Streaming services vs theatrical release



The promotional poster for Premier Access of “Black Widow” on Disney Plus.

The United States has largely began to resurface from the clutches of the Coronavirus pandemic, while multi-media companies are still trying to get on their feet. With the ever-growing popularity of streaming services and the resistance of re-entrance back into theaters, major Hollywood entities are caught between traditional theatrical and streaming service releases.

As the Coronavirus confined people to their homes, the world shut down and with it, the typical movie theater experience. This led to studios like Warner Brothers, Marvel Studios, and Disney to start releasing their films directly to consumers through various streaming services such as HBO Max, Disney+, and Paramount+.

Two Pixar films, “Luca” and “Soul,” released for free on Disney+ this past year. Several other films like live-action “Mulan”, “Raya and the Last Dragon”, “Cruella”, and “Black Widow” were listed as premier access on Disney+ and then uploaded to the service for free at a later date. Premier access gives viewers options as films are simultaneously released on Disney+ and in theaters, but for an additional cost of $29.99 on the service.

Actress and MCU star, Scarlett Johansson, actually sued Disney back in July for breach of contract, as “Black Widow” was supposed to have an exclusive theatrical release, but Disney released the film on Disney+ with premier access instead.

Hollywood has shifted from its long-established 60 to 90 day exclusive theatrical window to films being redirected to streaming services after 45 days or significantly less in theaters. Many recently released trailers have started to specify when and where the viewers can watch their film.

“In The Heights” promotional poster that specifies the film can be seen both in theaters and on HBO Max. (Warner Brothers)

Numerous films including, but not limited to “Godzilla vs. Kong”, “Tom & Jerry”, “In the Heights”, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”, and “The Suicide Squad” were released this past year on HBO Max free with a same day theatrical release. However, many of the films had a limited runtime on the service of around a month.

A discussion has broken out across Hollywood, its performers, and consumers on whether or not films moving forward should be released in theaters, exclusively on a streaming service, or a combination of both.

“I prefer to watch it from the comfort of my home, preferably in bed with snacks and my cozy blanket,” junior Emaan Ahmed said.

Benjamin Arseña, Wiregrass sophomore and movie lover, has an opposing view on the topic.

“Although I find it more convenient that films are being released on streaming services, they take away the experience of being in a movie theater and having your sole focus on the movie,” Arseña explained.

Although opinions on where films should be released are mixed, most consumers seem to agree on how magical it is to see films on the big screen.

“It’s all about the experience, as it reminds me of when I was younger and would go see new movies with my family, get a big bucket of popcorn to share, and talk about the movie and our favorite characters in the car ride home,” junior Bella Pagliuca explained.

Going to see a movie is so much more than just seeing a story play out on screen, it’s an experience. There is nothing like sitting in a dark room, eating candy snuck in from the local Dollar Tree, and being transported into a new reality surrounded by people on the same journey. With the reopening of theaters around the country, make sure to visit one soon to recapture the allure of seeing a film the way it was intended.