How the Movie Industry Will Change Due to the Wave of Streaming Releases

Michael Beausoleil

2020 ended with some high profile movie releases, but they didn't come to a theater near you. Instead, streaming is the best way to watch new movies in 2021. HBO Max is streaming Wonder Woman 1984, Disney+ is streaming Soul, and Netflix is streaming We Can Be Heroes. It seems blockbuster films are no longer reserved for the big screen. To the dismay of Hollywood, this is going to have a longterm impact.

Movies with A-list celebrities and enormous budgets have been forced to delay their releases or settle for a streaming releases. Perhaps this is going to force us into a movie revolutions, but at the very least, it is forcing us to reevaluate the cinema experience.

The longer we go without cinemas showing movies, the less important it will be for customers to view movies in the theater. There are many markets that can benefit from this shift, and we’ll start to see the movie industry embrace the streaming revolution. This means the consumer will also see some changes, both good and bad.

Some of these changes may be long overdue, and other changes are thanks to the “new normal”. The current pandemic has accelerated the streaming revolution, and no vaccine can reverse the damage done to movie theaters.

There Will Be Bidding Wars for Movies

When movies are available for home viewing, streaming won’t be an afterthought. We used to see movies released in the following sequence: theater, home media, then streaming. That middle stage is going to become less relevant than ever. When a blockbuster movie is ready to be viewed at home, streaming services will bypass Blu-ray and view these releases as promotional opportunities. People may not want to spend $10 for a monthly subscription, but it’s far better than $15 per ticket for a single viewing.

(Photo: Wonder Woman 1984 vis Screen Rant)

Disney has a firm grip on the Marvel Universe and its own content. Other movies could be up for grabs on other services. Wonder Woman 1984 has been a marketing tool for HBO Max, and viewers are getting a taste of the direct-to-stream content. If this is successful, it will not go unnoticed by Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.

Prolonged Cinema Life

Despite its immediate streaming release, Wonder Woman 1984 is in theaters. It made a modest $16.7 million in its opening weekend: the most any movie has made since the pandemic hit. This is a positive reflection of the film’s popularity, and a third installment is set to film in the Wonder Woman franchise. While it is likely a couple years away, it’s supposed to have a traditional theatric release.

This has shown studios that some fans want a theatric experience despite the fact that movies are readily available online. Don’t be surprised if movies get a second theatric run to squeeze more money out of the franchise. Wonder Woman 1984 could get a rerelease in theaters prior to the release of its sequel. Fans who played it safe during the pandemic will have another opportunity for the full experience, even if they’ve already seen the film on HBO Max.

Indie Darlings Will Get More Attention

Often, the best movies go widely unnoticed until award season. Then, a couple critical successes go on to have successful theatric runs. If the music industry has taught us anything, people will try new artists if there’s no risk of losing money.

In many ways, streaming services have leveled the playing field. Big movies still have advertising power, but people won’t have to find a niche cinema to view independent films. It will allow organic interest to blossom, rather than relying on award shows to spark public interest.

Starring in TV Will Be Less Cliché

Years ago, there was a stigma against people who transitioned from the big screen to the small screen. Stars who could no longer find work in movies would resort to sitcoms or cable movies. Usually, this was an indicator the actor was past their prime. When movies and TV are on the same streaming platform, this stigma begins to dissolve.

(Photo: The Morning Show via Observer)

We have already seen this on some streaming services. A prime example would be The Morning Show on Apple TV+ which stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell. With enough money behind these projects, actors may see the benefit of working in television over movies. It should not be a shock to see more actors mixing their big screen work with small screen projects.

Cinemas Will Mimic Home Viewing

There was a time when all of the electronic stores were trying to sell you a home entertainment center that mimicked a movie theater. Customers where buying bigger screens, surround sound systems, and even 3D technology. Some of these technologies aged poorly, but perhaps the cinemas themselves aged worst of all.

Moving forward, cinemas will try to compete with the at-home viewing experience. We already see theaters that have reclining seats and ample leg room, but cinemas may need to offer new deals to make viewing more convenient. This might mean forgoing profits to lower concession prices, or even allowing customers to bring their own snacks. Cinemas could offer a night pass, allowing customers to view multiple movies in a single evening. When restrictions are lifted, cinemas will make getting butts in seats their biggest priority.

Smaller Services Will Join the Action

With movies like Wonder Woman 1984 making an impact, other services will see the success of streaming-exclusive movies. They will try to leverage this as a form of marking, under the pretense that a month of streaming equals the cost of a movie ticket. Soon, we will see less common names getting in on the streaming wars.

If a service like Plex or Mubi can afford exclusive streaming right, they might view a big name film as a viable marketing strategy. The right movie will give platforms a big boost, and this could be the catalyst into widespread recognition.

The Box Office Won’t Be the Endpoint

Generally, the success of a movie is measured in box office profits. A “flop” would be a movie who earned less than its budget, especially when looking at domestic and international ticket sales. Even before the pandemic, we started to see streaming play a bigger role in the lifespan of movies and the ways they’re monetized.

Post-pandemic, movies that have cinematic releases will not view the theaters as the final opportunity for money. Instead, they will be advertising a streaming service as their final destination. The Marvel Universe can already do this with Disney+, but other movies will have a home-viewing destination predetermined. This will allow movies to make decent profits after they’ve left theaters. It will also be an opportunity for more marketing. If a theatric flop gets a prominent feature when it’s sent to streaming, that could be the second wind that makes the movie profitable.

Viewers Have More Power than Ever

During the pandemic, Hollywood feels the pressure to put out movies and view streaming as their best option. The closure of cinemas has lasted longer than anticipated. It’s hard to know when studios can fully release movies again and expect to earn profits.

Viewers are now learning to change their behaviors. Even if movies are available to view in the theaters, we’re setting the precedent that movies will eventually be available on streaming. Major cinemas like AMC are afraid they will not be able to regain profits if studios like Warner Bros. view streaming as equally important as cinematic releases. This is a sign the culture is changing, and movie watchers will not longer need to be moviegoers.

We can’t be sure what the future holds, but we can be sure that money is a motivator. If streaming proves it is not a viable solution, movie studios will keep the traditional model for theatric releases. However, this holiday season has proven that blockbuster movies are marketable on streaming services. HBO wants to put money into their endeavor, and if this makes enough money, it might slowly kill the box office.

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Writer, educator, and a few other things.

San Diego, CA

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