Saving the film industry, coming to a theater near you


Images via Unsplash.

With over 700 movie theaters closing overnight due to the pandemic, waiting in line for movie tickets, and more importantly, buttery and salty popcorn has been forgotten. Services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ cemented a future for streaming media and entertainment.

Disney’s production of Mulan was one of the first movies to be streamed on a media platform after being pulled from theaters. In addition to subscription fees, viewers were required to pay $29.99 to watch the film. Disney+ set a precedent for future movies to be streamed on respective platforms, with WarnerBros. recently announcing plans to release new movies on HBO Max. The addition of big title names to streaming services are ultimately sacrificing the foundation and integrity of the movie industry.

While people were upset about Mulan’s additional fee, it was necessary for those who contributed to the production to receive compensation for their work. The movie industry creates jobs for ordinary people working behind-the-scenes: people who don’t make headlines yet still are fundamental to the visual experience. In a NPR interview, director Christopher Nolan encouraged entertainment consumers to think of the working people as well as the high profile celebrities. Watching a $200 million movie on a $9.99 platform may be convenient for viewers, but not for the personnel essential to making the movie. This additional fee added by streaming services is done to balance the lost income from decreasing box office sales. Once theater viewings are possible, we must revitalize the theater experience that is essential to the movie industry and the many jobs attached to it.

Though movies aren’t required to be watched in theaters, the unique surround sound and dim lighting create an immersive experience which cannot be replicated when viewing the highs and lows of a storyline for the first time. This communal experience has attracted people since the opening of the Nickelodeon, the first theater created in 1905 by Harry Davis and John Harris. Being in a dark-lit theater room, with both strangers and friends, conveys a sense of connectivity and intimacy as you laugh and cry in unison. As theaters have modernized, their integral foundation remains the same: an intimate place in society to connect with others and pause reality for a hundred-minutes.

Although streaming services provide a comfortable and casual movie-watching experience at home, they cannot replace the anticipation offered by theaters. Director Denis Villeneuve commented in Variety, replacing theater screenings with exclusive streamings reflects a lack of love for the audience and the cinematic process. The convenience of streaming often encourages viewers to overlook the difference in quality when streaming at home and, as a result, movies are less likely to captivate an audience to the extent of a theater viewing. This is not to say that streaming must be eliminated, instead it should coexist alongside theaters as it cannot replace and destroy the precious experience of going to the cinema, grabbing a popcorn, and sinking into your seat as the lights dim and the movie starts.

The shift to digital streaming may be convenient, but it cannot be at the expense of the movie theater experience. Streaming is not going away, and there is nothing wrong with this, so long as people also buy movie tickets so theaters can continue to endure. No Time to Die and Dune are coming to a theater near you (hopefully).