Streaming services are hurting the movie theater industry, but they won’t kill it

Fletcher Smith, Reporter

COVID-19 has caused the number of people allowed in enclosed spaces to be severely decreased, which has caused movie theaters to take a serious hit. With the release dates of major movies being continuously pushed back, theaters have been limited on the number of films that can be shown, and some films that are being released in theaters are also simultaneously being released on digital platforms, such as Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max. This causes theaters to lose audience members that choose the safer option of streaming.

This problem for theaters will only continue to worsen as WarnerMedia, the company that owns Warner Bros., announced on Dec. 3 that its entire slate of 2021 films will be released both on HBO Max and in theaters. This hybrid method will have the films spending a month on the streaming service before being pulled while they continue to run in theaters.

The films affected include Godzilla vs. Kong, In the Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Dune, and The Matrix 4, and the hybrid release of these movies has many worried that theaters may not be able to compete with streaming services, including people that have worked directly with Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan, the director of major blockbusters The Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar, was the first major director that has worked with Warner Bros. to seriously criticize their decision.

“Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service,” Nolan said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

Denis Villeneuve, the director of Dune, which is now set to be released on HBO Max and in theaters on Oct. 1, 2021, was also critical of the decision.

“…Warner Bros.’ sudden reversal from being a legacy home for filmmakers to the new era of complete disregard draws a clear line for me. Filmmaking is a collaboration, reliant on the mutual trust of team work and Warner Bros. has declared they are no longer on the same team,” Villeneuve said in an exclusive for Variety Magazine. “…Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of “Dune’s” scope and scale. Warner Bros.’ decision means “Dune” won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph.”

Nolan had also created his latest movie, Tenet, with the intention that it be seen in theaters, which is what pushed him to release it on Sep. 3 rather than continue to push back its release date, as other films were doing at the time.

“…This is a film whose image and sound really needs to be enjoyed in your theaters on the big screen and we’re very very excited for you to see what it is we’ve done,” Nolan said in a taped message sent to participants of CineEurope.

With COVID-19 continuing its resurgence across the United States, movie theaters have started closing down again, and, with more cases than ever, it’s possible to wonder if they’ll ever reopen, or if the financial strain and relative safety of watching movies from streaming platforms will cause theaters to become obsolete.

Movie theaters will definitely be hurt by the pandemic, and some may be permanently shut down, but they will never become obsolete. The movie-going experience is unparalleled; the audience gets to watch a story unfold on larger-than-life screens with sound systems that are louder and clearer than anything in most people’s homes. It allows the audience to take a rest from their distractions caused by day-to-day life, making them sit in the dark and focus on nothing else but the story being told right in front of them.

When the pandemic ends, and some form of normalcy returns to the world, people will learn to appreciate the things they could not do during the pandemic, and the movie-going experience will be more cherished than ever before.