Will Streaming Services Bring About the Fall of Live Cinema?


Deadline Cinema

With the rise of streaming services in the midst of a pandemic, will in-person cinema suffer?

Sophia Ramos, Media Editor

This past year saw the closure of all movie theaters in order to avoid super-spreader events of the Coronavirus. With this came delays of big blockbuster movies until 2021 and people realizing they may not see their anticipated movies for another year – that is, until Trolls: World Tour came out.

Despite the sequel to the 2016 movie Trolls being much less anticipated than, for example, the new Black Widow movie Marvel had been teasing, its release is what began the upcoming wave of change and new trend that followed until the end of the year. World Tour, despite the pandemic, had released to a select few theaters in April of 2020, as well as for digital rental. The theatrical releases made a slow rise to grossing about $50 million in the box office, but the digital release is estimated to have grossed $150 million, placing it second to Disney’s live-action Mulan for the most popular digitally released title according to The Hollywood Reporter as of October.

And with this surprising turn out for Trolls: World Tour, AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas announced that they would no longer show movies that would simultaneously be available for digital rental. This controversy sparked speculation on whether more delayed films would release digitally, and what will happen to the tradition of seeing a movie in a theater if more films were to be released for streaming. This worry fell off when it seemed that any big blockbusters, such as Marvel Studio’s Black Widow or Warner Brothers’ Wonder Woman 1984, would continue to be delayed until 2021, when cases go down and more people could see it in theaters.

This took a turn in early December, when Warner Bros. revealed that not only would Wonder Woman be given a theatrical release, but it would also be available to stream on HBO Max. Alongside the long-awaited DC Comics film, Warner Bros. will also put their upcoming movies on HBO Max as well. Reminiscent of the decisions made by AMC and Regal earlier this year, theaters will be lowering ticket prices for theatrically released Warner Bros. films in protest of the streaming releases. Despite this, the company hasn’t rescinded their decision. Unlike Trolls: World Tour, countless viewers would be willing to make HBO Max subscriptions to see Wonder Woman, and since the streaming service is own by WarnerMedia, the film production company will not be risking large financial losses by partnering with HBO Max to show their films.

So to answer the question of whether or not streaming services will bring about the death of in-person cinema: it’s fairly doubtful. Despite the convenience of being able to stay home and watch a movie, and having a subscription to see other films and original TV shows, many moviegoers enjoy the ability to go out with friends or family, buy some snacks, and sit down in a theater with a much larger screen and higher quality audio than they may find at home. And from a production company standpoint, the high risk of box office losses is too great to do a digital release; this is why Black Widow hasn’t yet been slated to release on Disney+, because despite the possibility of subscriptions rising in order to see the movie, Marvel Studios and Disney by extension know that they can ultimately make much more in the box office if they waited until it was safe to release theatrically.

For all the movie theater fanatics out there, you won’t have to worry about losing your favorite cinematic medium for quite some time. So when the pandemic is done and over with, go out, buy some popcorn, and see that movie you’ve waited so long to see.