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How have streaming services impacted the movie business?

The Stream
Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-26 09:29:06-04

Streaming is hands down this year's breakout movie star.

So the question now is, how does this newly minted leading role impact business at the box office?

"Streaming has definitely changed the industry, especially in this last year where theaters have been shuttered because of the pandemic," explains Arizona State University film professor Chris LaMont.

But the evolution may only be just beginning. LaMont predicts we'll see even bigger investments in streaming, even after the pandemic is finally over.

"It's only going to continue. Streamers are always going to be there. And they're putting more and more money into not only acquiring products but also paying for and producing their own content."

And LaMont isn't the only one that feels that way.

"We're so addicted to our phones now, our iPads, our computers, that streaming is here to stay," says Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney Jaia Thomas, who is also the founder of Diverse Representation.

Thomas believes streaming will help spawn new opportunities for people in the industry.

"It's an easier avenue for people to even get content out there. It's a little easier to get content through a streamer as opposed to getting it in a theater."

"It's great to give artists so many more opportunities to show their work," says LaMont. "That's the most important part. If the world was dominated by just movie theaters, just getting those screens for small independent films would have been very difficult."

You can even see it in this year's nominees. Amazon has 12 nominations and Netflix has 35.

But the experts say don't count out theaters just yet.

LaMont points to the success of Godzilla v. Kong which made $48 million its opening weekend, shattering expectations.

"There is a magic carpet ride you go on when you go into that theater and the shared collective experience of everyone around you experiencing this thing. This magic -- there is nothing better than that."

"I think there are certain films that people will always want to see in a theater," explains Thomas. "We're talking about these big action movies. I think there are going to be people who will always go see them in a big theater."

According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, 2018 was a record-breaking year at the box office with nearly $12 billion in revenue, and 2019 wasn't far behind. But in 2020, with the pandemic, that number plummeted more than 80% with roughly $2 billion in revenue.

But as more people get vaccinated and start to venture out more, experts predict theaters will also see a rebound.

Thomas adds it may come down to finding new ways to lure movie-goers back into theaters.

"Looking at the theater-going experience in more creative ways would be really helpful," she says. "I know a few years ago, a few theaters had a pass where you could pay a flat fee every month and go see a certain number of movies each month. That may be a route some theaters might think about."

Like a classic horror film, how the movie experience transforms over the next decade will likely keep us in suspense, but LaMont says one thing is clear --there will always be a home for movies.

"It's really about those diehard movie theater customers coming out and seeing films there...Let's hope that movie theaters keep going, keep staying strong. You've got some wonderful theaters in Arizona. I really encourage you to go back to the theaters. We really need to support local theaters."