NOTA Leader John Fithian Might Have Found a Way to Save Cinema

NATO leader John Fithian Credit: The Projects World
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

Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan have actively spoken out against same day releases for theaters and streaming services Credit: Apocalypse

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!      

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Your Comment


TIL that there's another NATO :D
You seem to have twisted the acronym in the title though (it currently says NOTA).

August 30, 2021 at 8:50AM


Ah, the old argument that the internet is just for cat videos and tik tok dancing. Feels like this guy was probably one of those, "digital cinema cameras are NOT cinema cameras! Film is the ONLY way to film true cinema!" guys. But hey, pull out your Nokia 3310 and blackberry while reading the news under whale oil lamps while you are at it you dinosaur!

Of course this shill wants exclusive access to movies as his job is dependent on it. Streaming will replace theaters in the future whether this guy likes it or not. They will decried TV releases, VHS and Blockbuster back in the day and streaming is just another in a long line of advancements that shake up the status quo and scare these old shits.

August 30, 2021 at 3:09PM


Going to the movies will be back only after the damn pandemia is over. I personally don’t go as I don’t want to spend two hours wearing a mask in the dark. And I miss teathers!

August 31, 2021 at 1:06AM

Javier Diez

Theaters have lost their appeal not because of innovation but the lack there of. Before the era of the summer blockbuster theaters would throw anything at people to get them in the door. Having things like double features, air conditioning (when it wasnt a common household item), free or cheap concessions and regular events. The issue now is they cant figure out how to squeeze money out of a consumer for one film while keeping their profits high and giving nothing else. Akin to thinking "Why is this happening to us?" when they hold all the cards to making it better.

Theaters will come back but not without alot of work. Maximizing profits on one screen with one movie at a time while pumping mark up on food products by 900% is not the direction that will stabilize this. Focus back on the consumer and not whats in their pockets.

September 5, 2021 at 10:56AM

Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer