Blockbuster Tentpoles: The Streaming Conundrum

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas) in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

When it comes to blockbuster tentpoles, the studios are less likely to unload onto a streamer so as to preserve the theatrical experience.

I can’t blame studios and filmmakers for wanting to preserve the theatrical experience.  Listen, I miss going to theaters myself but at the advice of medical experts, it’s just not going to be feasible without a vaccine.  I’ll be staying home until it’s truly safe to return.  Theaters are hurting and there’s no denying this.  I’m looking across the country at all the art house theaters that are struggling to survive.  And then you have the larger chains like AMC, Cinemark, and Regal.  What’s to say of their future?  With no tentpoles, we don’t really know.

We know that the studios are weighing the odds.  I can see a studio unloading a low-to-mid-budget film to a streamer like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.  But sending films like Wonder Woman 1984, No Time To Die, or Black Widow straight to streaming or PVOD just isn’t going to happen.  This isn’t to say that such an option hasn’t been explored.  These are billion dollar films when the market is right.

Patty Jenkins issued her own warning about movie-going becoming extinct during an interview with Reuters earlier this month.  The Wonder Woman 1984 filmmaker is adamant about the film not going to streaming.  She hopes to preserve the theatrical experience, saying “I really hope that we are able to be one of the very first ones to come back and bring that into everyone’s life.”

The James Bond filmmakers did explore a one-year streaming license for No Time To Die according to Deadline.  Netflix, Amazon, and Apple were all offered the film but none of them wanted to put up half of the $600 million asking price.  MGM also looked into PVOD.  However, producer Barbara Broccoli decided to wait things out.  It’ll likely be a long wait until people are ready to go back to theaters in droves.

It’s unlikely that Disney sends Black Widow to Disney+.  They have the streaming service as an option.  It should serve as a last resort with hopes of preserving the theatrical experience down the road.  While Mulan was a one-off with a premium payment, Soul joins Artemis Fowl in going straight to the service.  With a high-budget film like Black Widow, Disney just can’t afford to take the loss with the Scarlett Johansson flick.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I used to work at a movie theater so I personally know that the concessions is where the real money gets made.  Take away the blockbuster tentpoles and the crowds just will not return.  At least not in pre-pandemic numbers.  Some people are lucky and own a car so they can take advantage of drive-in screenings.  The rest of us don’t have the car privilege and this option isn’t available.

I have not seen Tenet.  There’s no doubt that the limited capacity is having a strong effect on the box office earnings.  Throw in LA and New York theaters being closed for so long and that doesn’t do any favors.  Once those markets return, I still foresee the blockbuster tentpoles staying away until after the pandemic.  The pandemic still isn’t under control in the USA and Covod-19 cases are increasingly rising in October.  As numbers get worse, I fully expect theaters to be among the places that have to either shut down or curb operations again.

Hold onto your butts because it’s going to be a long winter.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.