Actor Brian Cox says the movie business has lost its way in recent years, falling behind TV as the home of the most imaginative entertainment.
The coronavirus pandemic, he hopes, will prompt a revival.
“What I would do is, I would destroy most of the movie theaters now,” said Cox, holed up in Hillsdale, N.Y., during the coronavirus lockdown in an interview with the Daily News last week from his wood-paneled kitchen. “A new paradigm has to be created.”
Cox, a theater veteran with dozens of film and TV credits to his name, has seen his star rise with his Golden Globe-winning role in “Succession,” the drama about a media empire based loosely on News Corp.
The 73-year-old returned to the U.S. in mid-March from London, where he directed the play “Sinners,” when the shutdown hit ahead of filming for the third season of “Succession.” Cox said the show’s cast aims to return to work in August or September.
The break has left the Scottish actor, who normally lives in Brooklyn, with plenty of time in the country to ponder the future shape of storytelling — and to marvel at the outpouring of home-filmed theatrical art.
Cox appears in an intense new flick, “Last Moment of Clarity,” which landed Tuesday. He plays a French-Scot mentor to the thriller’s troubled protagonist. Filmed a year ago, the film marks the first time Cox has done a French accent onscreen; he said he drew inspiration from colorful French-Scottish cousins who were held as prisoners during WWII.
A self-professed hardcore movie buff, Cox said he wants the silver screen to catch back up to the small screen. Cinemas today feel too much like cogs in a sterile money-making machine, he says.
“Whereas in television, it’s constantly being reinvented, because of the writing,” Cox said. “Television is becoming the real dramatic art form.”
During the pandemic, stir-crazy Americans have flocked to binge-friendly shows including “Normal People,” “Ozark” and “Dead To Me.” Major streaming services have reported growth in subscriptions and viewership, as the lockdown tightens TV’s stranglehold on entertainment primacy.
The theater world, economically distressed by the virus, is finding ways to clamber along. Performers from the Broadway adaptation of “Spring Street” worked from home to give their postponed show a belated digital opening. And The Public Theater, a Greenwich Village playhouse, churned out a new production over Zoom called “What Do We Need To Talk About?” that drew tens of thousands of viewers.
“There’s an upside to everything,” Cox said. “The downside is very clear in what’s happening at the moment. But the upside is that work is being produced, and people want to see it. They want to see stuff.”
Meanwhile, films have seen their release dates postponed, and movie houses slumber from coast to coast. The Celebration Cinema in Grand Rapids, Mich., is shuttering. The Mahoning Valley Cinema in eastern Pennsylvania has closed its doors, too.
Many more closures may follow. During the crisis alone, Hollywood projects to lose billions in revenue.
Cox said he sees an opportunity to kick-start a beloved business that for too long has sent denizens streaming into blockbusters “with their popcorn spilling all over the place.”
“We regard it as sort of a cattle institution,” he said.
He hopes Hollywood will look itself in the mirror during the crisis, unwinding back to an earlier time. In recent years, he mused, “there was no new energy, no new life.”
“Movies I worry about, because I just think movies seem to be all about spectacle,” Cox said. “Films have become very mundane, and I think it’s a great shame.”