Will We Still Have Movie Theaters In The Future?


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The Decreased Demand For In-Person Entertainment

Live performances have always been a staple of the entertainment industry. However recently, we have been able to listen to our favorite artist’s new album at home the instant it is released, more and more stand-up comedians are premiering their specials on Netflix, and since the film industry has had to adapt to the pandemic, people can watch movies at home the same day they are released in theaters.

With the convenience of new luxuries such as the ability to watch a movie at home the day it comes out or the ability to watch an artist’s live performance at home, many people would prefer to stay at home instead of going to a concert or to the movies (even if everything was fully open). According to a survey conducted by Variety, up 70% of people would prefer to stay at home to watch a new movie rather than viewing it in theaters. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explores how technological advancements, the COVID-19 pandemic, and more have decreased the demand for entertainment with in-person attendance.


Why Go Out When You Can Do All The Same Things At Home?

If in 2012, you told someone that they could watch new movies at home on release day, they would not believe it. This would not have made sense to film studios. They would lose so much money, their movies would get pirated, and audiences want to watch movies in theaters because they want a big screen, high sound quality, and going to the movies is a fun social experience. However, that attitude has changed over the last decade. This is largely due to the rise in the number of streaming services and the number of people using them. Services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu used to only have content that had already been released on TV or in theaters. However, they now release their own original content of the same caliber as theatrical releases. Films such as the Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel, and the critically acclaimed Roma both debuted on Netflix and did not get large theatrical releases. Streaming services do not limit themselves to releasing original films, they also release original shows that are extremely successful. Shows such as Stranger Things, Bojack Horseman, and Tiger King have seen massive success and they have never been aired on television.

Some of this content is even surpassing traditional media in popularity and critical praise. The main reason for this is cost and convenience. A basic netflix subscription costs around nine dollars a month. With that you get unlimited ad free access to thousands of  movies and shows. This has become increasingly convenient as time progresses for a number of reasons. First, bandwidth capacities have increased quite rapidly over the last ten years. The Internet in people’s homes is becoming faster as well as cheaper so streaming high quality movies at high speeds is not much of an issue in most places today. In addition, the streaming platforms are continuing to get more content on them which draws in more customers. And finally, it is extremely convenient to access streaming platforms as they are optimized for a range of devices, from gaming consoles to smartphones to computers. As time progresses, it would not be surprising if streaming platforms became more relevant than they already are.

How the Pandemic Increased the Demand For Home Entertainment

In March of 2020, movie studios realized that they would need to quickly adapt to the pandemic. Dreamworks decided that they would be releasing Trolls: World Tour through HBO Max instead of in theaters as previously planned. This was a big step as it meant the studio would be making significantly less money and they made it much easier for the film to be pirated. The movie saw moderate success in the US. It made almost $50 million domestically, which was noticeably less than the predecessor, however, that was quite successful for a film that only had a digital release.


This trend continued throughout 2020 and into 2021 as the cases soared in the United States and studios were still forced to release movies online. While some films that are projected to make a significant amount of money for studios, such as Fast 9 and the new Mission Impossible movie, are being delayed to have a large theatrical release, other films of equal calibre and box office potential are being released primarily on streaming platforms. Films like Borat: Subsequent Movie Film, which would have been a massive box office hit, was released on Amazon Prime and was a commercial and critical success, despite not having a theatrical release. Ever since the industry has had to adapt, the majority of moviegoers have decided they would prefer to stay at home.


The pandemic also affected the music industry in this way. Ever since streaming took over, artists have had to rely on revenue from their live performances more as record sales now result in less profits. As a result, numerous virtual concerts have taken place over the last year. Artists such as Anderson Paak, Chance the Rapper, Charli XCX, and Phoebe Bridgers have had successful concerts that were live streamed from their homes or nearby venues. The concerts were streamed with high audio and video quality at a fraction of the price of a real life concert. For many people, this is a cost effective and convenient way for fans to support and watch their favorite artist from the comfort of their own home. Even after the pandemic, it is likely that many people would prefer virtual concerts over in-person concerts, especially if it is for an artist they do not plan to spend a lot of money on but still want to support. 


Are NFTs And Other Virtual Commodities The Future?

The beginning of this new decade saw non-fungible tokens gain significant popularity. As the world becomes more digital, such as with cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and digital wallets like Apple Pay, people are becoming more open to the idea of not having a physical item representing our possessions. This concept may seem absurd, however, it is analogous to the way iTunes works. For example, if you buy an album on iTunes you own it, it is the real music, however, it is completely digital. It does not exist outside of the virtual world. NFTs are essentially the same thing for artwork. 


Virtual goods have existed for a while, especially among the younger generation. In April of 2020, the popular video game “Fortnite” had a virtual concert for Travis Scott and “Roblox” had a Lil Nas X concert. Players were able to buy outfits to commemorate attending the virtual event. In addition, these virtual items could only be purchased with virtual in-game currency. With younger people becoming so familiar with virtual concerts and merchandise, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for us to expect future generations to prefer doing things virtually rather than in-person or physically.


What Does This Mean For The Future?

The future is uncertain. We cannot know for sure if people will continue to prefer virtual events or items over real life ones. However, it is entirely possible that the progression in the way media is consumed, especially live and in-person content, will continue to evolve in this manner to the point where almost everything exists primarily virtually, and everything that is in-person will receive attention afterwards. People will always like the option to be able to go to the theater and watch a movie on the big screen instead of on a 13-inch laptop display. What is most likely going to happen is that we continue to see multiple options so that consumers will stay satisfied and we never lose the option to experience the charm watching a new movie on the big screen.

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