By Sophia Studer

 

One of my all-time favorite things to do in pre-covid-19 times was going to a movie with friends. But as the world sits homebound with our options reduced to streaming for new content, we are witnessing a revolution in the way movies are being created, premiered, and released.

 

During the past year, we have witnessed the distress of movie theaters as they were forced to close their doors in the midst of the pandemic.[1] Some major Hollywood movie production houses have been delaying big screen releases in the hopes of potential profits pending the return of brick and mortar box offices.

 

This lull in the market is where streaming services have swooped in. Warner Bros., unwilling to wait out theaters, made the decision to premiere films originally intended for the big screen on the streaming service HBO Max.[2] Disney also went a similar route with releasing movies like “Mulan” and “Onward” on its streaming app, Disney Plus.[3] These films would have been qualified as theater-worthy in pre-covid-19 times, but without theaters open, the movie industry has been forced to adapt.[4] With in-person restrictions staying put, streaming services have happily obliged at filling the movie premiere void.

 

Not only have streaming services jumped at the chance of premiering traditional Hollywood blockbusters, but they have begun trying their hand at producing original content. Their efforts have been increasingly more successful. This year, Netflix swept up a record-breaking thirty-five Oscar nominations in a wide range of categories.[5] Disney Plus and Hulu also fared well at the Oscars, with Disney Plus earning its first Oscar and Hulu receiving a nomination.[6] This trend is only likely to grow as Americans grow more accustomed to viewing new movies in the comfort of their own home.

 

The fun of viewing movies from home is compounded by the low cost of streaming services to consumers. Going to the movies was not a cheap experience; tickets, popcorn, candy, and drinks would undoubtedly rack up a hefty toll. This is the price that theater goers have always paid to enjoy the experience of watching an exclusive new movie on a giant screen. But with covid-19 pushing us into a new normal, people have come to enjoy the thrill of watching a new movie at home on their favorite streaming service. Even if the movie costs extra—as Disney Plus charged a $30 fee to watch “Raya and the Last Dragon”—consumers are willing and excited to pay it to watch the new movie at home.[7] Couple the influx of low-cost streaming services with the ever-growing size of the average American television set and movie theaters are facing a big problem.[8]

 

As theaters across the country prepare to reopen with covid-19 restrictions, there will be major hurdles for them to overcome. Many in Hollywood worry that there is not enough content coming down the production pipeline to support a successful return to the in-person box office.[9] Since production has been paused due to the pandemic, Hollywood producers do not feel confident in the likelihood of getting many new movies out in time.[10] The lack of new movies being shown in theaters is likely to deter pandemic-weary customers from venturing out of the comfort of their home. But with that being said, every industry is learning to change and retool processes to operate in the new normal; movie producers, streaming services, and theaters are no different.

 

[1] R.T. Watson, Movie Theaters Are Finally Reopening: Will You Go?, Wall Street J. (Mar. 5, 2021, 4:25 PM), https://www.wsj.com/articles/hollywood-eyes-recovery-as-movie-theaters-reopen-in-new-york-city-and-san-francisco-11614959313.

[2] Benjamin Svetkey, COVID-19 Has Changed How We See Movies—and There’s No Going Back, L.A. Mag. (Jan. 22, 2021), https://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/covid-19-movie-theaters/.

[3] Id.; Brent Lang, Netflix Dominates 2021 Oscar Nominations, Disney Plus and Apple Score First Nods, Variety (Mar. 15, 2021, 7:37 AM), https://variety.com/2021/film/awards/netflix-oscar-nominations-2021-disney-plus-hulu-1234930905/.

[4] Lang, supra note 3.

[5] Ryan Faughnder, Oscars 2021: Netflix Leads Studios With 35 Nominations in Streaming’s Big Year, L.A. Times (Mar. 15, 2021, 8:57 AM), https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2021-03-15/2021-oscars-nominations-netflix-mank-nominations-studios.

[6] Id.

[7] Watson, supra note 1.

[8] Id.

[9] Brent Lang, Elaine Low & Gene Maddaus, Post-Pandemic Hollywood: Why Working in Entertainment Will Never Be the Same, Variety https://variety.com/2021/film/entertainment-industry/working-in-hollywood-after-covid-19-1234932406/ (last visited Mar. 19, 2021).

[10] Id.

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/14375317064.

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