By John H. Foote
Are the days of an audience of 800 strangers gathering in a cinema to watch the film on the silver screen in front of them gone? Will the COVID-19 outbreak currently altering our way of life in around the world impact forever the film industry? Will the studios set up their own streaming sites and charge movie theatre prices to screen a film from the site in the privacy of their own home? I think it will happen this year, and though it might not be permanent, it will be with us in one form or the other. Once the studios take the plunge to streaming, whether audiences go back to cinemas or not, streaming will be forever part of the film industry.
Think about it. Let’s consider A Quiet Place – Part II is going to screen online through Paramount’s website or streaming site. You log in, give you card information, hit play, sit back and enjoy your film for a single viewing. No pauses, no stops, once it starts you watch it, just like you do in the theatre. The studio makes their money, everyone is happy. Sure, the collective experience is lost, but movies survive. Life goes on.
This is exactly what Hollywood has been fighting since Netflix entered the filmmaking world with Beasts of No Nation (2015). When Roma (2018) won three major Academy Awards last year – including Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography – there was genuine terror within the Academy, hell throughout Hollywood that a Netflix film would win Best Picture! Flash forward a year, to 2019, and Netflix dominates the nominations with two for Best Picture. Was there a conspiracy within the Academy to deny a Martin Scorsese, The Irishman, and Netflix? I think so, but we will never truly know.
However, if all the studios end up with a streaming network, that would place Netflix on even ground and might, I said might, end this nonsense.
When I was a young teen, I wondered if there would ever be a time one could own movies like books. Sure enough it came to pass, first with VHS tapes, then DVDs and now Blu Rays. Is the next obvious transition to having films at your fingertips online?
Hollywood studios have been given the push they need to go into that realm, and whether they want too or not, they are going to have to do so to survive.
Adapt, they need to adapt.
If they do not already know this, if the studios are not ready to adapt, to evolve, then they are already dead
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.