Screening or Streaming?

Warner Bros 2nd Announcement

Watching your favourite film…. In a cinema near you or on your TV or computer?

The announcement by the AT&T  US communication behemoth and now also owner of  WarnerMedia, home of the Harry Potter franchise, Game of Thrones etc of its merger with the Discovery channel ‘to take on the Streaming giants’ (Netflix, Disney, Amazon etc) shows how far the pandemic has shifted the tectonic plates of movie presentation (and much production) in favour of streaming.

The financials are clear. Why make a film and have a long period to wait before you get any return on your investment? Simply put, why negotiate with cinema owners over slots, costs, licensing agents, advertising and PR etc? Streaming cuts most of this out and your exspensive film goes straight from film studio to streaming or TV. We need the money; our coffers are empty after months of shutdown!

If it were only that simple. The Exhibitors (Cinema owners) have a powerful lobby.  Negotiations for an Exhibitor’s Window (Cinema-exclusive period) have been going on for months and 30 – 60 days have been under discussion. There will no doubt be an increasingly critical eye on attendances – use it or lose it. Film finance will be examining the streaming model more closely, with the risk-adverse looking more intensely at the re-opening of cinemas as the pandemic still plays a significant part in their decision making.

The Covid-19 cinematographic upside has brought us many more wonderful films from diverse countries, great artists with skills that illuminate their countries values with stories unlike any others, many being lauded with major honours. These films, along many home-made titles, will keep our arthouse offerings, our U3A’s film societies and small home-grown enthusiast-led film clubs in business for years.

What of commercial cinema? Industry-driven shift to streaming with a more tightly controlled exhibition model leading to fewer cinemas. Emphasis on ‘blockbusters’ and franchises to fill cinema seats. Fewer ‘small’ films.