OPINION: Cinema world fears an on-demand future

by | Mar 29, 2018 | A&E, Opinion

Steve MacInnis


In a recent interview, legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg said original Netflix movies shouldn’t be eligible to be nominated for the Academy Awards. He called movies released by Netflix “TV movies” and said if they’re good enough they deserve an Emmy but not an Oscar.

The director also recently announced plans for the fifth installment of Indiana Jones — because you know, we didn’t suffer enough with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Spielberg isn’t the only director to criticize the streaming service. Last year Christopher Nolan referred to Netflix as having a bizarre aversion to supporting films released in theatres and called out its simultaneous stream-and-release format as a mindless policy.

Cannes Film Festival has also jumped on the we-hate-Netflix bandwagon after the director of the festival, Thierry Fremaux announced that Netflix films will be banned from competing in this year’s festival. The reason? If a film wants to compete at Cannes it must be released in French cinemas — Netflix of course, does not do movie theatres.

Now, I personally love going to the movie theatre, but I also understand the appeal of a streaming service like Netflix. I have had my fair share of days dedicated to the couch falling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Yes Netflix, I’m still watching.

 Although I can understand some of Hollywood’s distaste for the streaming service format, I can’t help but realize that it’s most likely where the future of film is heading — especially considering the quality of films that Netflix and Amazon continue to produce.

This year for instance, Netflix scored eight Academy Award nominations, making history for the most nominations for a streaming service ever. Netflix even managed to scoop a win for themselves, after the sports-doping Icarus won best documentary feature.

Last year Amazon claimed three Academy Awards, after Manchester by the Sea won in both the best actor and best original screenplay categories, and The Salesman won best foreign language film.

Aside from stealing awards from films released in cinemas, Hollywood’s plummeting box office sales have also felt the wrath of the streaming service format.

In 2017, the North American box office ticket sales were the worst reported in over two decades. Although ticket sales still managed to reach sales of more than $11 billion, the North American box office had sales comparable to those in 1992, a time when streaming services were non-existent.

It’s not fair to lay all the blame on Netflix for the declining box office sales because, let’s face it, as much as I enjoy going to the movie theatre, it’s not exactly cheap these days. Most of the big blockbuster movies are released in either 3D or IMAX, which is more expensive than the standard ticket. And if you’re like me, you’re most likely going to buy some sort of concession stand snack to accompany you on your movie theatre experience.

The costs add up, so it’s easy to see how paying roughly $10 a month for unlimited shows and movies available to stream while in the comfort of your own home is becoming the norm. And microwave popcorn is cheaper.

There’s also the argument on the quality of films being released in theatres that aren’t as appealing to the average movie-goer. An abundance of sequels, remakes, and reboots isn’t cutting it anymore. Most films aren’t going to bring in the kind of money the studio was hoping for, unless of course you’re Disney.

It’s no secret Disney is a behemoth in the entertainment world. They own Marvel, Star Wars, and recently purchased 20th Century Fox. They clean up, big time. Yet despite all the success they achieve by releasing films in theatres, Disney too is following suit and has begun creating its own streaming service platform, which will ultimately give Netflix and Amazon a run for their money and will most likely push Steven Spielberg past his breaking point. Why? Because the people at Disney are no fools.

I don’t think cinema will die entirely because there’s obviously still a market for it. But as streaming services continue to release quality content with a low monthly cost, Hollywood either needs to fix its business model or adapt to the changing landscape and join their enemy.

While we wait to see what the future holds, we’ll at least have the fifth Indiana Jones to look forward to.