Movie Theaters Are Obsolete; Let's Stream Right Away

Movie Ticket.jpeg

$7 for gas. $10 per ticket. $15 for concessions. $32 to watch a film that I thought was going to be great based on a 30 second commercial, or a misleading two minute trailer. And now this kid won’t stop talking.

I hate going to the theater. (Note: the theater refers to the cinema. I’m not Abraham Lincoln.) Honestly, I only go to see movies in the theaters if Oscar season, or it’s a superhero movie I think Twitter will spoil for me.
The whole idea is outdated. Leaving your house to be entertained? That’s not why I pay roughly $40 a month to our streaming overlords.

Overpriced cinema. Everyone thought we had this solved with the advent of Moviepass, but alas it was not to be. Moviepass was the embodiment of “too good to be true.” A monthly subscription service that allowed users to pay $9.95 a month and watch a film a day at the theaters.

Not surprisingly, the service that had no large support from any types of advertisers, nor the support of the chains where the films were shown, flopped.

Now here we are in 2019. The new monthly blockbuster is out from Disney or Warner Brothers is coming to theaters, and I find myself interested, but not that interested. I don’t want to head out to this place with these other people and pay too much for this thing I might enjoy.

I don’t think this multi-billion dollar a year industry is going anywhere any time soon. As a matter of fact, over the last 30 or so years, on average, the amount of money the film industry makes increases every year.Now is that due to (a) inflation, (b) an increase in blockbuster franchises, or (c) a combination of those plus some other factors? Most likely (c), but I’m not an economist.

All of this being said, there is an argument to be made for putting movies on streaming services the same day as theatrical releases, mostly from the consumer end.

From a purely anecdotal standpoint, I find it hard to schedule a time to go to the movies more than six or so times a year, and that’s pushing it. Between work, side projects, family, my girlfriend, video games, and time devoted to watching movies on Netflix or Hulu, my time is pretty well accounted for. Driving to a physical place, accounting for enough time to get a good ticket and a seat, watching the film, driving back home can easily take up nearly four hours. I’d much rather watch a movie of my choosing at my own speed on my own time.

Theaters are designed to hold hundreds of people. Out of hundreds of people, one of them is likely to be a talker, a child, or a cell phone user. A movie can be a very intimate experience you share with loved ones or people you care about. Maybe you’re going to watch the final installment of a series you care very much about, and now you’re putting trust into another human being to be decent a respectful. A longshot doesn’t do justice to describe how little I trust other humans to be decent.

And finally the money aspect. I would not mind paying a fair price to see a movie that has just been released in theaters. A large percentage of every ticket goes back to the studios to pay for the films and hopefully make a profit. The studios would never enter a new venture and disrupt a revenue stream without at least keeping the same profits, so let’s say the cost to stream is the average cost of a movie ticket- $9.00. And there’s really no need to start a whole new streaming service when the infrastructure is already there with Amazon and Youtube’s ability to purchase and stream movies on demand. While Hulu and Netflix don’t offer this, it surely wouldn’t take long for them to jump on board.

It’s unlikely that theaters would be very happy with a paradigm shift as big as this, but they don’t have a whole lot of say in the matter if it’s profitable enough for the studios. Movie theaters don’t do as much for the studios as the studios do for theaters. The studios supply the films, theaters just supply an avenue of distribution, something that could be cut into with streaming films right away with a higher price.

In a world that is increasingly based on streaming and consuming media in a solo environment, it’s strange that movie theaters are thriving in such a big way. They’re likely to continue to do so as long as big budget studios release their content in theaters first. However, as Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming companies move to the forefront on content creation, a shift is on the horizon. Additionally, Disney's new streaming service Disney+ is the first time we’re seeing a huge Hollywood studio launch their own streaming service.

If something is going to disrupt the status quo in Hollywood, who better than one of the studios that runs Hollywood?