Wolf Richter recently pointed out how Disney's new model of releasing movies was impacting traditional movie-watching habits.
During its opening weekend, Black Widow brought in $80 million at box office ticket sales in North America. This was only a “record” for any movie since March 2020, a “pandemic record,” so to speak.
But these ticket sales lagged far behind the actual records set during opening weekends by other movies. According to movie data tracker, The Numbers, those ticket sales were in 98th place!
And they were 78% lower than the record debut weekend for a movie, “Avengers: Endgame,” which premiered in April 2019 and grossed $357 million at theaters in North America during the first weekend.
The brutal reality for brick-and-mortar theaters now:
- “Avengers: Endgame” played in 4,662 theaters the weekend it premiered; on average each theater grossed $76,601.
- “Black Widow” played in 4,160 theaters over the weekend; on average each theater grossed $19,231. That’s what this “record” means for movie theater chains.
. . .
Walt Disney disclosed the other fascinating thing about the plight of brick-and-mortar movie theaters: It had raked in $60 million from streaming “Black Widow” over the weekend on Disney+, for $29.99 per home, on top of the monthly subscription fee, no theaters involved.
Disney gets a cut of maybe less than 50% of the $80 million in box office ticket sales. But it gets 100% of the $60 million it took in via Disney+.
This … shows the very chilling prospects for brick-and-mortar theaters.
What changed during the pandemic was Disney’s decision to release movies simultaneously in movie theaters and on Disney+.
So now, some people can go to a theater to watch a movie when it premiers and make an event out of it; others can watch the movie at home when it premiers, the whole family for $29.99, which cheap soda and popcorn thrown in on top.
. . .… the power relationship between studios and theater chains has changed forever. And studios have their own streaming services. If theater chains try to boycott a movie, so be it; they will just push more people to the streaming service.
There's more at the link.
I grew up in an era when "going to the movies" was a real treat. In South Africa, of course, we had no television at the time (it was only introduced in the 1970's, for various religious and cultural reasons), so as far as "modern" visual entertainment went, the movie theater was it. There were no other options. Even so, the Saturday morning movies for kids put on at our local cinema were special occasions, and to be deprived of them was a huge blow to a child.
Even as an adult, with TV available, an evening excursion to a movie theater was somehow "special"; freely available, but a choice to be ranked alongside many other forms of entertainment. Some movies, such as the Star Wars trilogy, were far and away best watched on the big screen. They just didn't have the same impact or immediacy when viewed on a goggle-box.
Now, however . . . there are whole generations who've grown up regarding the TV as their primary form of visual entertainment. The sale of outsize screens for "home theaters" has become a normal feature of the marketing landscape. The pandemic merely hastened an already-growing trend: it was no longer necessary to go outside the home to watch visual entertainment. Even sports crowds were dwindling as more and more people discovered that the close-ups, replays and commentary available on TV made the game more interesting at home, and a heck of a lot cheaper than being bled by stadium ticket and concessionaire pricing.
I'm not sure what this means for more traditional forms of live entertainment such as classical music, ballet, opera and the like. I used to enjoy visits to a symphony concert. The Cape Town Symphony Orchestra used to perform every week at very reasonable ticket prices, and people would dress up and attend with season tickets. Frequent "low-brow" concerts, at lower ticket costs and without dress codes, were also held, making classical music available to everyone at accessible prices. Now? The pandemic has disrupted all that, on top of the impact of home viewing, the availability of HD recordings of concerts, operas, etc., and the growing complications surrounding planning a night out (babysitting, transport, parking, weather, and now the risk of demonstrations and riots as well). Can classical music and its associated arts recover from that blow? Can they survive without an audience?
What about art? Will consumers make the trek to see a famous painting or statue in person, or will they be content to watch a TV program about it, complete with close-ups, commentary, etc.? What about museums? There are plenty of TV channels dedicated to history, science, technology, etc. Is it worthwhile to many younger people to go to a museum to see a famous aircraft, or the skeleton of a dinosaur, or whatever, when they can learn all about it on the goggle-box?
As far as movie theaters go, the big production companies are increasingly eager to glom onto every dollar they can make, at the expense of sharing their income with distributors, exhibitors and other associates. If it's more profitable for them to direct most of their marketing effort to home entertainment, they'll do so in a heartbeat. I'd hate to be a theater operator today - cinema, concert, or whatever. The economics of staying in business amid a sea change in the way they do business must be daunting, and I'm not sure the latter can be made to work. One can't automate many of the functions involved, so it's hard to save money on personnel costs, and one must deal with all the competition from lower-cost home entertainment. Can the neighborhood movie theater, or the city symphony concert hall, survive? One can't be sure.
Will our children grow up with such entertainment venues and habits still available? Who knows? And does it matter, except to nostalgic oldsters like us?