My kids had the day off from school on Monday, and went to the movie theater to see “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” They had a great time. But I’m at the point in my movie-going life where, if I was home, my reaction might have been, “You guys go ahead, I can stream that at home when it comes out.”
Matt Pressberg has a new piece in The Information today that gets at an interesting question related to theaters, new releases, box office revenue and the streaming services: Why don’t Amazon and Netflix buy movie theaters?
Pressberg argues that if Amazon and Netflix owned theater chains, they could keep all the money that comes in from films that are released in those venues.
For instance, the Will Smith fantasy-cop-action flick “Bright” was watched by an estimated 11 million people in the three days after its release last month. Pressberg says that audience could have translated into $100 million at the box office — for a film that cost $90 million to make.
That type of payoff seems like a no-brainer for services that are relying on subscription-based revenue, especially as more heavyweight companies get into the streaming game, such as Disney and Apple.
And despite attitudes like mine, about rarely going to the theater, attendance is still an attractive bet, Pressberg notes:
While movie attendance has dropped slightly in recent years, 246 million people in the U.S. still see movies in the theater every year—and about 35 million go every month, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Overall, people spent $11 billion going to movies last year. That’s still more than Americans spend on subscription streaming services — $9.5 billion last year, according to the Digital Entertainment Group.
And he says it’s just hard for Netflix to compete with the flood of attention and word of mouth that big-screen releases draw. Which is probably why I did end up in a theater, excitedly, last fall for “Blade Runner 2049” and last month for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
At CES in Las Vegas last week, I attended a panel on the State of the Stream, which included some media and content heavyweights, including Amazon’s Fire TV GM Marc Whitten, Fandango President Paul Yanover, and Andrew Sugerman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media.
Pressberg’s argument about outright ownership of theaters was not raised, but whether theaters would even manage to exist in the face of increased streaming was.
Moderator Todd Spangler of Variety asked at one point about where the world is going, and whether theaters are the next domino to fall. Blockbuster, for instance, is no more, he said, as that role of renting new movie releases has fallen to the home streaming services.
Yanover said the “march of progress” seemed to suggest to him that the ability to see more things on more streams is inevitable. But theaters are safe for now.
“I do think it doesn’t foretell the death of people going to movie theaters,” Yanover said. “I think that movie theater going has been insanely and remarkably resilient in the last decade. It’s still very big. It’s a unique experience and the studios and others continue to make movies that people want to see in theaters. I think in the end, the new platforms end up being additive.”
People are social, argued Alex Wallace, of Verizon’s Oath Studios and they still want to be with other people, whether it’s in a sports bar or a theme park.
But Spangler countered with a mention of the Amazon platform Twitch as a way that that’s already happening … in a digital world.