Will Movie Theaters Survive? – Warner Bros. Breaks Box Office Window
In a first since the implementation of the box office window, an entertainment company has decided to forego the practice and offer movies to be released simultaneously in theaters and streaming venues.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner Bros. had recently announced that the release of Wonder Woman 1984 will be offered on HBO Max and theaters on Christmas Day.
But the company decided it’s not stopping there, it just stated that its entire film slate for 2021 will be offered in the same way, effectively breaking the box office window that was believed to be untouchable.
For some time film producers have pressured movie theaters to contract the time frame for releasing movies on DVDs and streaming, but they had, for the most part, successfully resisted the pressure. The major reason for doing so was because, outside of movies considered to be attractive because of special effects and the sound systems in the theaters that provided an immersive experience, along with it being must-see social event, the theaters would struggle to survive even in the best of economic conditions, as people have already been gravitating toward home viewing or viewing on smaller devices.
If you’re not familiar with the industry, it appears the theaters have been attracting a lot of foot traffic because the revenue numbers seem to be at least level, or with some companies like Disney, improving from year to year. That’s not because there’s more foot traffic, but because they’ve been gradually raising prices as foot traffic started to fall.
Under the current conditions, there isn’t much leverage the theaters have, as they can’t threaten the producers with not allowing their movies to be viewed in the theaters, as most of them are closed, and in 2021, there will be a lot less theaters open that consumers can go to.
And when considering 2022, what is left of the theater industry will be a lot smaller than it is today.
I have no doubt, now that Warner Bros. has broken the box office window, that many if not most of its peers will quickly follow in its footsteps. The only other option would be to lose an enormous amount of money from the small number of theaters that are opened, without being able to take full advantage of the new streaming services being offered by the media giants until the window is open.
One other thing to consider is that once the cat is out of the bag, it isn’t going to go back in, even though the media companies assert it’s only for the duration of the pandemic. I think it’s safe to conclude that this simply isn’t true. This is a long-awaited opportunity for the film producers that they aren’t going to let pass them by.
While the theater owners don’t have the leverage they used to have, they still have some, so it’s probable that Warner Bros. and others that follow their lead, will throw out a carrot of better terms in order to keep them from completely boycotting their films as the film producers build out their streaming businesses.
I don’t think they’ll mind doing this because, over time, theaters are going to become less important to the top and bottom lines of the entertainment companies, as streaming increasingly becomes a larger percentage of revenues.
Warner Bros., as mentioned earlier, is making it appear this will only be temporary until people are allowed to, or feel comfortable with, going to see movies on the big screen.
But there is no possibility that people will return to the theaters in way way they did before the pandemic, and all COVID-19 has done is accelerate the inevitable trend of the growth of the video streaming industry.
I don’t see the theater industry ever returning to where it was pre-pandemic, and whoever survives by the end of 2021, will be much smaller than they were in 2019.
As for the producers and distributors, I don’t think they’ll be able to generate the time of revenue and earnings they’ve done in the past, as streaming isn’t going to replace the revenue companies generated at theaters in the past.
To me this is a good thing. It’s past time for these companies to get hammered financially because of the large number of films that do nothing but promote cultural rot. They’ll still do that of course, but at nowhere near the levels they did in the past.
After all, there is no hint at this time that production costs are going to come down in the near future, so with revenue declining and streaming costs also high, they aren’t going to have near the capital they’ve had in the past to produce films.
I understand that many of these companies don’t mind throwing money away at projects that never have a chance of making money, because they want to influence people with their debauchery, but there is still limit to that when the amount of investment capital has shrunk to far below prior levels.
That means they can’t throw money away on films that are made to impact the culture in the way they did in the past, and I see that as a good thing for the world.