But wait, you’re thinking, if streaming is now the entertainment industry, then doesn’t that mean that movie theaters are doomed? Not at all! We are a social species. Movie watching is a social experience. All the major streaming services have “Netflix Party” type social extensions now (Spotify has excelled at social for years). Heck, look at the current resurgence of drive-in theaters — they’re even building new ones!
There’s nothing like watching a movie on a big screen in a dark room (or parking lot) with a great crowd. That will never change. Theaters will always own that experience. What I think will change, however, is the content we watch in those theaters.
For example, what if instead of competing against the streaming services, movie theaters worked with them? For example, popular new streaming shows like the Mandalorian, Euphoria, the Queen’s Gambit, and The Crown all have tens of millions of fans. Surely after a year of lock-down, some of those fans want to watch their favorite show on the big screen, with drinks, food, and like-minded folks?
Smaller independent theater groups like Alamo Drafthouse and Landmark have generated strong followings and thriving membership programs because they actually work a lot like Netflix; they’re a place to show up and look for interesting things to watch. In addition to first-run movies, they show sports games, live screenings of stage performances and concerts, and classics you can’t normally find on the big screen.
As Mitch Lowe, the founder of MoviePass, once noted: “You can’t just rely on two-hour slabs of studio-produced content – you should be able to go to your local cinema and watch a sporting event, or binge all Thursday on Game Of Thrones with a pass to get in and out. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and people are less willing to sit around for the length of your average movie.”