Stumbled upon this rather grim article written by Tony Maglio and presented on indiewire.com…
The article rightfully wonders how film studios can survive with such staggering losses and, frankly, I wonder the same.
Looking at this from a longer view, it seems to me this is part and parcel of, of all things, the arrival of home computers and the internet.
Let me explain.
When home computers first appeared they were crude yet began changing the landscape. I’m old enough to have been part of the very first generation to have one way, waaaaaaaayyyy back in the early 1980’s. My first computer was the venerable Atari 800…
Compared to what we now have, the Atari 800 was a laughably crude and for the most part primitive machine. And yet I almost instantly found a use for it. See, I was in high school at the time and the word processing program it had allowed me to write reports and get them printed out (on an equally crude and extremely slow printer) which was an incredible blessing!
No longer did I have to use a typewriter and white out errors or have to start all over again when I made too many errors. With Atari’s Word Processor, I could type and correct the whole thing and print it out only when it was ready!
A truly marvelous innovation!
Of course, the Atari computers didn’t last and soon IBM and Apple computers appeared. Apple was viewed as more “graphic” intensive but the IBM computers seemed to have the leg up. They were constantly improving and, like the mania to buy new iPhones or new gaming computers, one expected each new generation of IBM or Windows based computers to be better and better.
And they were!
And then came the internet, which is essentially phase two.
Now, you could interact with people all over the world. You could communicate via email. You could send files…
When MP3s became a thing, you no longer needed to store your music on CDs or have those vinyl records (by then, cassettes were a thing of the past and, yes, I know vinyl records are making a comeback).
You could keep your music on your computer and soon enough, even buy albums digitally without having to leave the comfort of your home. Suddenly, all those music stores I frequented -some of which were incredibly large!- were gone…
Then came the Kindle and the iPad and, as with music, now you didn’t need to actually buy physical copies of books. You could buy digital copies and buy and read them in the comfort of your home and, just like that, bookstores also became something of a thing of the past.
Certainly in my area there are only a fraction of them around like there used to be!
Alas, next in line were movies.
With the ability to create music and book files, it wasn’t long before digital copies of movies became a thing as well. Further, Netflix appeared and showed the industry that streaming was also a viable option to watching movies and TV shows.
However, people still went to theaters to see the latest releases, so things seemed to be going ok…
Until COVID hit.
Suddenly people were homebound and the studios had to hold back on releasing their upcoming films. In some cases, these films eventually were released but appeared on streaming services very quickly afterwards. It’s fair to say that films such as Wonder Woman 84, No Time to Die, and Tenet, regardless of their quality (and I know some feel they’re not great films at all), would have performed far better had COVID not kept them from being released as they should have been… and those are the three “biggest” films I can think of offhand which were victims of COVID.
Here’s the thing I’ve come to notice after spending all these years watching the ebb and flow of entertainment: Something that is big at one point might suddenly become old hat really quickly.
There was a time disco music ruled. Then, suddenly, no one wanted to hear disco music. There was a time grunge ruled. Then, it was gone.
Movie theaters for so many years have been THE place to go see new films. But with COVID, we stopped going to them en mass. Yes, there are exceptions (Top Gun Maverick and the latest Spider-Man film being two of them) but in general the entire industry is in a funk.
And now that COVID is somewhat a thing of the past (get vaccinated, people!) we’re seeing that audiences aren’t necessarily flocking back to see the latest movies. At least not quite yet.
For we have seen movies appear on various streaming services and some of us figure we’ll just wait a month or two and see whatever film is currently in theaters then.
It’s happened to me, quite frankly, with Black Adam. I’m certainly curious to see it (Dr. Fate is a favorite comic book character of mine and the fact that they got Pierce Brosnan to play the role delights me!) but frankly… I can wait.
How many other people are saying the same thing?
I’ve mentioned it before to friends of mine, but we still don’t know the extent to which the internet and home computers will affect our lives. We’re seeing it, day by day, from the early days when I realized I could use a Word Processor to write my High School reports, to realizing you can have your entire music collection on a small memory card to realizing you can have your entire library (books, comic books, magazines, etc.) on a memory card as well, to where we now realize we can stream or own movies on that same memory card.
Where will it all ultimately end?
I guess we’ll all find out together.