The struggle to keep cinema alive after the pandemic is an ongoing battle, but maybe there is a solution to end this streaming war.
This year’s gathering at CinemaCon was a little somber as theater owners from across the globe gathered to watch exclusive peeks of upcoming films. The post-COVID-19 rebound has not been what theater owners were expecting, leaving many theaters boarding up their doors as ticket sales stay low.
Even the promise of huge blockbusters isn’t enough to help boost theater sales as highly anticipated movies are being released on streaming services such as HBO Max and Disney+ the same day the films are released in theaters.
The leader of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) believes the film industry is at an important turning point where the decision about exclusivity for new releases will forever change the industry. Good or bad, the at-home streaming services have had a massive impact on Hollywood and theaters, causing stars like ScarJo and the stars of A Quiet Place II to demand compensation for their films being on streaming services and theaters struggling to keep their doors open.
NATO leader John Fithian spoke to theater owners at CinemaCon about the importance of releasing films exclusively in theaters before sending them to streaming services. It is a hot-button issue as Disney and Warner Bros. still plan to release films on their streaming services at the same time as the films hit theaters. This has led many people to worry that the end of cinema is closer than ever.
Fithian thanked the filmmakers and actors who speak up against the rise of streaming, saying, “I applaud artists who refuse to accept the false narrative that movie theaters are a thing of the past, and that the future will be one in which every movie is consumed at home. These leading creatives know better, and they are on the right side of history.”
We have seen quite a few filmmakers speak against the rise of at-home movie consumption. Denis Villeneuve has voiced his disappointment with Dune: Part One being available on HBO Max, and Christopher Nolan has not been shy about his disdain of streaming services.
Fithian’s presentation at CinemaCon was an attempt to educate distributors and theater owners on the importance of theatrical exclusivity to protect the future of the film industry. Fithian and many filmmakers understand that streaming services are important for those who are unable or feel uncomfortable going to a theatre in these post-pandemic times, but allowing the same-day releases on streaming services is doing more harm than good for everyone involved.
We are entering an era of great experimentation for future film releases.
“Cinema is much more than a passive form of entertainment,” Fithian said. “It’s immersive and life-changing. Cinema is not meant to exist on the same digital playing field as funny cat videos on YouTube, or endless TikTok scrolling.”
With Venom: Let There Be Carnage moving its release date to the beginning of 2022, there could be a new wave of films shifting their release dates which would leave the fall theatrical window open. All of these empty slots could leave theaters without a major box office hit to fill the empty seats. There might not be theaters open to test Fithian's new release strategy.
Maybe having an exclusive theatre release for two weeks or so before releasing the films on streaming services could help theaters stay alive. This gives moviegoers who are dying to see the film or those who are fans of going to the theater the opportunity to see the movie when it comes out before viewers at home can watch the movie for free on their respective streaming services. It seems like the perfect middle ground as the film world finds a way to adapt to the post-pandemic world.
What are your thoughts on Fithian’s solution to save cinema? Let us know what they are in the comments below!