teenager.  A lot of the comedy comes from the different ways that Heckerling examines the “clueless” bubble in which her characters exist within.  Emma Woodhouse becomes Cher Horowitz (played to perfection by Alicia Silverstone) whose ambition to improve the lives of others clearly is over-matched by her lack of actual expertise, and whose focus is often dictated by fashion trends.  Despite the difference in time periods, Cher’s story is nearly beat for beat what Jane Austen imagined for Emma.  She spends the movie delighting in playing matchmaker and giving social outcasts their time to shine, such as the Harriet Smith stand-in Tai (played by the late Brittany Murphy).  But like Emma, she only realizes later on that her ambitions have taught her nothing about actual love, and that part of her loneliness has come from misjudging others.  Her crush turns out to be gay (already wed in the book), and the one she really discovers feelings for is the one who always pushed back against her attitude, that being her ex-step-brother Josh.  One improvement that Heckerling made from the book was reduced the age difference between her heroine and her ultimate love, which she did well by casting the ageless Paul Rudd in the role (seriously, 25 years later, he still looks the same).  It’s amazing that the best adaptation of Austen’s novel is the one least like the book, and yet it’s faithfulness to the ideals of the character as absolutely spot on.

GWYNETH PALTROW from EMMA (1996)

Of course, it only took a year later for us to get a film adaptation of Emma that actually sets itself in it’s original period.  In contrast to Clueless, this version of Emma is far less focused on pointing out the absurdities of it’s main character.  For the most part, Emma’s flaws come about more out of her tireless ambition that her lack of knowledge.  This version, played by then rising star Gwyneth Paltrow, is extremely assertive and intelligent, but is shown to be unfocused or perhaps too stubborn to understand what effect her meddling in other people’s affairs is actually doing.  Following a string of lavish productions based on the works of English classics during the 1990’s, including the many Merchant Ivory productions as well as Ang Lee’s lavish adaptation of Sense and Sensibility  (1995) written by Emma Thompson, this adaptation of Emma was a no-brainer.  Given the recent popularity of Clueless a year prior as well, the works of Jane Austen were experiencing something of a revival, and many people were anxious to see how this movie would indeed stand up.  While the movie itself is wonderfully produced and looks beautiful, and also has some great supporting performances from the likes of Toni Collette and Ewan McGregor, it’s portrayal of Emma herself unfortunately suffers, and there is something of a tragic reason for that.  American actress Gwyneth Paltrow was still fairly fresh in Hollywood at the time, and hadn’t quite mastered the British accent at this point, though she would improve by the time she played her Oscar-winning role in Shakespeare in Love (1998) a couple years later.  At the same time, she was being haunted on the set by Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein who was grooming her for stardom and “other things.”  Now that we’ve seen the disgraced former producer finally be brought to justice,  Paltrow has come forward detailing  her own awful encounters with the predatory Weinstein, and it explains in a way the cloud that hangs over this movie and her performance.  It would have been interesting to see where she might have gone with the character had she performed under better circumstances.

KATE BECKINSALE from EMMA (ITV FILM) (1996)

Not to be outdone by their American counterparts, but British television also offered up their own new adaptation of Emma in the same amount of time.  Produced by independent British cable company ITV, this adaptation is a beautifully lavish production that does indeed feel true to the time period of Austen’s England.  Though lacking the budget of Miramax’s version, this television is still impressively mounted and features a stellar cast of British character actors.  But, what makes it stand out even more is Kate Beckinsale in the title role.  Long before Pearl Harbor (2001) and the Underworld series, this was the role that launched the actress into stardom.  She was celebrated for her performance, and it’s largely what got her attention in Hollywood soon after.  With regards to how it stacks up to Jane Austen’s vision of the character, her performance is certainly closer to the book than any other we’ve seen up to now.  She is less restrained than Gwyneth Paltrow and Doran Godwin’s portrayals, but is not a caricature like Alicia Silverstone’s Cher.  She balances both the comical and the dramatic with ease, and captures the gentility of the character perfectly well, but at the same time shows a bit of edge that helps to ground her in present.  Of all the earnest adaptations of the novel, this is the version of Emma Woodhouse that feels the closest to what is on the page, and that is a testament to Beckinsale’s range as a performer.  She would of course have a prolific career on the big screen, including a role in another Austen adaptation, Love & Friendship (2017), based on Jane Austen’s last posthumously published novel, the unfinished Lady Susan.  Given the crowded market of new films all adapting the same novel in a two year span, it’s a special thing to have this one stand out as well as it does.

SONAM KAPOOR from AISHA (2010)

It seemed inevitable that Jane Austen and Emma Woodhouse would find their way to Bollywood eventually.  Set aside the troubled influence of the British Empire on the Indian subcontinent, but English literature has found an interesting niche within Indian society, and in particular, has been a reliable source for adaptation in their vibrant film industry.  Jane Austen’s stories in particular fit very well with Bollywood’s love of melodrama and glamour, and of course Emma would be among them too.  Indian society is still grappling with issues of class strata and the expanding roles of women in society, and the plot of Emma lends itself very well to this dynamic.  I also wonder if the movie Clueless also influenced this adaptation, as it sets the story in the present day and it also a movie centered on fashion and pretty people living in pretty houses.  But, the essence of Austen’s story is still there, and the portrayal by actress Sonam Kapoor does follow the exact same attributes that we expect from the character.  She’s open-hearted, but also oblivious to what she really needs to do in order to find happiness, and obviously that involves her looking beyond superficial status.  Integrated society is something relatively new to India in the last couple generations, so seeing the heroine here using her influence to help out her lower class friends is something bold to show in a Bollywood film.  Kapoor herself probably identifies a lot with the character given that she is Bollywood royalty herself, being the daughter of one of India’s most famous actors, Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire).  What her portrayal definitely shows is the universality of Jane Austen’s work across the world, inspiring women from all walks of life to define their own destiny, while also holding onto their ideals.

ANNA-TAYLOR JOY from EMMA. (2020)

The most recent adaptation of the novel brings the character far more into the 21st Century with a decidedly more cynical take on Austen’s narrative.  This new film enjoyed a brief theatrical run in the early Spring of 2020, before theaters closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and largely got overlooked as a result.  Which is a shame, because it’s probably the film version that more closely follows Jane Austen’s intentions with the character than any other adaptation we’ve seen thus far.  In this version, we do get a version of Emma Woodhouse that is hard to like.  She is dismissive to others that she finds annoying, often rolls her eyes at inconveniences, and is clearly out of her depths with regards to what she believes is best for those around her.  It’s like filmmakers made this earnest, straightforward adaptation of the novel, but with the awareness of the movie Clueless.  The satire of Amy Heckerling’s modern adaptation certainly influenced this version, which places the story back in it’s appropriate setting, but combines it with a knowing wink to it’s audience about all the absurdity of it’s era as well.  Anya Taylor-Joy certainly relishes her time in this role, and she conveys so much through just her facial expressions alone.  I especially like the fact that she captures Emma’s unwarranted superiority in the early part of the film, showing the smugness of the character that I don’t think I’ve seen in any other version to date.  Through this, we see much more of an evolution that the character undergoes throughout the story.  In many ways, it’s a brave thing for the actor to do in starting off their performance by making the heroine less appealing and more spoiled.  If done correctly, the actor can earn far more goodwill from the audience when they see the hard edges of a character soften throughout the film, and Anya does that very well here.  It’s still fairly new, but already I feel like this version of Emma Woodhouse has cemented her place in the albeit short cinematic history of the character.

The work of Jane Austen is likely not going to diminish anytime soon, and surprisingly it has been the inspiration for not only some lavishly produced period adaptations of a long ago time, but also some rather sharp social commentaries of our own times as well.  Clueless for one thing holds up remarkably well today on it’s 25th anniversary as a satire of a specific class of people that still exist in our society; the idle rich.  When Austen first conceived of Emma Woodhouse as a character, she imagined this well-to-do upper class lady who felt that her own station in life granted her this authority to determine the destinies of those around her.  Though done without malice, Emma’s naive notion of thinking that she can make the best choices of partners for all the people in her life comes out of her lack of awareness over her position.  People in lower class can figure out love for themselves, they don’t need the guidance of an “enlightened” girl with very little to distress her.  Too often we see today people with wealth and influence try to inject themselves into an issue, and despite them meaning well, it only leads to more complications than what might have existed before, and in turn, reflects badly on said wealthy individual.  I think that is why Jane Austen wanted to write Emma as an experiment.  She wanted to shift the focus away the traditional “lowly” girl elevated to high standing through a dream husband that defined so many novels at the time, including her own, and instead show the flaws of a rich individual who understands so little while proclaiming to be an “expert” in love.  Emma Woodhouse as a result remains Austen’s most layered character and a character that remains surprisingly and disturbingly relevant to today’s society.

The New Normal? – Did Universal and AMC Change the Theater Industry Forever?

Within a matter of days, it will have been 5 full months since the silver screens went dark across the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on with only the faintest view of the light at the end of the tunnel emerging, and we still don’t know if and when it will be safe to go back to the movies.  My optimistic outlook on the summer movie schedule for this year sadly didn’t pan out, and for the first time ever, the Summer Movie Season did not happen.  Once the launching point for some of the biggest blockbuster openings of the year, the Summer this year saw not one single theatrical opening.  Sure, the odd independent film did make it to a Drive-In here and there, but those were done at the same time as a day and date Video on Demand release, where the actual money was being made.  It’s a sad reality, but one that is unavoidable.  It’s just not safe or possible right now to cram people into a dark confined room and expect them to return in the same numbers as they have before.  As a result, the entire theatrical industry has had to completely restructure itself just to be able to survive.  The largest chains in America, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have had to take out massive loans just so they can cover the substantial rental fees that their un-opened theaters require to remain standing.  AMC in fact is verging on the edge of bankruptcy and may even begin subtracting their reach in order to survive into next year.  All the while, the theaters are struggling with the ever increasing threat of streaming and VOD taking their business away for good.  This led to the very contentious showdown between AMC and Universal over the decision to release Trolls World Tour early , in breach of Universal’s long-standing contract with AMC.  This led many to believe that AMC would no longer run any Universal film as retaliation.  But, as we learned this week, the two parties came to a new agreement, and it is one that shockingly may forever affect the theatrical industry forever.

Here’s what you need to know about what this new agreement.  Upon the release of any new film under the Universal umbrella, the movie will play first theatrically in theaters like AMC exclusively for a period of 17 days.  Then at the end, it has the option of offering the same films as a VOD rental, thereby allowing the studio to make money off of audiences who prefer to stay at home much sooner than they have before.  What this does is close the previous window of 75 days (or roughly 2 1/2 months) that existed between theatrical and home video releases; a previously agreed upon deal that allowed theaters to benefit much more from the long tail lingering box office runs that have helped to keep ticket sales strong long after opening weekend.  With AMC and Universal closing that exclusive window down to just 2 1/2 weeks, it means that movie theaters only have that short amount of time to make the most of a movie’s opening box office before they lose to competition from on demand.  Now, the deal also gives AMC a bigger slice of the VOD rental revenue on Universal films as well, but upon looking at the deal as a whole, it’s hard to see where AMC really benefits at all.  Ticket sales alone aren’t what keeps the theater afloat; its the concessions sales that actually brings in the profit.  And with a still raging pandemic making concessions sales a harder sale even if the theaters reopen right away, it almost looks like AMC is the losing party in this, because that window of exclusivity is so much smaller.  But at the same time, AMC no longer had any solid ground to stand on.  The thing that makes this new deal between the two entertainment giants so eye-opening is the fact that it is in complete contradiction to what has been the norm in the theatrical machine of cinema for most of it’s history.

With Universal and AMC’s new distribution deal, we see an unprecedented shift in the dynamics between the theaters, the distributors and the studios.  The thing that has drawn so much attention is that this 17 day window is not standard across the industry; it’s just between Universal and AMC.  Naturally, other studios like Disney, Warner Brothers, and Paramount complained to AMC about them giving this special consideration to their competitor rather than them.  And Regal and Cinemark raised concerns as well, saying that AMC was changing a norm across the industry that is going to hurt their long term futures as well.  Sure the pandemic has led to drastic measures to be taken to allow for movie studios to be able to still make revenue during the closure of theaters across the country, but no one thought that Universal and AMC would shorten it by so much.  As of right now, Regal, Cinemark and many other smaller chains maintain contracts with all the studio distribution departments that enshrine that long-lasting tradition of a wide theatrical window.  With AMC’s supposed capitulation, it puts the pressure on the other chains to reconsider their own contracts, as the other Hollywood studios are demanding shorter windows like Universal has gotten, so that they too can remain competitive.  This has led many to believe that this change in the length of exclusivity for theatrical runs may be part of the new normal that we are likely to see after the pandemic has run it’s course.  And it is a new normal that will forever change what we think of as the theatrical experience.

What will change most is the way that we judge a movie by the revenue that it makes.  Particularly in the last decade or so, box office became the barometer of a movie’s success.  If a movie didn’t open well in the first week, or even in the first couple days, it would be labelled forever as a box office bomb, which for some movies becomes a stain that is hard to wash off.  Sometimes, movies would benefit from long theatrical runs, and become a box office hit steadily over time.  Remember, neither Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) opened to record-breaking box office, but they continued to build their audience over successive weeks and eventually became the highest grossing movies of all time.  But, with the exclusive theatrical window shortened, that long tail effect is far less likely to happen.  The movies will still be able to generate profit with the VOD option being made available sooner, but box office numbers will likely plummet after that 17 period.  And at that point, we may have to reconsider what we label as a flop and a hit, because many movies make money on different scales.  Something big like a Marvel movie no doubt has a huge front loaded opening weekend, which helps to cement a reputation for being a box office champion, but there are sleeper hits that quietly become profitable long after they’ve left the silver screen.  With a shorter window, the terms box office hit and box office flop become far more relative.  Do we begin to combine these two revenue generators together, or do we abandon the entire notion of judging a movie by how many tickets it sells?  This is one of the things that is likely going to change dramatically with this new normal that is likely going to take place, and it’s one that puts far more pressure on the theatrical market than it does the studio.

What this also means is a huge reversal of established law that prohibited the studios from having too much influence over the theatrical market.  Here’s a history lesson for you:  the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision in the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948, otherwise known as United States vs. Paramount Pictures, where it was stated that film studios could not own movie theaters, nor hold exclusive rights on which theaters would show their movies.  This decision effectively ended a practice known as block-booking, which is where a studio sells to a theater a collection of films as a unit, to which the theaters had to screen, regardless of the quality of the films themselves.  This benefited the studios, because they then could ensure the profitability of their movies regardless if they were good or not, which itself caused an unfair advantage towards what was known as the Big Five of the time (Paramount, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, MGM, and RKO) all of whom owned the same theaters.  The smaller independent studios like Republic, United Artists, Columbia and yes Universal (the ones who didn’t own theaters) complained that block-booking squeezed out business for them and they took the majors to court for what they saw as a violation of Antitrust Laws.  The Supreme Court ruled in their favor and the theatrical and distribution machine that ensured profitability for the major studios were completely upended.  Theaters now had to run independently, and it was now upon the studios to reassess what kind of movies they would be making for theatrical release.  It was a time of significant upheaval, because the studios no longer force theaters to buy nearly 400 movies in a given year, and it led to many layoffs and closures of theaters across the country.  At the same time, television emerged to fill that gap, and the studio system became effectively a shell of it’s former self.  But out of this emerged new innovations like Widescreen and surround sound, which made going to the movies again a special engagement.  And movie theaters likewise adjusted.  The newly formed independent industry grew, and eventually evolved to create multiplexes across the country, creating more theaters than before.  But, under the circumstances that we are in now, a lot of consideration is being given to reexamining that past decision.

There is no doubt about it; the Paramount Case was a violation of Antitrust Law, which stifled competition in the marketplace, and by breaking up the studios from the theaters, it did open the industry up to more independent voices and renewed competition that would help it grow.  But, in a time when the very existence of movie theaters is at a precarious point of collapsing altogether, some are wondering if studios should once again take a larger role in the theatrical distribution market.  There have been exceptions over time.  Many of the major studios today can hold an interest in publicly traded companies that operate movie theaters, although not with a majority stake.  A small chain like Pacific Theaters, which owns the popular brand Arclight in some major American cities, has investors like Disney as a part of their portfolio.  And studios are allowed to have ownership of independent screens as well.  Disney owns the landmark El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard here in Los Angeles, and have used it as their home base venue for premieres and special screenings.  More recently, Netflix purchased the nearly 100 year old Egyptian Theater down the street from the El Cap, and have used it for their own screenings, while still maintaining the partnership with American Cinemateque that existed previously with the venue.  But the change that we are seeing with AMC and Universal is an unprecedented quid pro quo that we haven’t seen between theaters and studios since that Paramount Case decision.  What does that mean for the future?  The two parties are not exactly breaking the statute of the law, since AMC is maintaining as an independent body, but by giving so much leeway to Universal, it’s granting so much more power to a studio body to distribute the way it sees fit than we’ve seen in a very, very long time.  Is it going to lead to even further control of the theatrical market by the studios from here out?

One thing to consider is that changes have been made many times to the theatrical experience to suit the times, and they have been funded largely by the studios themselves.  The reason why movie theaters converted all to digital projection 10 years ago was because the studios invested in the technology.  They saw the money that was being made by 3D movies like Avatar, and they wanted to be sure that the widest possible reach of the audience could be maintained, so they helped the theaters update their equipment.  The existence of multiplexes are another example of this; when the blockbuster era emerged, more screens were needed to meet demand.  Now, with theaters closed and in need of cash flow, who else can they turn to than the movie studios for a lifeline?  Federal loans can only help in the short run; a long-term plan is going to be needed to get the movie theaters back to normal.  The question remains, do studios step in temporarily or is it time for industry to revert back to its old ways.  The Paramount decision remains in place, but it has been chiseled back over time, and with our current administration, who knows really how much oversight is in place.  Up until now, I would’ve said that the Paramount Decision ensured a far better environment for all parties; it granted more autonomy for the theaters to operate the way that they saw fit, and that put more pressure on the studios to change the movies that they make.  It was a balance that was not always perfect, but nevertheless allowed for more creative freedom to build business more effectively.  But the times call for immediate reassessment of the flaws in the system.  There’s no doubt that part of why AMC is in such a desperate situation is because of their recklessly unchecked growth.  No doubt they felt the pressure to hand more influence over to Universal.  The question is, what is Universal going to do with it?

One thing that is certain now is that enough has been done to ensure that the major theatrical chains will eventually reopen once this pandemic has run it’s course.  That is good news for people like me who greatly prefer the theatrical experience because after spending months watching movies in the home, I can say that there seriously is no substitute.  But, in the case of Universal and AMC, have we seen too much given away in exchange for these theater chains to survive the pandemic closure.  AMC’s window of profitability is much smaller now, and Universal now is able to ensure it’s financial security at the former’s expense.  Not only that, but the other chains and studios are now put into the situation that they have to reconsider their own contracts in response.  Are we now going to see a complete breakdown of the separation of powers tradition in the industry, and witness exclusive engagements between different studios and chains as a new normal?  It’s hard to believe that only 5 months of closed movie theaters could change so much in the industry overnight.  It remains to be seen if the deal made between AMC and Universal will indeed change cinema as we know it.  The next Universal release won’t even be until next year, as they’ve completely given up on the rest of 2020.  With other studios still holding onto their 2020 releases, do they make similar deals with the theaters to ensure their bottom line?  The thing that I worry about the most is that movie theaters, who were already struggling against the rise of streaming, are going to be forever relegated by this move.  We may likely see a complete reduction of the theatrical market in the years ahead, with the larger chains forced to close many of their under-performing locations forever.  Many other contractions in the past have led to periods of renewal after, and movie theaters have made resounding comebacks over the years.  But, this time is different.  The studios have a new way to make money, and it’s putting the theaters in an ever increasing position to prove their worth.  The pandemic is testing that at this very moment.  We’ll know in time what this will all lead to, but it’s safe to say whatever comes out of this time of turmoil for the movie theater industry is not what we would’ve called just a few months ago anything close to “normal.”