When the movie Jaws came out in theaters in 1975, it changed Hollywood. It was our first summer blockbuster, with people standing in long lines to pack theaters. It was a revolution, one we're still seeing and feeling the ripple effects of today.
Hollywood is a town built on blockbusters, and the surge in superhero movies in the last two decades has proven they need them to survive, at least the way the town is formatted now. But since the dawn of the internet, Hollywood has had streamers chasing it down. Places like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple+ have changed the way we consume media. Things are accessible in-home and on-demand.
What Hollywood thought would be a passing fad has actually become a foundational change in the way we watch movies. Studios have tried to keep up, releasing their own streaming apps. But with the COVID pandemic pushing people out of the theaters, audiences have turned to streaming more and more. In an effort to keep up, Warner Bros. took a drastic measure, simultaneously releasing their slate online and in theaters at the same time.
Filmmakers were upset at the decision, but audiences have largely embraced it. But how would a superhero movie do?
This last week, James Gunn's The Suicide Squad debuted on HBO Max. While it underperformed at the box office (mostly thanks to COVID), people found it on the app and it was the talk of the town on Twitter. It's funny, adult, and a really exciting story.
While everyone else is theorizing if WB's strategy of putting their films on HBO Max was a bad idea for the box office, Gunn has had to answer many questions on streaming. In a recent interview with Variety, he fired back at people who are pushing for purely theatrical releases. He says that streaming doesn't affect viewers.
Gunn said, "I don’t really care that much. I really just care about whatever the project is in front of me. The Suicide Squad is made to be seen first and foremost on a big screen. I think it’s gonna work just fine on television. Listen, movies don’t last because they’re seen on the big screen. Movies last because they’re seen on television. Jaws isn’t still a classic because people are watching it in theaters. I’ve never seen Jaws in a movie theater. It’s one of my favorite movies."
I think Gunn has a point here. Many generations grew up renting their favorite movies at video stores. Now the younger generations are finding these on streaming. We cannot discount that TVs are also bigger and better than they ever have been. If you watch Jaws on your 55-inch TV with surround sound, the experience is still amazing.
While theatrical viewing provides an excellent communal experience you cannot recreate at home, most people across the world take in their favorite movies at home. And home is where you can watch the movies again and again.
Times and tastes are changing in Hollywood, and it will be interesting to see how the industry changes with it. Let us know what you think in the comments.