One thing that resonates with me when reading up on Ryan Scott of MovieWeb or any other writer that’s covering these current, tumultuous times that are hitting the movie business in a profound way is the ‘seismic change’ that is about occur now that the Pandora’s box, as Ryan so accurately put it, has been yanked wide open. The theater experience was already under attack from streaming services since being able to watch a movie in the comfort of your own home is almost always a preference of many people. There’s no doubt that the theater experience is a luxury, a joy, that many people don’t want to give up since it offers an escape from home to enter a world where the darkness allows them to slip into the story without the knowledge that they’re firmly ensconced within their comfort zone. That level of adventure however is an old practice as a lot of us might be able to admit at this point, no matter that it’s still a fun and engaging time whether it be used for a date or a pleasing evening with the family. But with the current threat of COVID-19 being spread in large groups the entertainment industry has taken a massive hit since there’s no such thing as social distancing in a movie theater, especially not when a new movie comes out that people have been waiting to see.
So what’s left then? Streaming is about all that stands as a viable option for a lot of studios, who are currently losing money hand over fist as they scramble to try and find a way to recoup as many losses as they can in order to survive. Given that many theaters are looking at a two to three month closure it’s hard to see how the survival rate of such a business is going to remain that far above zero after the first month since the box office has already come crashing down, much like the stock market. Americans are scared of many things at this point, but those that are firmly dependent upon work in the entertainment industry are no doubt entering survival mode at this time as it’s not just the millionaires that profit from the release of one movie or another, but also the individuals that work in the studios that don’t make the kind of money that will allow them to weather the coming storm. The movie business is going to change from the top to the bottom, that’s one prediction that is going to happen no matter how vague it might sound. Brooks Barnes of The New York Times has more to say on this.
Think on this: entertainment has experienced more than one shift in our lifetime, and possibly even a few in the lifetimes of others. A lot of us can recall when VHS was king, but it was soon enough replaced by DVDs. During that time the entertainment industry was solid, it didn’t see a lot of flak from the VHS and DVD sales since it basically determined just when those movies would come out. Once Netflix entered the scene and decided to change the game with its streaming service however, a mild tremor was felt in the entertainment industry, one that a lot of people ignored since there was no way that it could be reasoned that streaming would erase the luxury of heading to the theater on the weekend or on a special night. The coronavirus might just have delivered what could be a serious blow if not a total knockout to the theater business since with the theaters closed, streaming and digital will be where people look, and if the prices become too high, people might actually start looking elsewhere if they can. It might not sound entirely realistic, but $20 for a two-day rental of new movies such as The Hunt and The Invisible Man is pretty steep for those that are currently wondering how they’re going to pay the rent, the mortgage, and even afford to feed themselves and their families. Anousha Sakoui of the Los Angeles Time has more to offer on this line of thinking. As much as the entertainment industry is bound to change in the wake of COVID-19, it has to be realized that it might have to do a great deal of trimming the fat to achieve the type of equilibrium that will allow it to continue to flourish. Maybe celebrities might have to come to realize once again what it’s like to earn a lousy paycheck for their ‘hard work’? Okay, that’s kind of hard to believe, but a little more satisfying really.
The truth of the impact that the coronavirus is having on the entertainment industry is that it’s going to change things from top to bottom if things are bound to keep going the way they are. If desperation sets in during the next few months it could be a long climb back to prominence if theaters are able to open their doors again. It could even be that the scales might tip towards streaming for a while, if not for good.