The Future of Film in 2021

Niles Abbott, Contributor

The spread of COVID-19 since its initial surge in March has significantly impacted social gatherings and activities to this day. From shopping to house parties, the coronavirus has diminished the social experience across the globe. With the closing of movie theaters, film too has taken a large hit.

On November third of 2020, the film production company Warner Brothers made a historical decision to digitally release their upcoming movies free of charge onto their streaming service. The company has stated that they will debut each of their 17 new releases of the 2021 year on Max, their monthly $14.99 streaming service which comes with a library of old and new Warner Bros TV shows and movies.

Jason Kilar, Warner Brother’s Media Chief Executive stated in an interview with the New York Times, “Like a lot of businesses, theaters are in a tough spot right now. We are all in the middle of a pandemic, and we are all trying to figure our way through it. One of the things we can do to be helpful to them is to provide them with a steady stream of big-budget, well-told stories.”

The surprise is not that one lone movie production company will shift its focus from theatric to digital releases, but the impact of Warner Brothers challenge has on how Hollywood operates. Typically, a feature film movie on average makes around $130 million domestically, with 60% of revenue coming from box office ticket sales. This drastic change to release movies theatrically and digitally simultaneously is an effort to test adjust to the reality of Covid-19, as doing so is better than withholding movies or relying on unpredictable ticket sales. Disney, for example, lost over $5 billion in their latest release of Mulan in September of 2020 during the first stages of the pandemic, later putting on their own respective streaming service for an additional $30 on top of the $7 monthly subscription fee. They have since not released another major film.

Warner Brother’s studio’s announcement holds significant influence within the competitive world of film production, pressuring other companies to follow in their footsteps or change as a result. In the age of social distancing, streaming services are an essential part of releasing movies. Will other companies join in the pursuit, or will they cling to the past of in-theatre experiences in hope of better pay?