The poster features a simple image on a white background with the words “The Choice is Yours.” Under it, there are two pills -- a red one on the left and a blue one on the right. Under that is the release date: “12.22.21.” Under that: “See it. In theaters” and “And On. HBO Max.”
Longtime "Matrix"-followers keenly know this reference to the movie franchise story line. At the same time -- due to the highly sensitive issue of theatrical movies running in cinemas and streaming platforms -- industry followers see another message:
The “Choice Is Yours” being: Cinemas or Streaming.
Digging deeper into the movie’s story line, the red pill gives a person the truth about the real world. The blue pill allows someone to forget and ignore the world that was a computer simulation. A potentially bigger message is that cinemas are real and streaming is fake -- an illusion.
At the same time, we know that not all studios are on the same page when it comes to film start dates. WarnerMedia has been a key instigator in simultaneous streaming/cinema openings.
But none of this is clear cut. While Disney has done its share of simultaneous film openings on both platforms, it now says all remaining theatrical releases this year will start exclusively in theaters.
Even then, those exclusive cinema starts have been cut down to 45 days. For its animated holiday movie Disney’s “Encanto,” the film will only get a 30-day exclusive window.
What about future movie studio marketing? One wonders whether deeper theatrical movie messages will find ways to address the whole theatrical versus streaming thing -- or perhaps make fun of it.
Studios, to an extent, would say they are giving consumers what they desire -- growing options to access movies.
For sure, film directors/producers and talent (Hello, Scarlett Johansson!) have strong opinions about this stuff -- if not legal recourse. Future negotiations for movie product will see incorporation of streaming deal points.
Until then, we look for secret messages -- and drama -- anywhere can get them.