In the United States, movie theaters are gloomy. During the Covid pandemic, the last safeguard in the face of fierce competition from streaming platforms jumped. Before the health crisis, movie studios generally gave theaters an exclusivity window of three months on average, before a new film was released online.
But in 2020, several giants of the cinema industry decided to free themselves from this rule after many theaters had to close under the effect of the pandemic. Warner had notably caused a dramatic change by announcing that its 17 films scheduled for 2021 would be released simultaneously in streaming and in theaters, in order to limit the losses caused by cinema closures.
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Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) has also used this strategy with Black Widow in the summer of 2021, angering actress Scarlett Johansson. She sued the studio, claiming that the release of the film in streaming had considerably reduced the theatrical receipts, in which she was interested.
A more flexible exclusivity window in the future
“Studios had been considering shortening the exclusivity window for several years, long before the pandemic, notes David A. Gross, director of Franchise Entertainment Research, a Californian consulting firm specializing in the film industry. Streaming platforms represent such a market that, for studios, it is becoming more and more profitable to switch films in theaters to the platforms earlier.. The advantage of even going so far as a simultaneous release is that it also reduces marketing costs. »
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Could the shift adopted during the health crisis become permanent? For David McCarty, professor of communications at Michigan State University, the exclusivity window should in the future be much more flexible, but will vary depending on the type of film.
Each film has its own strategy
“A blockbuster or action movie that makes a lot of money when it hits theaters will be much less likely to be given a very short window of exclusivity, or to be released simultaneously from the start on a platform , than an independent film or a comedy”, he points out.
This is the strategy adopted in December 2021 by Sony, which has chosen to release exclusively in theaters, despite the Omicron variant, the highly anticipated Spiderman, No Way Home. A successful bet for this blockbuster, which recorded more than 880 million euros in revenue worldwide in just over a week. Proof that multiplex theaters still have a future.