Movie theaters have had a rough couple of decades.
Predictions of the imminent downfall of the entire movie theater industry have been publicized so many times it’s hard to keep track.
It started with the rise of at-home entertainment kicked off by VHS tapes and Blockbuster Video. Then there was the first iteration of Netflix, with its short-lived mail-in rental service, and the growth of online piracy of movies, as well as TV shows, video games and music. After years of fighting the online availability of films, some studios finally started offering their catalog through iTunes and other online intermediaries.
That was all before we finally arrived in the age of streaming, which was already taking over the industry before the pandemic killed off the possibility of any other option. As the entire world was suddenly stuck home with little to do, streaming became the dominant form of entertainment almost overnight.
But that’s not the whole story. As movie theaters have reopened in some countries, it’s clear that many people still crave the “event” of showing up in person to see a major motion picture on the big screen.
The filmmaking industry will certainly change, but it’s more likely that the changes will be greater diversity of content and more ways to consume it — not simply the demise of theaters.
Theaters Will Offer More Than Movies
Movie theaters have survived by being flexible in their business model. Many theater chains have brought back audiences in recent years by expanding their offerings to include alcoholic beverages and full meals cooked on-site. The Alamo Drafthouse is a particularly good example, as the movie theater chain has continued to expand rapidly, even opening a new location in Manhattan this year.
The Drafthouse movie theaters don’t just play the latest blockbusters, either. They screen classic films and cult films, and offer speciality screenings with toys, interactive elements, and even stand-up comedy on stage before, during and after the film.
In the future, as this Wall Street Journal article points out, theaters will likely embrace many more forms of media, like video games, major sports games, special training exercises, and even interactive platforms that allow companies to make presentations for employees across the globe, simultaneously.
The pandemic forced theater owners to reimagine how they can use their massive indoor spaces to stay in business.
Indie Film On The Rise
Independent filmmaking has always had a difficult time making its movies available to the broader public.
Getting wide distribution has always been a big problem for indie filmmakers facing off against Hollywood studios with massive power, money and influence.
But the rise of streaming has done a lot to level the playing field. Worldwide, spending on film and television content reached new highs in 2020, according to Visual Capitalist, which created a nifty visual showing the major money trends in filmmaking.
Spending on indie content actually continues to surge, and now accounts for twice as much spending as Netflix and the five main Hollywood movie studios.
New Technology Will Transform Filmmaking
The new technology emerging for film will not only make it easier for indie filmmakers to produce movies with the same quality as the biggest studios, but create opportunities for new kinds of visual storytelling.
Smart phones have become such incredible pieces of technology that a recent Sundance hit, “Tangerine,” was actually filmed entirely using phones.
Other notable changes include digital actors, like the deaging tech used in Martin Scorcese’s “The Irishman,” or the CGI Luke Skywalker in “The Mandalorian.” Drones will continue to revolutionize film, as they have already done with nature documentaries like “Planet Earth,” and virtual reality tech is finally advanced enough that major films and streaming services will likely find ways to use it in the near future.
The conclusion is simple: Movies are here to stay, and will continue to evolve in exciting ways that we are just beginning to understand.