Updated: May 30, 2022
Around a hundred years ago, the only way to watch a movie was at the local cinema. It all started with television, VCR tapes, and later DVDs. These innovations allowed movie studios to rely less on theaters. Nowadays movies can be accessed from anywhere and on any device. The modernization of the film market is causing movie theaters to disappear.
These technological innovations allowed the film studios to start using the theatrical window. The theatrical window was the timeframe for movies that can only be seen in theaters: meaning only after the date could you see the movie on television or buy it. Over the last thirty years, the Theatrical Window or “Only in theaters” window shrunk. This is due to a decades-long fight between movie theaters and movie studios. Now some blockbusters never enter the theater and land directly on their film subscription sites.
It all started with the dawn of Netflix in 1997. Netflix sparked movie studio innovation with its DVD mail service in 1997. As technology became more accessible, many studios shifted their efforts towards their subscription-based streaming services.
Due to the subscription economy and innovations in the film industry, most movie studios have joined the subscription economy. The pandemic magnified the modernization of the film market by shutting down theaters and allowing film studios to release their movies online. Online releasing allows studios to release movies without consulting theaters. Also, the lockdown threw theaters into debt and bankruptcy. AMC, for example, amassed around $5 billion in debt. Furthermore, the shift towards the subscription economy might mean that AMC is out of luck.
The theater industry is here to stay, for now. Inflation and gas prices will lead to fewer customers being able to afford monthly payments for entertainment, so they will most likely stop paying subscription-based services and stick with theaters for the time being. Also, theaters have a large cultural significance. Theaters are fun for families, friends, and loved ones. Even though the market for theaters is shrinking, they are a staple for Americans and will not disappear soon.