Is Streaming Here to Stay? And More Thoughts on the Future of Cinema
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
Have you ever wished there was an intermission for the 2 hour, 30 minute flick you were watching as you sat in the dark, packed movie theater? To go to the bathroom, get more snacks, or even just to take a break? This was a common thought many of us had sitting in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman a year ago, and we got our wish in the worst way possible. Now, we can pause new releases anytime we want.
With Warner Brothers moving their entire 2021 slate to a simultaneous release in cinemas and on HBO Max, movie fans everywhere are uncertain about the future of cinema. On the other hand of the Warner Brothers decision, Marvel seems adamant on releasing their films solely in cinemas. The long-awaited Black Widow film is set to debut this year, after being delayed from May 2020 to May 2021. But given the state of the pandemic in the US and Europe, two of Marvel’s biggest markets, the immediate future of seeing blockbusters in the movie theater is not looking so promising.
The film industry has been forced to change rapidly over the past few months. With the Oscars setting temporary rules allowing streaming and VOD films to compete in the Oscar races, and to movie festivals like Sundance being moved totally online, how long will these last?
Starting off with the pros: I no longer have to sneak food into the cinema to watch a new release. I can cook myself a nice meal, at home, and enjoy it while watching a new film. And though I miss it dearly, I do not have to pay for overpriced popcorn anymore. I also don’t have to do mental math in my head anymore to calculate what time the movie will actually start after all the trailers. While I do love seeing what’s to come on the big screen, I much rather prefer seeing the movie I paid for. Not 30 minutes of trailers. That’s what social media is for! In addition, the watch party features on Hulu and Amazon Prime have made it so much easier to watch movies with friends. As more new releases get moved on there, we no longer have to correlate who’s driving, who’s paying for the tickets in advance, who needs to Venmo who, and what times can we all make the 3 showings on the one day we are all semi free. Now, with more free time than ever on our hands, we can just send out a link, and watch from the comfort of our own homes while still staying connected and sharing our thoughts.
Also, it’s a lot cheaper now. Even though VOD debut movies cost $20 or so to rent for one weekend (which is literally less than the price of one ticket and popcorn at AMC), movies on streaming are available for no additional cost other than a monthly subsription. I think this is why films such as Malcolm and Marie and The Trial of the Chicago Seven will be so popular during the 2021 awards season, because they’re available on Netflix, the world’s biggest streaming site. Just like how we saw last year’s Oscars nominating popular movies and enticing casual moviegoers into the awards season fare. Nominating more accessible movies in this strange time will hopefully keep the love of cinema alive for both awards organizations and casual moviegoers.
It’s not easy to access a cinema nowadays. Many oscar-bait movies and awards contenders are only showing limited showings in the six cities the academy approved for an oscar-nominated run. Plus, fellow cinema lovers may work in hospitals, on the front lines, may be immunocompromised, or just simply don’t want to risk catching the virus. Having movie debuts on VOD or streaming helps keep so many more people safe.
But when I think of cinema, I think of moments that change you. Sitting in a theater with friends with surround sound, a big screen, feeling completely immersed in the movie is a feeling that simply cannot be replicated at home.
Personally, my last cinema experience was on February 9th, 2020. I was seeing 1917 with my dad, my second time and his first time. Even though I knew all the twists and turns, sitting in the theater combined with the immersive one-shot technique is something that will stick with me my entire life. It was even more fun to get to share one of my favorite cinema moments with my dad and talk about the movie after, and watch the oscars with my whole family later that night. It’s also bittersweet, because I was already adding 2020 films to my watchlist excited to see them in theaters, and have a good year of movie watching in cinemas with friends before the next awards season. Even though I’ve seen so many more good movies at home with my family in the year since that fateful day, I can’t help but wish we were back in the cinema, getting that experience.
I miss cinema. I miss my friends. I miss the overpriced movie theater popcorn. But when we’re back in cinemas, I’m sure I will miss the pasta I got to eat on the couch watching Promising Young Woman.