“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.” Those are the words of legendary novelist and screenwriter H.G. Wells and Hollywood has taken them to heart.
The movie business is undergoing rapid adaptation that could permanently change where and how you watch movies.
Two major movie studios announced that in 2021 they will release their major blockbuster films direct to streaming services – so you can watch the biggest names in your living room as soon as they’re in theaters.
From Warner Bros., these films include "Dune," "The Suicide Squad," "Tom & Jerry," "Godzilla vs. Kong," "Mortal Kombat," "In The Heights," "Space Jam: A New Legacy," and "Matrix 4;" they’ll all be streaming on HBO Max upon release.
Disney will stream “Raya and the Last Dragon” on Disney+, as well as live action versions of “Pinocchio,” “Peter Pan and Wendy,” and “Disenchanted,” a sequel to the hit film “Enchanted.” They haven’t revealed plans for the release of new Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar film series just yet, though they announced a slew of Disney+ series for those tentpole franchises.
Some films, like "Raya and the Last Dragon," will be released with Disney+'s Premier Access, which charges a one-time fee to watch certain content.
Both studios will also send some of their releases to theaters, to ensure at least a short theatrical run. But chances are the majority of viewers will watch them from the couch.
This is accelerating a trend to streaming that started before the pandemic and has exploded since we’ve all been cooped up at home. Disney+ alone has grown to an astonishing 86.8 million subscribers during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 social gathering restrictions have crushed the theater business. Before the country locked down in March only three major films were released this year. Movie theaters make money off concessions – popcorn, candy, and more recently alcohol – which they cannot recoup.Theater chains are warning of dire outcomes if they can’t reopen – or get a bailout – in 2021.
PricewaterhouseCoopers sees the sharpest downturn in movie theater revenue in 21 years, and predicts it’ll be at least 4 years before theatres fully recover. But that might be optimistic.
With millions of people now signed up to get movies at home, it’s unclear whether theater going will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.
Only one theater business is booming in the pandemic. Drive-in movies became COVID’s go-to summer entertainment. At a Kentucky drive-in, attendance doubled since it opened in 2018. A diner in Astoria, Queens, New York, converted its parking lot and they sold nearly 300 tickets in one minute. And in July, Key Biscayne, Florida, boasted a “boat-in” movie theater showing features on a 60 foot screen.
However you choose to consume your entertainment, it’s pretty clear it’ll never be the same after COVID.