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Could post-pandemic cinemas disappear?

The irruption of streaming services and the difficulties of opening theaters during the pandemic could cause changes never seen before in the industry.

Empty chairs in a movie theater

The cinema landscape may be affected after the pandemic. / Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿Podrían desaparecer los cines post-pandemia?

Going to the movies is an amazing experience. Anyone who has had the opportunity to see their favorite movies on the big screen will know that nothing can match that feeling. However, the outlook could look bleak and the industry is changing by leaps and bounds.

The first thing we must talk about is the paralysis that the film industry is having. According to the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), the box office of European cinemas fell by 6,200 million euros in 2020, which implies a fall of 70.6% compared to 2019, all due to the impossibility of opening the rooms for contagions.

But this does not necessarily mean that the film industry is declining. On the contrary, there are many productions underway and the cinematographic world seems more current than ever. What is being discussed, in reality, is a trend that came in recent years and that the coronavirus has become more than evident: how important will movie theaters be after the pandemic?

Post-pandemic cinema

What is happening, as you can imagine, has to do with the world of streaming. To understand it in context, the next productions in the coming years were announced on Disney Investor Day. 71% of this content will be released directly on its new platform, Disney +, without going through theaters.

This same trend was already appearing, for example, since 2019. IMDbPro's Box Office Mojo revealed that, of the top 10 films with the highest-grossing at the box office, 7 were titles that belonged to Disney. In other words, the movements made by Disney, which seems to be the most important company in terms of production, could generate changes in the industry.

In that same year, we saw that Netflix had sown doubt among users and generated a debate among moviegoers. For example, the acclaimed film Roma, by Alfonso Cuarón, was intended to be released directly in the company's catalog and not in theaters. The same happened with Martin Scorsese's mega-production The Irishman, but in this case, the film is only available on the platform.

Assuming that 2021 is still "lost" and that everything returns to normal in 2022, it will be necessary to see how consumption by users will change. The loss of the exclusivity of super blockbuster titles, as we have seen, could be a fundamental component so that people do not go to theaters. Why would they go if many productions would premiere directly on streaming platforms?

This comes hand in hand with the proliferation of many exclusive services that seek to attract subscribers with their own content, for example, the aforementioned Disney +, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or HBO Go. Before the pandemic, the film industry had made about $ 42 billion in 2019, a historic record. In that same year, Netflix alone had a turnover of 20 billion dollars, practically half.

Also read: The best film adaptations of books that will arrive in 2021

However, the film industry could also have a revolution that would affect films with more independent productions. When thinking about the income that a film represents, it must also be considered that, in a cinema ticket, the income is divided between taxes, copyright, the distributor/producer and the exhibitor.

The exhibitor, which are the movie theaters, take a significant share of those tickets, which varies according to the agreements made. The interesting thing is that, until 2020, the production companies could not have their own rooms to show their films. In 1942 this possibility was prohibited with the Paramount Decree, within the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Basically, the American law tried to have “fair competition”, since there were big studios that only put their films in their cinemas. For this reason, the smallest production companies, which did not have cinemas, could not screen their films. However, as revealed by El Confidencial, a judge of the Federal Court of New York, Analisa Torres, recently repealed the Paramount Consent Decreet, that is, the anti-monopoly law that prevented the majors from destroying everything.

Even the film companies have already begun to move with respect to the annulment of this decree. For example, Netflix “saved” the iconic Paris Theater in New York to show its own films, in addition to the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles. So, we are seeing that the majors want to monopolize all the content for users, both within their platforms and in the cinemas themselves.

In this way, large companies could end up giving a “coup de grace” to the film industry, since many productions would be released directly in streaming and, over time, theaters could be acquired for their own productions, which could also be viewed from the comfort of your home.

Ultimately, it will be the users themselves who will determine that the cinemas are maintained. A trip to the cinema implies other sensations than watching a movie from home, both from the technical aspect and what it means to go to another place to see a movie. However, the proliferation of streaming platforms and their foray into movie theaters could cause a shocking decline.