Streaming Through the Isolated Year: The Resilience of the Film Industry

Award season is upon us again with The Golden Globes premiere this Sunday, February 28th. Like recent years, more and more of the shows and films nominated were released directly on streaming services like HBOMax, Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, and Amazon Prime. Netflix is dominating both the film and television nominations, with 22 and 20 nominations respectively for productions like Ozark, The Crown, Mank, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. With movie theaters around the world closed for a majority of 2020, today’s content relies almost exclusively on digital release.

Covid-19 was Just a Catalyst

Forbes posted a great article back in May 2020 about the future of America’s movie theaters. Even before the pandemic, theaters were struggling. According to the article, “Movie attendance has been falling for almost two decades while the number of screens have grown by 11% to more than 40,000.” Increased ticket prices are making up for shrinking audiences. But for many theaters, it already felt like the bubble was waiting to burst. And when the lockdowns set in early last year, streaming services gladly hosted the 2020’s blockbuster films instead.

But this move toward streaming has caused major controversy. WarnerMedia plans to release all of their 2021 Warner Bros. content on HBOMax the same day as its theatrical release. The Directors Guild of America believes this strategy will continue to pull audiences away from theaters. But die-hard movie theater fans will continue to appreciate seeing new releases on the big screen.

Hope for Reviving Theaters

With vaccinations in full swing, theaters are starting to reopen with caution and hope. Some independent theaters like University Mall in Fairfax, VA are encouraging sales by offering lowered ticket prices or curbside popcorn. Star Cinema Grill in Texas is hosting trivia nights, sports games, and high school homecoming festivities. But large theater chains are facing bankruptcy without widespread reopening. And the early-2020 rumors that Amazon would convert empty AMC theaters into entertainment ‘megaplexes’ have since died down.

The film industry is nothing if not resilient against adversity. Whether it’s a socially distanced drive-in movie or streamed to your cell phone, movies will find their way to audiences. And just in time for The Golden Globes.

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