Is Netflix killing the Movie Theatres?
What challenge has the pandemic posed to the film industry, and what does the future hold for the movie theaters?
“Wonder Woman 1984” is the first large-scale blockbuster, which simultaneously premiered in cinemas and one of the largest online platforms -HBO MAX. The film was released on December 25 after changing the premiere date several times.
More than half of HBO MAX subscribers saw the blockbuster on its release day. The platform gained thousands of new subscribers thanks to “Wonder Woman 1984”, which also broke the viewing record and surpassed all competitors. After seeing the benefits, Studio Warner Bros. also approved the third installment of the blockbuster.
Was it profitable for a studio to set a similar precedent by placing a large-scale blockbuster online platform? What challenges does the industry face? I interviewed the Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael.
I feel like Warner Bros. did not have a choice. They announced that they would simultaneously release Wonder Woman 1984 in the theatre and on HBO Max. I don’t know the exact bookkeeping, but the Netflix model seems like they are profitable, and their stocks are high, and they keep investing a lot of money. They keep building studios around the world, doesn’t seem like there’s going to be a slow down on the production end. Still, they did the Will Smith movie with ninety and hundred million dollars. It was never intended for theatrical release. It is all about competing for the subscribers between the networks and don’t know how the revenues work but think it’s profitable. The people who are hurting are the theatre owners. Those are potentially catastrophic for theatre chains. A lot of f filmmakers that had those venues to distribute their films are now closed. Cinemas like Anjelica, New art, and the Vista are directly affected by the pandemic.
The pandemic made HBO MAX and NETFLIX major streaming services of the year. Even though cinemas worldwide have opened, people are still reluctant to go. The topic of streaming services replacing the movie theaters has long been debated in Hollywood.
Phedon Papamichael-“There are different theories, and mine is less optimistic. People are getting used to watching movies on streaming services. They also had enough time to upgrade their home systems. Lots of people ask me which projector or sound system to buy for their home.
People will probably go to the cinema only to see the major movie events. Amazon, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO MAX, Netflix will film relatively low-budget movies and indie movies that will only be available on their services. Sadly, we will not see them in the cinema. These are the movies I am interested in. I’m not ready to make Marvel movies or just blockbusters for all my life”.
In the first nine months of 2020, Netflix gained 28.1 million paying subscribers worldwide. Its market value is increasing daily, studios are being built in different countries, and investments are being expanded. A few years ago, the A listers of film industry were skeptical of the streaming service. Famous directors have been stating that their movies are better experienced in movie theatres. Now the picture has changed, and they, too, are already actively collaborating with Netflix.
During the pandemic, Netflix has bought movies that were intended for theatrical release. For example, Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of Chicago seven was set as an opening movie for the New York Film Festival that was canceled because of the pandemic. Amid canceled festivals and closed cinemas, Netflix took action and bought all rights of the film.
Phedon Papamichel is the cinematographer of The Trial of Chicago Seven and was nominated for the Oscars 2021. also spoke about the movie – The Trial of Chicago 7.
I filmed The Trial of Chicago 7 with Aaron Sorkin that belongs to Studio Paramount, and it was supposed to be released in cinemas but was canceled due to a pandemic.
The cost was $ 35 million, and Netflix bought him for $ 55 million. It was a good deal. Aaron Sorkin wanted the film to premiere before the US presidential election. The film thematically responds to the events taking place in the US. For example, the BLM movement, protest marches. So during the presidential campaign, it was very timely to show this film to a broad audience.”
It’s been years that Warner Bros. wanted to create its streaming service. In partnership with Internet company At&T and cable television HBO, Warner Bros. has created an online library 0f TV shows and movies. When the quarantine was announced, and the whole world spent the day at home, Warner Bros. wasted no time in launching a still-faulty platform. The website initially worked flawlessly but was soon corrected. Netflix has also emerged as the biggest and most serious competitor to HBO MAX.
“People are now spending more time on online platforms than they imagined. Even I mostly watch movies on these platforms. I spoke to industry experts who think that people will be in the euphoria of returning to old life after the opening of cinemas and will go to the movies. “Let’s see if these institutions survive and if they can withstand this challenge,” Papon Michael told me.
One of the first films to be shown in cinemas during the Pandemic was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Unfortunately, the premiere date of the film has changed several times. According to rumors, Nolan was dissatisfied with the decision of the studio.
His film went without a pompous premiere and millions of viewers. Those who saw the movie in the cinema say it looked like a premiere arranged for them: a total of ten men were sitting in the giant hall, with pillows and no popcorn. The film is now available on Amazon, where far more people have seen it than in the movies.
I also talked about the topic with Marko Markovich, a representative of one of the most famous cinema systems – IMAX:
“Nobody knows when the film sessions will be resumed and the theaters will be opened, however, we continue to install the IMAX system worldwide. Some cinemas have taken advantage of this forced pause and are updating the system. “
The pandemic also affected the film industry. Hollywood thinks that only large networks of cinemas will survive the crisis. Studios will have to adapt to the new reality and create more products for online movie platforms.