With the rise of Netflix and Hulu, movie theaters might start to close their doors
Throughout middle school and high school every Friday night myself and my two best friends would go see a movie at my local theater. The theater would always be packed with people seeing a variety of movies, from Big Hero 6to American Sniper. Nowadays, I do not see as many people there on the weekends. Less people are seeing films in theaters now, and to be fair, why should they if they can watch them from their own beds? With the emergence of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ there isn’t much need to go see movies in theatres anymore.
Movies today are struggling to get people into the seats to see them. To combat this they have tried making everything bigger and better. They have brought in IMAX, 3D, and bigger speakers and theaters. These technologies were brought in to create a more immersive theater going experience. To quote IMAX at AMC, “Every element in [an IMAX theatre] is designed and positioned to create an intense experience.” It is getting people into the seat by promising an experience when you go to a movie. On the IMAX website, their slogan is “bigger is just the beginning,” thus allowing a clear deviation to streaming on you home TV or laptop. This distinguishable difference in quality is one of the things theaters are pushing to get people into their seats.
With the final Star Wars film coming to theaters in December and the recent release of Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, it feels as if the studios are trying to create larger spectacles in order to sell tickets. Studios are relying on brand recognition alone to sell their films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, with 23 films and a total box office revenue of $22.587 billion dollars globally, has yet to put out a failing movie. Now properties like the DCEU, Avatar, Star Wars and Fast & Furious are trying to copy this model of success. By having interconnected movies they are establishing a fan base and a loyal network of people who will continue to watch and support these films. Currently many companies such as Disney and Warner Bros. have found a large amount of success with this model. However companies such as Universal have found failure with this model in the creation of the Dark Universe; the only film in the current universe, The Mummywith Tom Cruise, released to a woping 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was clear the studio was more worried about setting up a “universe” of films rather than focusing on creating a quality story.
The emergence of streaming services today makes it easy to watch high quality shows, live TV and movies all on one platform without leaving the comfort of your home. Netflix was launched in 1997 as an online DVD subscription service before later transitioning in 2007 to an online streaming service. With Netflix breaking new ground, Hulu launched their online subscription service soon after. At launch Hulu emphasized their wide variety of TV shows while it seemed Netflix had the arsenal of movies. So the war began. In 2013 Netflix released their first original title House of Cards, which lasted until November 2 of 2018. In the years since Netflix has released hundreds of original shows and movies: 42 original drama series and 50 original comedy series. Hulu, which has also started producing original content, later stuck out for its live TV feature and subscription add-ons for services like HBO and Starz. Netflix countered this by adding popular shows such as Friends and acquiring several Disney movies. Now there are a variety of streaming services such as Amazon Prime and DC Universe, with Disney+, Apple TV and HBO Max coming in the near future, all of which have different shows and movies while also producing original content. Netflix has Stranger Things, Hulu has The Handmaid’s Tale, DC has Titans and Amazon Prime has The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, all of which are high quality shows with fairly large budgets. According to Business Insider the Marvel original shows coming to Disney+ will cost $25 million an episode. Game of Thrones costs around $15 Million an episode. So with the quality of television increasing, the need to go see movies in theaters is decreasing.
The disadvantage these platforms have is that they cannot offer the same theater experience in your living room that an IMAX theater can offer. With that being said, why pay 10 dollars for one movie when you could pay seven dollars for a thousand? With each platform releasing original movies that all have strong qualities about them, there is no need to rush to the theaters anymore. Upon launch on November 12, Disney+ will give access to all of Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic and Marvel for only $6.99/mo. With this in mind, the 10 dollars you would pay for a movie is now paying for you to see it a month or two in advance on a larger screen.
Another thing that is groundbreaking about streaming platforms is that they are continuing ended source material, as can be seen with Lucifer, Arrested Development and Breaking Bad. The Netflix original film El Camino is from the same makers of the hit series Breaking Bad and stars the same actors reprising their roles to continue the story of the TV show that ended in 2013. This is an interesting concept that will be continued by Disney, which is creating television shows to continue the plots of the characters in their blockbuster movies on their streaming service. Integrating the two is a smart idea that continues the belief that there is more to be had outside the theater than in it.
The movie theater industry is declining. “The 2019 box office is down nine percent from last year” (Eric Kohn IndieWire). The takeover of all these streaming platforms is slowly destroying a social event center. It matters when you go to the movies and buy popcorn and drinks to keep places like these open where people love and appreciate the art and entertainment everyone enjoys. How many first dates, or anxious kids waiting to see the new Toy Story, or millions of fans dressed as Darth Vader camping outside to see the newest Star Wars have movie theaters seen? It is more than just a screen, and although streaming allows you to have it at your fingertips, we should try and keep these entertainment strongholds alive.
William Porter is a second-year Exploratory major who encourages you to support Cinemapolis. You can reach them at [email protected]. Art by Adam Dee, Art Editor.