When it comes to the direct to streaming (e.g Netflix) release vs theatrical release model and there is no doubting the theatrical window is under threat and Covid has only exacerbated the threat.
Forget the glass half empty speak for a second.
What do the large and small streaming platforms long for that the traditional theatrical release model give in spades?
1. A theatrical launch
There is no business like show business and a theatrical release builds anticipation, press excitement and pizzazz in spades. It is hard to compare the bounce it creates when compared to the streaming release model.
Let's face it, turning on a streaming platform and seeing a new movie, even in the Top 10 trending items on the streaming platform doesn't quite get the juices flowing.
2. Box office potential
The box office potential for a Theatrical > PVOD > TVOD > SVOD far outweighs the PVOD or SVOD potential. Disney are no doubt buoyed by their Disney+ subscriptions numbers and they rightly should be but the theatrical window not only drives hype, it drives the bottom line.
Mulan and Trolls World Tour were both moderate successes when people were stuck at home with nothing else to do but both suffered greatly from missing the theatrical window.
3. Star attractions
There is anecdotal evidence that big pay cheques for actors and directors for direct-to-streaming are not cutting it for the global star talent. They probably don't miss the need to travel to the four corners of the world to promote the movie but they are missing the big release anticipation of the premiere and the opening weekend stresses awaiting the box office results.
There are expectations talent will turn down direct-to-streaming movie roles in favor of the theatrical alternative.
4. Awards season honours
Movies like Alfonso Cuarón's Roma was a masterpiece and of cinematic quality. It was also deserving of the awards it received including Best Foreign Language Feature. However, they struggle to compete against theatrical releases for top awards and this is despite record-spending Oscar campaigns.
5. Follow on income
A direct streaming release brings less risk but also less fanfare. A runaway theatrical release success results in greater post-release sales value for SVOD and ancillary product sales potential.
A cinematic out-of-home shared experience creates a memorable moment which can propel a brand in a way watching something on your couch can't.