Commentary

Streaming Vs. Cinemas: Major Movie Lovers Want Both

For WarnerMedia's “Godzilla vs. Kong,” streaming and theatrical success -- opening in the middle of a pandemic -- wasn't really a complete surprise.

Especially among key frequent video streamers, it is not an either-or scenario: Those viewers/customers have always liked both streaming and theaters where movies play.

New research from the VAB, the TV industry's advertising trade group, says 33% of frequent video streamers go to see a movie within the first two weekends of release and, in the pre-pandemic period, 23% were more likely to go to the movies at least once a month.

Of course, for many, this runs headlong into the mind-boggling issue of ever-increasing time with media: In 2020, PQ Media says weekly media time was up to 73 hours a week from 71 hours a week in 2020.

Where do people find the time? Perhaps work and exercise time has been going down. Maybe sleep time as well.

We came to the conclusion that WarnerMedia's move to simultaneously debut new theatrical movies in cinemas and its streaming platform HBO Max might have been a bad idea -- even in the short term.

Loud grumbling among high-profile directors, producers and performers was the initial reaction.

Still, good to its word, WarnerMedia did say the move was intended to be temporary. Confirming that, it made a more traditional distribution deal with Cineworld Corp., owner of Regal Cinemas.

That said, Cineworld's exclusive period for movies is narrower with WarnerMedia -- 31 days prior to streaming, with a possible extension to 45 days for films that open to an agreed-upon box-office revenue threshold. Previously -- in the pre-pandemic days -- theaters generally had a 45-to-90 day exclusive window, depending on the deal.

Going forward with the knowledge of fervent movies lovers -- no matter where films play -- might stir marketers to find messaging opportunities for both streamers and cinemas.

Now, for the former, we know ad-supported networks are the way to go. In the latter, pre-movie, in-cinema advertising could be part of the plan. That said, Peacock, HBO Max and others have, or will, have, both ad-supported and ad-free options.

Frequent video streamers are waiting. But “Streaming vs. Cinemas” won't be a good sequel.

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