Speaking Wednesday morning (local time), Gianopulos attempted to strike a generally positive note, while also detailing the problems the pandemic has posed for Paramount in particular and the industry as whole. The TIFFCOM market, an adjunct to the Tokyo International Film Festival, runs Nov. 4-6, 2020.
In common with other Hollywood majors, Paramount was forced to shut down production as COVID-19 took hold early this year, beginning with an action sequence for the next “Mission Impossible” film that was scheduled to be shot in Venice. It has also had to push back releases to 2021, including “A Quiet Place II” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”
But work on Paramount’s animated features has proceeded since animators can work in relative isolation. Upcoming animation titles include “Under the Boardwalk,” set for release in July 2022, and “The Tiger’s Apprentice,” slated for February 2023.
The studio has also pushed on with post-production of its TV content, while planning for future projects. Meanwhile, it has acquired new material, with the “Cleopatra” project starring Gal Gadot among the most prominent.
In restarting production on its major titles, Gianopulos said, Paramount has faced major logistical challenges. His example was “Mission Impossible 7,” which is being shot in five countries. “But if (“MI7” star) Tom Cruise can do the impossible, what’s our excuse?” he joked.
Paramount, Gianopulos said, has implemented “stringent safety measures” to protect talent and crew. To limit risk as much as possible, crowd scenes have had be rewritten or replaced, while extras had to wear surgical masks underneath their Venice Carnival masks.
An aspect of the new reality that is harder to control was the complete closure of U.S. theaters this spring that, Gianopulos admits, “caught Hollywood off guard.” Paramount had to repeatedly postpone releases, with “Top Gun: Maverick” pushed back first to December of this year and then to July of 2021.
On the upside, however, home entertainment has experienced a boom, with Paramount among the studios benefitting.
Some overseas theatrical markets, China and Japan among them, have restored theatrical earnings to near pre-pandemic levels. But overall, hard-to-predict theater closings and re-closings in the U.S., and elsewhere, “have made it difficult to plan global releases,” said Gianopulos.
The veteran studio executive predicted that audiences will continue to seek ways of experiencing films beyond the “communal experience of coming together in a theater” even after the pandemic passes. A confirmed realist, Gianopulos is determined to make serving those audiences a mission possible – and profitable.