Movie Theater Chains Investing In Streaming? Yes - Perhaps More Aggressively

Movie theater owners should not be sitting still amidst what looks like a strong return of moviegoing business this past summer.

There may be a false sense of security. Some are warning of a dramatically slow fall season to come. Looking more closely at the current marketplace should offer some clarity.

Although season-to-date summer theatrical business is double the business of a year ago, at $3.3 billion, it is still down 21% from the pre-pandemic 2019 summer season, according to IMdb’s Box Office Mojo.

Added to this may be some misleading sentiments from C-suite media executives.

David Zaslav, president/chief executive officer of Warner Bros Discovery, put it plainly -- that revenue from a streaming showing of a movie in no way offers up the full, immediate revenue impact of in-cinema box-office sales for a film.



Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney, expressed the same sentiment, more or less.

But don’t be completely deceived. While media companies express the need for movie cinema revenues, those companies' streaming businesses are not going away. They will have a monetary impact on movie distribution in the years to come.

Dan Goman, founder/chief executive officer of Ateliere, a media supply-chain management system, says movie theaters need to expand from their myopic view of the business -- to actively find ways to invest and monetize around in-home entertainment.

“Were such an exhibitor to actively invest to grow an in-home business, it might find the studios eager to work with it to find VIP opportunities for film and fan experiences, in-home and theater, that the other home services could not match,” he writes in an email to TV Watch.

What movie-chain company might be interested? Perhaps the second-biggest U.S. movie chain, which looks to file for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and in the U.K. where its owning parent company Cineworld is based.

“A restructured Regal [Cinemas[ under forward-thinking management might finally choose to lead the way on in-home monetization of new releases, catalogs, films, and even episodic programming.” Programming? Sounds like TV stuff.

Now the flip side to all of this: Would TV network-based media companies be receptive to such investments?

Premium streaming platforms are reporting multi-billion-dollar annual losses due to rising production costs, and they face a maturing marketplace in which competition will only get tougher.

Big TV-based media have anticipated much of this.

But perhaps new, more modest-size new stream platforms could use the financial help as they continue to make a delicate transition from linear TV/traditional movie theater business to incorporate all things streaming. That said, there is risk everywhere.

“[Movie cinema chains] would have to commit to trying, accepting the fact that the new world order no longer can support the standalone theater network footprint of old on economics that appears likely to be reset at 20% to 30% or more down from the peak,” Goman says.

That 20% to 30% cut won’t be easy to handle for movie theater owners.

The alarm bells are continuing to ring in the background. They need a better, holistic vision of all kinds of screen business.

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