So long to cinemas? Our watching habits after COVID-19

When you think about it, the entertainment industry as we know it isn’t very old. The first movie theater only went into business in 1905. From there, technology has rapidly changed to bring about a stunning evolution in home entertainment and theater experiences.

Throughout the film and television industry timeline, the way we’ve watched our favorite shows has changed time and time again. In under a century, families have gone from gathering around large black and white TVs at scheduled times for limited programming to seemingly limitless options spread among countless streaming platforms.

The way we watch is constantly changing, but once COVID-19 came into the picture, the entire industry had to evolve at a lightning pace.

Simultaneous Movie Releases

Before COVID-19, the movie theater was a regular part of many film lovers’ social lives. Movie fans would flock to theaters in droves for the latest blockbusters, packed together shoulder-to-shoulder to enjoy a shared experience with their friends and other audience members.

While many of these cinema buffs also sported impressive home theatre setups at home to indulge in the classics, a night at the movie theater was still a regular part of life.

Before COVID-19, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ had already hit the market. However, their catalogs only featured older films and television shows.

In March of 2020, movie theaters and film production studios nationwide were forced to close due to the pandemic. In fact, here in Springfield, MO, we saw famous chains like Alamo Drafthouse and AMC Theaters shutter auditoriums for months at a time. At first, these closures were thought to be short-term, but they extended intermittently for almost a year as the pandemic raged on.

For the majority of 2020, movies simply weren’t released. However, this wasn’t a viable long-term solution.

Back in the before times, in the mid-2010s, Netflix had set a precedent by releasing their self-produced feature films in theaters and on their streaming site simultaneously. While this was never done for large blockbusters, it set an interesting precedent for how studios and streaming platforms could pivot their content releases in a pandemic-plagued world.

So, Disney+ and HBOMax, owned by Disney and Warner Bros. respectively, decided to try something similar on their streaming services. For a premium fee, they allowed their subscribers to watch blockbuster movies at home on release day.

This led to a far more cost-effective way for home viewers to watch their films, with families only paying a single premium price instead of costly tickets and concessions in a theater. Additionally, for those with a premium home setup, utilizing large displays in 4k video and audio setups with cinema-style surround sound, the theater experience is almost entirely recreated at home.

The Future of Movies After COVID-19

Once you give people a feature they like, it’s hard to take it away. Unfortunately, this does prove to be a complex problem to solve for movie theater owners. For example, Disney+ released the Marvel movie Black Widow on both streaming and theaters in July 2021. This movie netted about $131 million in its first week in movie theater box offices. An additional $60 million of revenue came from Disney’s opening weekend streaming sales.

However, the National Association of Theater Owners has expressed their frustrations that sales in box offices could be higher if they weren’t competing with home streaming.

With movie theaters struggling to recover from a year-long shutdown, followed by low ticket sales as they reopen, it will be interesting to see how film distribution changes in the future.

In the end, it’s unlikely that large media corporations like Disney or Warner Bros. will take new movie streaming away entirely. However, with so many families enjoying movies at home, it’s more likely that we’ll see films better optimized for a home viewing experience first in the future, instead of the opposite way around.

As long as movie theaters exist, we’re sure there will still be film fans who partake in movie theaters. However, many in the industry anticipate that theater runs will become more limited.  With streaming media in the future made the priority, it looks like the home theater will be king. After all, in the comfort of your own media room, the snacks are plentiful, you can rewatch whatever you desire, and you’re free of the sticky floors of cinema aisles.

No matter what happens in the future of film, there’s no doubt that streaming services and their endless content libraries are here to stay. If you’d like to make your home watching experience more comfortable and immersive, we can help. Our experts at SCS Home Entertainment can help you design the perfect movie-watching experience. Call us at (417) 720-8282 or visit our showroom today to get started on your next project.

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