Thinking about movies in theaters and on streaming services -- and the battle between the two -- we still don't have a clear picture of how theatrical-streaming windows might be normalized in future years.
Right now some data suggests there might be slow changes ahead.
Surely, high-profile superhero movies laden with special effects still reign supreme on big theater screens, with those films using streamers as a second window after their cinema run.
And yet, for all the "wow" factor of those movies, we had “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” this past year. Perhaps consumers were yearning for more interesting storylines and less superhero dominance.
At the same time, we have been told that adult-oriented, superhero movies without special effects have an exclusive or primary home on streamers.
To be fair, “Barbie” had its own special effects taking place in a sometimes faux-reality world. The intense docu-drama “Oppenheimer” packed a different kind of superpower punch.
The tease for the latter wasn't just presenting a portrayal of the man himself, but the attempt to reinvent a bit of history around his technology -- which was positioned to radically change, transition or end humanity. And yes, the biggest bomb explosions of our time were created for the screen, which also meant some special effects.
So far this year, those two movies -- together known as “Barbenheimer” -- posted the first- and fifth-best domestic theatrical movie results of the year so far -- at $636.2 million and $325.4 million, respectively.
One effort to change consumer behavior for movie consumption has settled around end-of-year advertising and promotion of adult-themed movies that are heavily promoted for Oscar hardware in the spring. Consider Apple TV+/Paramount Pictures’ Martin Scorsese's “Killers Of The Flower Moon” in this group.
Netflix started this major advertising and promotional push to tout its valuable streaming service as a key destination for these types of movies, which get some limited in-theater exposure in an effort to condition consumers they can still see those films on Netflix.
So is that the end of the story?
Consider that so far this year -- 11 months completed -- there have only been 506 domestic theatrical releases, as per IMDb Box Office Mojo. In the last full pre-pandemic year ( 2019) there were 910 movies.
So what happened to those 400 films? Were they scratched soon after development, moved to streamers exclusively, or something else? And were those mostly adult-skewing or non-specific-effect films?
A disruptive movie business continues to transition the story arc of this script.