Warner’s behavior is just one example of how the big Hollywood studios are dealing with the structural change in their industry. The loss of cinema income has already led to very flexible models for bringing the films to the audience. One should not forget, however, that the film studios – and not just now – have always carried out mixed calculations and have become multimedia companies. This includes TV stations, merchandising, etc. pp. – and meanwhile also an own streaming platform. Warner has HBO Max, Disney has Disney +.
Streaming provider as film producer
But there is not just black or white. For example, Martin Scorsese’s last film was called “The Irishman,” which was critically acclaimed, had a short movie window and was then released exclusively on Netflix. Because “The Irishman” was a Netflix production. And Scorseses was full of praise for having artistic freedom and a budget with the streaming service that he could no longer imagine from any traditional film studio. Incidentally, this is what other filmmakers who have produced their films on Netflix or Amazon also report. Scorsese’s new film, expected to be out in 2022 – Title: “Killers Of The Flower Moon”; starring Robert de Niro and Leonardo Di Caprio -, has a budget of $ 200 million. This is already the top league. The original producer was Paramount Pictures. But then there were budget problems and artistic differences about the script. And Apple won the newly announced bidding competition that Netflix and long-established Hollywood studios such as Universal and MGM fought. So when the film comes out, it will be shown in theaters, but then exclusively on the Apple TV + streaming service.
What is the cause of the pandemic?
The pandemic is driving a development that has already been indicated in recent years with the changed reception behavior. And there is the idea of a relaxed visit to the cinema and the subsequent walk to the restaurant and the wonderful argument about the film that you have just seen over a glass of wine, at least a romantic idea. In fact, it only took place if you lived in a smaller or larger metropolis with appropriate cinemas. But the change in our working hours and the digitization of our leisure time behavior have given the streaming platforms the prerequisites under which Netflix or Amazon Prime Video – to name just two market leaders – have grown up. And – we mustn’t forget that either – we are now delivering content that is really amazing. The subscriptions include films, some of which are hits from festivals, that normal moviegoers would never have seen there in the cinema.
The notorious “evaluation window” of the films – first in the cinema, then published digitally, as VideoOnDemand or DVD – has always been hotly contested in recent years. The philosopher Boris Groys said in an SZ interview that in wars, revolutions or pandemics, “the new technologies (…) always win.” They win anyway, the crisis only accelerates it. (…) What we are experiencing is not a disruption [also: keine “Störung”]but rather the radicalization of a development that is taking place anyway. “That means: just as television developed in the 1950s without the cinema dying, the evaluation window will now tend to dissolve.
Is the end of cinema sealed in 2020?
It is foreseeable, however, that some film locations will close. However, there are different forecasts as to whether it will only affect the small houses or the large chains. There are those who conjure up the downfall of the western world of cinema, but of course there are also people who, based on a relatively sober analysis, see great opportunities FOR THE FILM in the new. One of them is the director Steven Soderberg, who considers Warner’s strategy of analyzing the blockbusters after the pandemic in cinemas and via stream to be “completely plausible”. One must, says Soderbergh, develop a new flexibility in the exploitation of films. In other words: You have just started a film in cinemas across the country, you quickly discover that it is not showing, not in the cinema, that is, it works on the big screen, and you have to bring it to a streaming platform as quickly as possible. Soderbergh’s argument: the cinemas would throw the film out of the program anyway because it flopped. So flexibility.
But then the filmmaker has another vision that film critics rave about: The cinemas should reinvent themselves as “repertoire cinemas” by showing all the films from the last 120 years that the audience has never seen in the cinema. However, this is an idea that represents a wonderful perspective for the film: after the end of the pandemic, after the probable end of the evaluation window as well, then in a new cinema normality.