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The film industry has been facing a battle on multiple fronts, and it is seemingly increasingly unlikely that it will survive without change. 2020 was a rough year for movie theaters, with the pandemic forcing shutdowns on a global scale.

However, the industry was struggling even before Covid-19 struck. The increasing popularity of streaming services has also impacted the film industry, changing release methods and negatively impacting movie theater operations.

Buying Time

One of the first things most major blockbusters did, once the reality of Covid-19 set in, was to try to buy themselves time. They pushed back their anticipated releases, hoping that by 2021 it would be safe for theaters to reopen.

Some companies, like Warner Bros, tried releasing their movies directly to a streamlining platform. Take Wonder Woman 1984, which went directly to HBO Max on Christmas day. Conversely, Marvel Studios have pushed back Black Widow several times now and is hoping for a May release – in theaters. Which plan will prove more lucrative?

Staying Home

Both the pandemic and the rise of streaming services have one thing in common: they encourage movie-goers to stay home. Perhaps what is happening in theaters is inevitable, given how they have been showing a steady decline for decades. However, one can’t deny that both factors have sped up the process.

Furthermore, attendance will continue to dwindle as theatrical windows are further narrowed. Why are those windows getting smaller? Again, it all comes down to a few key factors. 

The rise of on-demand viewing rewards movie studios for releasing their movies to rent or buy at an increased pace. Throw in the complications that came with the pandemic, and suddenly cutting down that window looks a lot more appealing to struggling filmmakers. Not so much for theater owners.

Successes In Streaming

The film industry had to adapt, and fast, to the changes that Covid-19 brought with it. With the vaccine looming on the horizon, hopes are again rising, but companies have felt the need to experiment until then.

Universal Studios’ success with the Trolls World Tour encouraged them to make a bold decision: simultaneous releases both on streaming platforms and theaters. Naturally, movie theater chains are less than thrilled about that announcement and have been fighting back (including an attempt at boycotting for some companies).

Continuing the Fight

In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara made an impassioned plea for the film industry to stop ‘predicting its own demise.’ McNamara cites all of the previous events/inventions that have caused the industry to go into a panic (television, DVDs, piracy, mega-mergers, etc.) – and yet they are still here.

It’s a shockingly good point. The film industry has survived so much already, including times when they were certain of their own doom. People are more interested in media than ever before – it’s all a matter of adjusting to their demands and keeping up with the times.