The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the moviegoing experience and, in its wake, has made streaming the new normal for consuming content. While some theaters have reopened, many huge markets remain shuttered and studios are either shifting releases for their films or exploring streaming options for the mid-tier titles. In the case of Warner Bros., the studio made the controversial decision to release their entire 2021 film slate on streaming via HBO Max and in theaters on the same day. Despite this shift, actor Tom Hanks, who has seen two of his films this year affected by the pandemic, thinks that movie theaters will survive and the MCU and other tentpole releases will be the key to their ongoing existence.
“Will movie theaters still exist? Absolutely, they will. In some ways, the exhibitors, once they’re up and open, will have a freer choice of what movies they do want to play. And I’m no Cassandra when it comes down to this, but I’m going to say that big-event motion pictures are going to rule the day at the cinemas. Because after this, in order to guarantee that people show up again, we’re going to have the Marvel Universe and all sorts of franchises. And some of those movies are great. You want to see them writ large because actually watching it at home on your couch actually might diminish them somewhere, somehow, in their visual punch.”
Hanks believes that moving forward, moviegoers may occasionally head to theaters to see non-franchise movies but the pandemic has accelerated the move towards watching particular content at home, particularly mid-tier and lower budget endeavors that don’t need the spectacle of the big screen. The actor doesn’t think that means you can’t have a gratifying experience watching certain films at home because nothing truly diminishes your love of film, no matter how it’s presented, but he believes this change towards streaming for certain titles was coming before the pandemic.
The sea change wrought by COVID-19 has been a slow train coming. I think there’ll be an awful lot of movies that’ll only be streamed, and it’ll be fine to see them that way because they’re actually built and made and constructed for somebody’s pretty good [sized] widescreen TV at their homes. Without a doubt, we are actually into the big curve of change, that has been due ever since VHS tapes were introduced. This has been just across the horizon.
I think Hanks really hit the nail on the head with this one. I honestly think the future for a lot of these studios is a hybrid release strategy. Some films will definitely maintain a theatrical footprint, especially franchises and movies that carry heft production budgets. On the other hand, mid-budget movies and independent films will likely be explored more for streaming purposes because there may be more incentive to shift those releases to be viewed at home because the potential loss is minimal in terms of financial expectations. Mid-tier releases will also likely play better at home and moviegoers are certainly going to be pickier about what they’ll pay to see at their local movie theater even after it becomes completely safe to do so. Habits are changing and studios have to adapt to that change or get left behind.
Do YOU agree with Tom Hanks’ assessment?