Warner Bros. announced on Thursday that all their 2021 movies would be released simultaneously in theaters and on their HBO Max streaming service. With movie theaters already being crippled by a pandemic, this sounds like pretty horrible news for that industry, but does it spell the end for theaters?
Making movies available on streaming services is the future and we currently have the technology for it to be the present. This HBO Max deal sounds incredible for anyone with children. I'm sure there are other groups that would find it much more appealing to watch a movie from home than hit a theater. Going out to the movies can be a whole thing.
But there are plenty of people who would want to go to the movies. As someone who just saw a movie in theaters two years ago, I am fairly certain people will still want to go to the movies when this is all over. No matter how good some movies are on a big HD television screen, there's just no replacing the communal experience of sitting in a theater for a big moment. Whether it's the vibe of a great comedy that has people rolling in the aisles, a tense, finger nail-biting horror movie, or that moment where a super hero picks up another super hero's thingamabob right when all seems lost.
2020 is pretty dark for theaters so with 2021 looking like more of the same, I can understand why people are jumping to conclusions. Coronavirus means avoiding small, crowded spaces indoors and that's exactly what a movie theater is. This isn't going away in 2021. Eventually though... Eventually(!) we will be able to hang out around people who don't live with us. Four walls and smiling strangers will no longer be completely terrifying. When that happens, I'd like to go to a movie again.
The question is, what is the system going to look like?
Will huge multiplexes operate in a limited capacity? Will smaller movie houses stage a comeback? Will my HBO Max or Peacock or Netflix subscription get me a discount at the box office? Or will I be able to apply a ticket receipt to my next streaming bill? Or can I just go see any movie I want depending on what company is releasing it? Did... did HBO just invent MoviePass? I don't see how that could fail.
Who knows what any of this will really look like five years down the road when everyone has their streaming ducks in a row. Let alone a year from now when people are finally able to leave their houses with confidence again.
What we do know, is that there is still an audience for sitting in an audience. Even right now, people are buying movie tickets. It's a fraction of what it was, but The Croods: A New Age made $9.7 million last weekend.
Here are some facts:
Elf was released in 2003. Elf will be shown on AMC approximately 100 times during the holiday season. For $9.99 or less you can either purchase a DVD, Blu-ray or digital copy of Elf. There is a pandemic going on.
Despite all that, Elf made $430,000 over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend.
People want to go to the theater. Yes, habits are changing and it will never be what it was, but there is still an appetite for cinema at the cinema. There's a balance that will be found through trial and error. So for now be happy you can see these movies anywhere. Then when the pandemic is over, you'll have a choice.