A Movie’s Opening Day: In a Theater or from Your Couch?


Bow Down to the Internet. Source: Next Avenue

In Wheeler Winston Dixon’s book, Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access, Dixon introduces us to the idea that streaming is becoming the standard in all areas of entertainment and media access. Dixon illustrates the decline of film into digital, having filmmakers say goodbye to 16mm and 35mm film, and audiences saying goodbye to multiplexes and physical ownership of intellectual property. With the growing reality of the internet, consumers are beginning to choose the convenience of staying home over going out when it comes to purchasing entertainment. This has led to the decline of movie rental houses, bookstores, film theaters, etc. as consumers choose the convenience of the internet to deliver all forms of their media entertainment intake.

Dixon illustrates the takeover by the internet over film/television as synonymous to the takeover of movie-theater going by the invention of the television. As the number of TVs bought and placed in almost every American household began to rise, theater owners and filmmakers began to fear that theater exhibition would soon become obsolete. This was not the case. In actuality, filmmakers and film owners found a new form of payment for their intellectual property by syndicated films being aired on TV. And theaters remained a relatively stable way of first-run exhibiting of opening films. But with streaming on the rise, the owners of film theaters, and now television networks, are again being threatened by a new form of media exhibition. And it might not get resolved in such a contented way as it did with the introduction of the TV.


Beasts of No Nation’s beautiful Idris Elba. Source: Deadline

Theaters and streaming platforms are already beginning to collide in ways that are causing a disturbance in the media realm, which could potentially cause sufferings for both sides. The release of upcoming film, Beasts of No Nation, is causing a stir in the news because Netflix has bought out the worldwide distribution rights for the movie, hoping to distribute the movie both through its streaming platform, as well as in theaters. And some theater chains are refusing to show the movie, believing the double platform release will end up hurting the theaters in the long run by advocating for this form of release style, thus detracting customers from leaving the house to see a film when they can just watch it from home. Mandalit del Barco, in her article “Movie Chains Balk At Netflix’s Plan For Simultaneous Release”, gives a statistical overview on the success of the first double-platform released film, Snowpiercer, released last summer. Snowpiercer grossed $4.6 million in theaters, and through streaming (video on demand), grossed $8.6 million; almost double the theatrical release. By looking at this movie’s success, it is clear where the real money is to be made.


Forced Family Movie Time. Source: Games Radar

Although streaming seems to be winning in this war, there are some minor issues with theaters refusing to exhibit a film. AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Carmike are four major theater chains that are refusing to show the film. Del Barco explains that “the movie already has a lot of Oscar buzz, but to qualify for an Academy Award nomination, it has to be shown in theaters before or on the same day it plays on TV, online or other platforms” (del Barco). If all theaters were to refuse this new form of double-platform releasing, it could hurt the buzz and marketing of the film overall. Sadly for those theaters boycotting the film, some theaters are still choosing to release it, in favor of the “screen-agnostic” point of view introduced by Tom Quinn, co-president of Radius-TWC (a label of Weinstein Company).

“We’re agnostic. We’re screen-agnostic,” Quinn says. “You know, a screen is a screen is a screen, whether it’s in a theater, whether it’s at home on your TV or whether it’s your iPad. Where you want to consume is where you want to consume and we wanna make it available to you where it makes sense for you, but we also want to build our films in a way that suits them. It’s not a one size fits all” (del Barco).


Popcorn Machine Consumes Another Innocent Employee. Source: Film In Motion

If this double-platform release style becomes more popular, will theaters end up cut from the equation of first-time releases all together? Will the Oscars have to edit their regulations on nominee candidates in order to accommodate the rise of streaming? Are theater owners right in believing the day has come where theaters are slowly becoming obsolete? GOOD GOD I HOPE NOT! 😦

Featured image via Cinematic Reactions.


del Barco, Mandalit. “Movie Chains Balk At Netflix’s Plan For Simultaneous Release”. NPR. 7 Mar 2015. Web. 14 Mar 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2015/03/07/391458598/movie-chains-balk-at-screening-new-film-while-netflix-debuts-it-online&gt;

Dixon, Wheeler. Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access.: The University Press of Kentucky, 2013. Print.


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