Out with the old and in with the new: streaming services take control of the film industry

Illustration by Evan Koenigs | The Signal

Not too long ago, sitting down for popcorn and drinks was an everyday experience brought on by millions of people worldwide and was the gateway to box office success in the film industry. A pastime that was once ordinary has become a figment of imagination as the coronavirus limits the amount of exposure one can have around others.

As movie theaters slowly dwindle, streaming services seem to be aggressively making their mark on the industry by becoming the perfect at-home option for viewers during the ongoing pandemic. Netflix seemed to have the perfect blueprint for studios to start releasing their films on its platform instead of movie theaters for optimal audience appraisal. However, Netflix was just the beginning of a long and very expensive streaming war waging against the movie business.

 After Netflix’s subscriber count skyrocketed during the initial coronavirus lockdown, streaming seemed to be the only solution to the closure of movie theaters. Netflix however, was not the superior service that experienced a subscriber increase, with HULU  and Amazon Prime Video also seeing similar trends. 

With streaming service subscriber numbers climbing at the height of the pandemic, movie production companies are advancing new platforms to release their films on with the hopes of becoming huge streaming conglomerates like Netflix. This notion has brought about services such as Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Apple TV.

And so the war rages on with almost eight different streaming platforms fighting to catch up with Netflix’s 200 Million subscriber count. Netflix had a ten-year head start before any other competition even existed. This is because Netflix was a pioneer within the industry creating the first-ever streaming service that would eventually change the landscape of the film industry for good.

With the streaming war in full force, movie theaters are subjected to CDC guidelines and coronavirus protocols that quite literally hold the industry’s fate in their hands. This issue has forced studio executives to make joint decisions with streaming services and movie theater companies. Just this past year HBO Max announced that their Warner Bros 2021 film slate would have a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release.

Implementing a dual-release strategy looks to be one of the most aggressive plays any major studio has done this year, hopefully giving rise to more box office success at movie theaters while still providing viewers with the reassurance of at-home screenings during the pandemic. 

Although HBO Max has established themselves as a progressive with their dual release strategy, their quarterly subscriber numbers are not reaching the projected analytics the company put out months ago. This is majorly alarming for movie theaters, seeing that audiences are not as interested in theatrical films debuting on streaming platforms directly. 

Streaming services seemed to be a thing of the future until the coronavirus pandemic completely shifted the industry to rely heavily on online-based viewing platforms. This outcome has put movie theaters in a very tough situation, as they slowly come back to full capacity. With the vaccine rapidly rolling out across the nation, more guidelines and restrictions will slowly start to lift, hopefully allowing audiences to make their way back to theaters in the safest way possible.