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Hollywood’s Summer Blockbuster Season Comes With a Side of Studio Angst

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LOS ANGELES—At a multiplex on Wednesday, Arnold Schwarzenegger led a pep rally for big-screen films ahead of the summer movie season.

“We want to bring the big screen back. That’s what this is all about,” said the “Terminator” star and former California governor, who led part of the small, socially-distanced crowd in chants of “We are back! We are back!”

The fact that moviegoing—a more than $11 billion-a-year domestic business pre-Covid-19—needed a pep rally speaks to Hollywood’s odd reality these days. It both wants people to rush back to the movies and watch them at home via streaming services.

AT&T Inc.’s streaming-driven spinoff of WarnerMedia on Monday is the latest development in an accelerating push to build direct-to-consumer platforms accessible for a monthly fee. How the traditional box-office business model will coexist alongside streaming services, and how film studios fit in, has become an increasingly urgent question.

Most American multiplexes are open ahead of a summer moviegoing season that could become a referendum on the future of the business. This weekend, Comcast Corp.’s latest “Fast & Furious” installment, “F9”—distributed by Universal Pictures—opens in major international markets, including China. Next weekend, Walt Disney Co. ’s “Cruella,” starring Emma Stone, and Paramount Pictures’ horror sequel “A Quiet Place Part II” hit theaters in the U.S.

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