In-Theater Movies, In-Home Streaming Operate As Frenemies

Are streaming concerns for big in-theater movie entertainment overblown? That depends on your perspective.

This is the time of year theater chain owners worry about U.S. box-office revenue -- now trending at a 6% decline -- $9.9 billion -- versus results from a year ago.

Much depends on end-of-year revenue results for major franchise movies, such as Walt Disney’s “Frozen 2,” Sony Pictures’ “Jumanji: The Next Level” and Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Eric Wold, entertainment analyst for B. Riley FBR Riely, believes at the current levels, fourth-quarter box office results could be “flat-ish.” Adding in those results, U.S. box-office revenue would sink 4% for 2019 overall versus the year before.

Still, he is emboldened about the future: “Most investor/media concerns around increasing streaming competition have been misplaced and recognize there are often strings of successes and failures in the box office."



That has always been the case. But increasingly, other analysts have been concerned not just about the sustainability of major movie franchises -- "Star Wars," Avengers," "Spider-Man" -- but more about those mid-level theatrical movies that struggle to be profitable.

Some analysts believe the business will need help -- and that may come with more attempts at same-day openings: theatrical and streaming home services. Traditional movie studios, as well as upstart Netflix, continue to push these boundaries.

Think about how Netflix’s “The Irishman” is being marketed. The recent on-air TV advertising campaign -- featuring A-list talent -- Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and director Martin Scorsese -- feels like a big theatrical movie release.

But, in fact, it is mostly a big streaming TV movie with a small in-theater distribution component. Netflix has been pushing its new original content this way for some time. This is how you now sell films to modern movie consumers.

The in-theater, big-screen, low-light experience won’t go away — thanks to eye-popping effects for fantasy/adventure blockbusters that appeal to younger consumers.

But the focus now will be on the in-between adult-focused, Oscar-intended films -- mid-level budgets movies that play in January/February. Those older adult-skewing films that run between summer and the November-December holiday period.

Right now, all those movies are at a virtual standstill when it comes to monetization -- a different kind of frozen.

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