Marvel ‘Avengers’ Directors The Russo Brothers Say Reopening Movie Theaters Will Be ‘Complicated’ But Will Happen

Joe and Anthony Russo know a thing or two about the theatrical movie experience. The Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Endgame became the highest grossing movie of all time thanks to people going to theaters. Their previous Marvel entries were also well attended. Now, some theaters are looking to the Avengers movies to help reopen theaters when it becomes safe to. New movie releases won’t be available until at least July or August. 

Russo Brothers Anthony and Joe
L-R: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Russo Brothers still believe in the theatrical moviegoing experience, but that is not the only game in town anymore. Moving on from Marvel, they just produced the Netflix original movie Extraction and have a project with Amazon. Speaking with Deadline about Extraction on April 24, the Russos shared their feelings about the state of movie theaters.

Reopening theaters will be a challenge, but the Russo Brothers believe it is necessary, not just for Marvel movies

Many states have stay-at-home orders until May 15, and even then they will experiment with a gradual reopening of businesses. Marvel has moved their next movie, Black Widow, to Nov. 6 and movie theaters have yet to decide when to reopen on a mass scale. Joe Russo acknowledged the issues pertaining to coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Theatrical is going to be complicated over the next year or two, but we don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Joe Russo told Deadline’s Mike Fleming. “We will always want that communal experience.”

The Russo Brothers don’t have any answers for when it will be safe to reopen theaters. They do believe it will happen. They described the feeling of watching audiences experience Avengers: Endgame, the culmination of 22 Marvel movies, on opening night. That is worth preserving.

Marvel's Avengers Endgame
L to R: Karen Gillan, Chris Evans | Film Frame/Marvel Studios

“To be in a movie theater that feels like a rock arena, I never imagined it,” Anthony Russo said. “To be part of that energy and see the crowds experience the movie in that way with that fervor, sharing it together and feeding one another, that was something I never anticipated. It keeps you humbled.”

The Russo Brothers will continue to make movies for theaters and digital

The Russo Brothers see an opportunity in the digital space. Streaming services are actually preserving some of the sorts of films that can’t compete with Marvel in theaters anymore.

“Anthony and I had been targeting Netflix as a home for a lot of our [production company] AGBO content,” Joe Russo said. “We love the reach and that they support certain segments of the market that used to be theatrical, but now we don’t think people will go to the theater for. They prefer to enjoy certain films at home.”

Anthony Russo says the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the value of creating equally worthwhile streaming content for home viewing. You can’t watch Marvel every night.

Russo Brothers at Comic-Con
L-R: Joe Russo and Anthony Russo | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

It’s a testament to all the different ways we experience media now, a life online that’s getting richer and bigger. Theaters will remain important and vital and it will be a wholly unique experience for us, but this crisis has shown us how the film business continues to dimension-alize. All our lives online have changed just in the last few weeks, and it is reflective of the growing importance of the that growing dimension of human life and experience.

Anthony Russo, Deadline interview, 4/24/2020

Marvel style movies will push other kinds of movies out of movie theaters and that’s okay

Box office analysts have been lamenting that only mega budget superhero event films get made anymore. The Russo Brothers say it’s a tad more nuanced than that. Releasing a movie in thousands of theaters is expensive. Certain sorts of films can forego that expense without sacrificing the experience.

Because theatrical is shifting, it can’t be supported by traditional models of financing at a level that is commensurate with the ambitions of the creative team. Frankly, I’m hoping the prejudice between digital and theatrical distribution disappears because I don’t find it helpful and I don’t think the audience, especially the young audience, cares. It’s a bad habit we adopted from years of film folks thumbing their noses at TV and vice versa.

Joe Russo, Deadline interview 4/24/2020

While the Russo Brothers support movie theaters, they are also grateful for streaming opportunities.

Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) | Film Frame/Marvel Studios

“[Moviegoing] is going to become so specifically event-oriented communal experiences,” Joe Russo said. “That’s what is going to get people out of the house and into the theater. Everything else can have an incredible life in digital distribution. We should be grateful and thankful that exists, because we are seeing more dimension in our storytelling than we have in a decade. That is a great thing for artists and a great thing for audiences.”