Last month Warner Brothers announced that every one of the flicks it’ll release in 2021 are going to be available on Warner’s HBO Max subscription streaming service — on the identical day they premiere in U.S. theaters. That has such expected hits as Matrix 4, Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, and also the Suicide Squad. This announcement has had a seismic impact on the industry, for several reasons. First, before this announcement, the majority of major Hollywood movies got a three-month exclusive theatrical release before they were available on in-home channels.
But is it true? Will early digital releases significantly harm theatrical revenue? We analyzed that question in a very recent research study, and what we found might surprise people who are concerned about digital platforms encroaching on stage business. Most theatergoers, clothed, remained loyal to the theatrical experience even after they had the choice of watching the movie reception while the movie was still showing in theaters. Nonetheless, our broad finding is in step with what we’ve seen in other settings where many feared that new digital products would cannibalize existing markets.
When movie theaters were asked to shut down this spring thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many cinema operators were under the impression that their venues would be reopened by the top of June.
Larry Etter, senior vice chairman at Malco Theatres, which operates nearly 40 theaters in six Southern states, said the corporate first planned for a 60-day closure. As the weeks progressed, and movie studios pushed back the discharge of more and more titles, expectations shifted together with the new calendar. By the top of May, August was seen because of the time to rent back employees and kindle the popcorn machines. The industry had lost the massive moviegoing weekends or legal holidays and July Fourth, but Labor Day would bring the discharge of “Tenet.”
Malco and plenty of other theater operators did reopen, but the Christopher Nolan film disappointed at the box office, and studios once more postponed a variety of films. So now, eight months into the pandemic, there’s not a transparent path for theater owners.