Home-bound viewers can watch films released directly on digital platforms

As it has to countless other industries, worldwide quarantine has greatly affected the movie business. Although demand for movies has certainly increased, traditional theaters are closed, and this entertainment is now largely offered on streaming platforms.

     Even before the pandemic, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu were on the rise. Now, as people spend almost all of their time at home, these platforms are in higher demand than ever before.

     Meanwhile, almost all movies that were set to release this spring have been postponed. Highly-anticipated films such as the newest James Bond installment No Time to Die, Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II, and Top Gun: Maverick have been pushed to late 2020, while some movies—such as Fast & Furious 9—have been delayed a full year. In addition to these delays, various films—including Matt Reeves’s The Batman and the Avatar sequel—have postponed shooting and production.

 Some films have taken another path: early releases on digital platforms or at-home rentals. Movies that were released to theaters just before the quarantine began, such as The Way Back and The Invisible Man, have chosen this method.

     Some films have taken another path: early releases on digital platforms or at-home rentals. Movies that were released to theaters just before the quarantine began, such as The Way Back and The Invisible Man, have chosen this method.

     More production companies are choosing to push back their spring releases to later in the year. If theaters remain closed for the summer, potential award-winners and blockbusters such as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch may also be forced to postpone to an already packed fall and winter. This would undoubtedly have an effect on the Oscars race, and competition would likely have consequences for the box-office.

    It may be beneficial for production companies to release simultaneously for at-home rental or on an online platform such as Netflix. Still, if production companies decide to maintain their release date and strike a deal with a streaming service, they would not face these problems.

     Last fall, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman released directly on Netflix, making history as Scorsese’s first film to do so. The film had a budget of 160 million dollars but made only eight million dollars at the box-office from its limited release. However, it had over seventeen million viewers in only its first week on Netflix, which made up for its massive budget. If production companies follow The Irishman’s model, they may have similar success.

     Interviewed by The Guardian, analyst Jeff Bock said that this unprecedented time will result in production companies testing the streaming model.

     “Hollywood has long wondered how major releases would perform if they bypassed theatres completely,” Bock said, “and now they have a chance for a test run without much ire from cinema owners since most venues are now shuttered.”

     In the past, directors and producers have worried that a streaming service release would take away from the classic cinematic experience, which can only be experienced in a theater. Before Netflix released The Irishman, Scorsese struggled with this idea.

     In an Indiewire interview, Scorsese said, “You can see a film on an iPad. You might be able to push it closer to your [face] in your bedroom, just lock the door and look at it if you can, but I do find just glimpsing stuff here or there, even watching a film at home on a big-screen TV, there is still stuff around the room. There’s a phone that rings. People go by. It is not the best way.”

     Nevertheless, Scorsese did not regret his decision to go to Netflix and had great success with The Irishman.

     It seems likely that at least some films will follow this same path. Although it does not provide the same experience as watching a movie in a theater, a streaming service release is a viable financial option that we will likely see more of in the near future.

Author: Mitav Nayak '22

Mitav Nayak has contributed to The Index since 2019. He currently serves as Sports Editor. Mitav won the fall 2019 Pennsylvania School Press Association (PSPA) Philadelphia-area Student Journalism Competition for Newspaper Sports Story Writing and will compete for the state title in the Spring of 2020. His article "Amid NBA dreams, Brown remains humble" earned a Silver Key from the 2020 Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing competition.