I've written many times before about theaters and why they still remain important in this increasingly digital age. I've written many times about the increase in streaming and how that could potentially lead to the decline of movie theaters as the norm. I've written many times about that happening sometime in the future. However, the decline of the cinemas may be happening sooner than we think.
It would be an understatement to say things have hard since the outbreak of the Coronavirus. People are forced to stay separated from family and friends, unessential businesses are temporarily closed, millions have lost their jobs, and thousands have died from the disease. It's safe to say that this disease will have long term effects even after it's gone and one of those effects might be the film industry.
The film industry has had to react quickly to this fast moving pandemic and had to postpone or outright cancel several releases. To compensate for the loss of theater revenue, many film companies have put films that were meant to be released in theaters on digital streaming services early. For example the Pixar movie "Onward" was released in theaters only a few weeks before the spread of the virus and didn't make much at the box office as a result. This forced Disney to release the film on their streaming service Disney Plus a month later.
Similarly films that were supposed to be released this month, such as the Dreamworks movie "Trolls: World Tour", have gone straight to Video-on-Demand to make up the lost revenue during this crisis. The film industry has turned to streaming to save it during this hard time. However, this could signal the beginning of the decline of theaters.
There are still big blockbuster movies that people will be willing to go to the theaters to see, like superhero films or Star Wars films, but the rest of Hollywood's film output might be viewing Video-on-Demand and streaming as safer and more profitable options. Films that release on streaming sites don't have to spend money on distributing to theaters. This could lead to mid and low budget films avoiding theaters altogether.
This could lead to drastic changes when it comes to theaters. While theaters make big profits off of big movies they can't solely rely on them to make enough of a profit to keep all of their theaters open. If theaters lose the business given by mid and low budget movies they would have to close quite a few theaters and lay off many workers. This would also possibly destroy many independent theaters that don't have the budget to screen big budget films and rely on the mid to low budgeted ones.
While it's too early to say what the future holds in store for theaters, the boost streaming services are receiving during this crisis has shown that the straight to Video-on-Demand model has an growing future. We all predicted the day where streaming overtook theatrical distribution as the standard model of release for Hollywood, but that day looks a lot closer than we would have thought.