After “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon”, “Black Widow” will now also land on streaming provider Disney + parallel to the cinema release. Is this concept sustainable? And how does this change the film industry and also our relationship to the cinema?
In general, the gap between the cinema start and the streaming start has narrowed steadily over the past few years. At the beginning, when Netflix finally entered the streaming business in the late 2000s and established it, it took months, if not years, until blockbusters could also be streamed at home, but the waiting time is now significantly shorter. The pandemic has now accelerated this process and inevitably brought it to extremes. Large studios are now releasing their films directly from streaming providers, partly because the cinemas are closed.
People are streaming more and more
In general, the streaming industry has developed well in recent years. Market giant Netflix, for example, recently broke the 200 million user mark worldwide. Corona has further fueled the streaming business, on the one hand because people naturally spent more time at home, on the other hand because the cinemas were the first to close and are still closed in many places. Even if openings could soon be possible again, the cinema halls cannot be filled as usual. In addition, the technical possibilities with regard to home cinema are also significantly improved nowadays; the televisions are bigger, the sound system better etc.
The solution in the past year was to postpone the planned start in the cinema to streaming services. At the same time, large film festivals such as the Berlinale also took place digitally. Of course, this has the advantage that the format is accessible to more people. On the other hand, the catastrophe for the cinemas is piling up ever higher.
Disney + streaming service is breaking new ground with its own cinema productions
A message is currently making headlines that affects Marvel and thus Disney +. After the epic conclusion of MCU Phase 3 in “Avengers 4: Endgame” (2019), it should actually continue in 2020 with “Black Widow”. The film about the superhero Natasha Romanoff, played by Scarlett Johansson, should be shown on the big screen in spring 2020. Due to the corona pandemic, the start date was postponed several times. The official date is currently July 9, 2021, hopefully it stays that way. As it became known in March, however, Disney, to which Marvel Studios belongs, is planning a parallel publication on the in-house streaming portal Disney + . The company took a similar approach with the two films “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon”.
Other platforms are following suit
Disney + apparently set new standards in the fall of 2020 with the real-life version of “Mulan”. On the one hand, the group established the concept that film studios launch their own streaming platforms. On the other hand, the publication of movies on these platforms has apparently paid off financially, because Warner Brothers soon followed suit. At the end of 2020, the company announced that it would be releasing all of its films at the same time as the cinema launch on the streaming service HBO Max, which was recently launched in the USA. “Wonder Woman 1984” started in December. A whole series of big blockbusters will follow in 2021, including “Godzilla vs. Kong”, “Dune” and “Matrix 4”. It is not known how Warner would like to proceed in Germany, where HBO Max does not yet exist.
Cinema and streaming are changing
A look at this year’s Oscar nominees also shows that some real top-class players first ran on streaming providers and that a large number of the candidates can now be streamed on Netflix, Amazon and Co. To do this, the Academy – for the time being once – overruled the previously applicable rules that films may only appear if they have been in the cinema for at least a week. In terms of nominations, the big winner of this rule is the streaming provider Netflix, the loser is the cinemas.
Large productions only pay off for the makers if they at least bring in the expenses again. The aforementioned Marvel film “Avengers: Endgame”, for example, cost an impressive 356 million US dollars to produce. On the other hand, however, there is a box office result of 2.6 billion US dollars, which was only possible because the film was shown in cinemas all over the world and was successful. It should now be clear to everyone that this will no longer work so quickly due to the corona pandemic. But are the streaming services the definitive solution? Or will the production budgets have to be narrower in the future?
Streaming services and cinema operators should pull together
However, it is still far too early to sing a swan song for the movie theaters. Because despite all the technical progress, an evening on the coach can hardly compete with a real cinema experience. In addition, it cannot be in the interests of streaming services that the cinema industry is doing badly. For this, Netflix and Co. benefit too much from the large productions that are financed by them. The same goes for the studios, even if they have their own streaming platform.
For the Corona period and to market your own provider in individual cases, it may therefore be a good idea to start films in the cinema and in the stream at the same time. In the long term, however, this cannot apply to all large film productions if the studios do not want to irreparably damage their relationship with the cinema operators. Streaming is certainly an essential part of the future of the industry, and cinemas cannot rely on the romance of the audience. But streaming services should never forget how much they benefit from cinema and this romance.