Some Thoughts On Streaming, Cable and Movie Theaters | Column from the Editor 

Before the coronavirus pandemic, streaming certainly had a presence at big awards ceremonies like the Golden Globes and the Oscars, but there was clear contempt for them among the institutions that run those ceremonies, which seems pretty silly now, as just about every major release this year by necessity has had to debut on a streaming service. It’s arguable that streaming already eclipsed TV in the last few years in terms of its relevance, affordability, selection, audience growth and quality of shows, and it’s pretty obvious that the pandemic has sped up its dominance of the film industry.

YouTuber Drew Gooden made a great video explaining the sad, current state of the cable TV industry, which in America is run by a handful of companies that monopolize the market in a way that allows them to use dishonest advertising tactics, stack up hidden fees on its users, and drastically inflate the price of its product which, if we’re being truthful, is only worth it for live shows and events (though several streaming platforms also have live shows/sports packages). Cable in the U.S. can easily cost around $200 a month, is much harder to install than a streaming service, has a vastly inferior selection of shows and films, and its aggressive monetization makes it virtually unwatchable when compared to the ad-free experience of streaming. 

With so many streaming services on the market that compete not only for original content, but vast archives of old shows and movies, it’s easy to complain that we have too many of them, and indeed, I don’t think all of them can be sustainable. But it’s also worth noting that even if you subscribe to all the major ones (Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Peacock), you will still be paying less than you would for cable. 

I’m not sure if movie theaters will ever recover from the pandemic. It was a legacy product that was already faltering in its direct competition with streaming, and the death of theaters also put in direct jeopardy the business models of traditional Hollywood studios. I think it was really telling that Netflix got “Marriage Story” last year, a film starring two of the biggest actors on the planet right now in Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, and the fact that Martin Scorcese of all people had to transition to streaming in order to get “The Irishman” made. While the traditional theater-release model was doing fine last year in part thanks to big event movies like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Star Wars,” they lost the war of quality to streaming platforms who were willing to take creative risks they weren’t. 

I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the event movie after the pandemic, as audiences and theater companies might be understandably timid about reopening theaters, even if there’s a series of must-see giant blockbusters coming out. Disney and Warner Bros. have experimented with a despicable premium release model via “Mulan” and SCOOB!” that I will boycott vehemently, but both releases fell noticeably short of what they could have pulled in pre-pandemic. 

Maybe it’s for the best that streaming has become so dominant, though I will miss theaters. It was something to go out and do every week, and to me, it’s just the best way to see a film for the first time, especially if the film is visually interesting. Watching something like James Cameron’s “Avatar 2” on my small screen at home for the first time just won’t do. But I do wonder how the logistics of seeing a film like that post-COVID-19 would work, especially if a substantial amount of theaters stay dead forever. Two things I’m fairly certain of: There will be less seats and higher prices. 

As per cable, I’m just confused why it’s still around.

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