When Jaws hit theaters in the summer of 1975 and the original Star Wars movie landed two years later, it was the first of what became known as the summer blockbusters, movies people would stand n line to see at the local theater, sometimes again and again.
That was then, this is now. Studios are still cranking out big summertime titles, but times, tastes and technology are changing the concept in a major way. Instead of filing into a darkened theater to see the latest super hero or sci-fi thriller, Americans are just as likely if not moreso to be watching from the comfort of their living rooms.
Streaming entertainment has steadily been growing its market share for some time. As Deadline.com reported in 2019, Netflix’s original series House of Cards, which premiered six years earlier, set the mold for binge-watching TV by releasing an entire season of the critically acclaimed show at once. Big-budget pictures still managed to pull fans into the theater, but for recent-run movies and original content, viewers were sending a clear message that they preferred streaming for being able to watch whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.
Then came 2020 and the covid-19 pandemic that shut down indoor movie theaters from coast to coast, which proved to be high-octane fuel for the streaming trend. In lockdown, people not only watched more TV platforms like Nexflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, they doubled down on subscriptions according to results of a survey by United Talent Agency, released in May. It reported 56 percent of consumers had added at least one additional streaming service during 2020 and 71 percent of those households plan to keep the extra channels even as things open back up. And almost seven in 10 people surveyed said they planned to spend more time consuming entertainment than they did pre-pandemic.
If this doesn’t clearly show the viewing public’s appetite to watch more and more content, and their willingness to pay for it, consider the numbers generated in the first weekend of Disney’s much-anticipated Black Widow, where the company reported $80 million in ticket sales and a statistically close-second $60 million in rental revenue via Disney+.
Given all of this, it’s surprising to no one to see major studios buying into streaming strategies for their new content. WarnerMedia struck first, announcing last November it would stream every 2021 release in the Warner Bros. Picture stable on HBO Max the same day it opened in theaters. The announcement stunned the film industry and signaled a point of no return when it comes to how new movies are premiered and distributed.
Universal, Paramount and Disney quickly entered the fray with their own hybrid theatrical and streaming strategies. And while movie theaters aren’t dead yet, the tide has shifted such that even when a film does premiere in your local cinemaplex, it’s getting to streaming faster than ever before.
Part of what has made this transition so smooth is advancements in technology; first and foremost, an internet backbone that can handle the massive amounts of data that streaming demands. The evolution of high-speed home internet has made the home entertainment revolution possible, particularly broadband and especially fiber home internet such as Kinetic. Add to that the new generation of smart TVs that all but program themselves, many of which are preconfigured for streaming, and it’s easy to see how the entertainment revolution was won without firing a shot.
“The experience in the pandemic for us with these films has been really good,” Andy Forssell, general manager of HBO Max told Bloomberg. “Regardless of what happens, we’ll do more and more.”