Film producer says industry was rewired by pandemic

Greta Taylor
Staff Writer

Paramount Pictures film producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura discussed how the film industry may be forever changed by the pandemic at the Claremont Graduate University In Conversation lecture held via Zoom on Oct. 28.

Di Bonaventura highlighted major changes including frequent COVID testing, loss of revenue and increase in online streaming vs. movie theater releases. 

“It adds a substantial amount of money, it adds a substantial amount of logistical issues,” Di Bonaventura said. 

Di Bonaventura had a part in the making of  “The Matrix,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and the most recent decade of Transformers movies.

He described his experience with logistic problems during the production of “Transformers 7: Rise of The Beasts” while filming in locations like Peru and Canada. 

Di Bonaventura said the cast, crew, caterers and 500 extras were tested three times a week. They were also separated into three different groups that did not intermingle.

“Thankfully we got through Transformers without a major problem,” Di Bonaventura said. “We had a (COVID) testing facility traveling with us…there was one day when they tested 1,500 people.”

According to the Motion Picture Association’s Annual Report, global theatrical revenue in the U.S. decreased from over $40 billion in 2019 to $12 billion in 2020.  The loss of revenue, boom of streaming and decline of production may have forever changed the film industry.

“Movies have more value and more consumption than they’ve ever had before, yet their cultural significance has declined,” Di Bonaventura said.

The boom of streaming services has also transformed the movie industry. Netflix gained four million new subscribers during COVID shutdowns and HBO Max simultaneously released movies on online services and in theaters.

Di Bonaventura said he is neither pro- nor anti-streaming but acknowledged the fundamental differences. Streaming is consumption behavior and going to a movie theater is an event, he said.

“Do you remember (the movie you streamed) two, three, four years from now?” Di Bonaventura asked. “If movies become ultimately just a consumption, a cookie, once you eat the cookie it’s over, then that’s a problem for the value of these new companies.”

“I can’t think of any recent films that have impacted culture like movies did when I was in middle school and junior high,” Amanda Brown, junior broadcast journalism major at Emerson College, said. “On Wednesdays we still wear pink, Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank u, next’ video was inspired by those movies.” 

There could also be a change to how movie stars are made. Traditionally, movie stars are made on the big screen.  

“If you can pick a star who has come out of streaming, how many stars really came out of television?” Di Bonaventura said. “Not that many.”

Di Bonaventura teased an upcoming project with actor Regé-Jean Page. He said he’s curious to see if Bridgerton’s success can launch Page into movie stardom. 

“We need more stars,” Di Bonaventura said. “I am rooting for him.”

The full conversation is available on YouTube

Greta Taylor can be reached at greta.taylor@laverne.edu.

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