In April 2019, I had the privilege of attending an opening night showing of “Avengers: Endgame” with 11 of my closest peers. The experience brought us a theater of laughing, crying, and cheering for our favorite characters we had spent the years prior getting to know and love. Nobody ever expected a year later, in 2020, the seats we sat in would be empty.
With theaters hopeful of widespread vaccination bringing viewers back in to attend films, one wonders what the next “big film” will be. Multiple movies have begun being pushed a second time including “No Time to Die.” Fans of the film are wondering if “Black Widow” and “F9” will hit the big screen in May.
While the theatrical experience has come to a halt, studios have found ways to adapt. Disney for instance has sent some of their films straight to Disney+ and are exploring a hybrid premier access model with “Raya and the Last Dragon” on March 5 releasing in theaters and on Disney+. Warner Bros. has decided to also explore the hybrid release model and may do same-day releases with every single 2021 film on their slate including “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “The Suicide Squad.”
The distribution of movies has always been a big thing for studios. Traditionally, studios have followed a three-month window in the past few years which means it is approximately three months from when a movie hits theater to when it is released physically and digitally. With the window seemingly shortened, will studios go back to this model ever again?
While traditional windows may never return with consumers now adapted to watching films at home, there will be a variety of windows based on a film’s performance. Movie theaters need big blockbuster movies to survive, though, and studios will still make those movies because they reel in money which cannot be produced if put on a streaming service.
Therefore, there are a lot of films being pushed months and months instead of being dropped to streaming. A three-month window is still likely for a physical media release, but a digital release could come anywhere from three weeks to three months to even the same day a film releases.
There will always be a place for movie theaters. There is a social aspect which cannot be replicated with at-home viewings of films. Changes to what we are used to are inevitable at this point, but in the end, we consumers are the ones who win.