Is it VOD vs. Streaming or Theaters vs. Streaming?

Remember in the movie Rocky IV ⭐️⭐️½ where Rocky goes on that goofy post-fight political rant in Russia, “If we can change, you can change, we all can change!” Get that same feeling when we start talking about the competition over where to watch movies.

The reality is there is very little, from a movie distribution standpoint, that needs to change with streaming. Start with theaters, either day and date with VOD/PVOD or streaming or give theaters a brief window, a couple weeks is good, then go VOD/PVOD and then streaming. Our frustration is there aren’t more marquee streaming movies released to theaters, at least simultaneously. Would love to have seen The Irishman in a wider theatrical release, for example.

The article quoted below raises the question that PVOD/VOD vs. streaming could be the future of competition for new movies as theatrical distribution takes a backseat.

There’s another, more optimistic element that may also be in play. By addressing VOD head on, AMC and Cinemark are becoming active participants in its future. It also means they chose a side in a major battle, and it’s not theaters vs. studios. It’s VOD vs. streaming.

PVOD vs. Streaming Is the Real Battle, Not Theaters vs. Home | IndieWire

There continue to be reasoned thoughts that it’s over for movie theaters as we know them, but we have repeatedly pushed back on this skepticism (see: One Big Reason Why Movie Theaters Will Be OK Compared To Streaming)

Clearly, more and more movies during the pandemic have skipped theaters for streaming release and some for PVOD/VOD. Even with theaters open right now, AMC, most notably, offers the reduced theatrical window before streaming. That seems like the best path.

The time is now for new movies to shine in theaters

Movie competition in theaters is extremely limited right now. Almost as limited as theaters themselves being open (our theaters in Washington State are now closed for the next month).

Studios may never again have the chance they have to highlight a new movie in theaters. Sending it to PVOD/VOD is somewhat of a marketing black hole. Yeah, people can dial up the new movie area on these services and buy tickets there, but it’s not going to lead to the exposure they’ll have going straight to streaming channels or first in movie theaters.

The bigger competition for streaming aren’t movie theaters. They should be, and in some growing cases are, partners. VOD/PVOD vs. streaming is the bigger competition. Studios can sell out for a streaming exclusive to say Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+, etc or they can try to go it the VOD/PVOD route first, skipping the theatrical money. In most cases, we think that’s leaving money on the table, but if a studio thinks they’ll make more money skipping theatrical release, let their financials be their guide.

With Wonder Woman 1984 testing a day and date release next month domestically (see: Wonder Woman 1984 will be released at HBO Max and Theaters Simultaneously on December 25 – Where will you watch?) we’ll soon find out what kind of effect this will have on box office receipts. Given there will be an asterisk because this data will be during the pandemic with theaters at limited capacity, but we should get at least some idea of how many stay home and watch a big budget film at HBO Max. Just a guess, but HBO Max should see a fairly noticeable surge in new subscribers next month. How many stay, that will be interesting data to examine as well.

On the flip side, movie theater chain owner and operators need to stop thinking about streaming as their enemy. In some respects the pandemic is making them turn the corner on this, and that’s a positive thing. Home viewing is an alternative to the movie theater experience and those of us who love watching movies in theaters will tell you it’s not the same. It can be close to the same with the right hardware, but it doesn’t have the same feeling as watching a movie in a theater. Just doesn’t.

I’m not romanticizing the theater experience by saying this, I’m pointing out there are people like us who simply prefer watching new movies in theaters, getting that overpriced tub of popcorn and soda and turning our darn cell phones off, unplugging from the world for a couple hours. That escapism is real. Do you turn your phone off when you watch movies at home? We don’t . We should. It’s like when you’re home you are in a more distracting environment unless you lock yourself in some soundproof room and put a gigantic DO NOT DISTURB sign outside. Somehow watching movies at home is just open to more disruption.

Should be noted that it’s more important to watch movies where you like watching them. Not where some studio thinks you should or the NATO (National Theater Owners) or social media or ___ (whatever). Watch them wherever you like. Streaming, VOD/PVOD, in theaters, whatever. Just watch them somewhere.

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