Streaming and Theaters: The Transformation of the Filming Industry

Going to the movies is a staple of American culture. The idea of a cinema screen, the smell of freshly-buttered popcorn, and the gasps of audiences in an emotional scene is an experience that Americans have enjoyed for over a century. 

Despite being a staple of American culture, we have witnessed significant changes in the movie industry. Recent technological developments and the COVID-19 pandemic have transformed how cinema is viewed by movie-goers and the business of showing films.

Recent lower theater revenue is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, many cinema megaplexes began struggling even before the start of the pandemic. This is largely due to streaming technology. Streaming services have allowed for the creation of platforms that offer a multitude of choices for movie nights at the click of a button. More recently, streaming services are producing and screenwriting movies, specifically made for the small screen, further eroding the large-screen consumer base.

“People have gotten comfortable with staying at home [due to the pandemic],” said former Indiana University (IU) Professor Jamie Pratt. “Things like streaming are really influencing the way [films are released].”

Aside from changing how audiences view films, the post-pandemic economy increased the cost associated with seeing movies on the large screen, making streaming more appealing.. 

“The problem with going to the movies is that it’s so expensive,” said waitress Keily Hart. “The last time [I] went to the movies it was almost $100.” 

The in-person movie experience certainly has its advantages. “I’m tired of logging onto four different streaming services and just scrolling,” said IU’s Cinema’s Director, Alicia Kozma. “There is a programming aspect of going to the movies that streaming doesn’t have.” 

Meanwhile, other audiences prefer streaming services due to their effortless and convenient nature.

“I prefer streaming. It’s just easier and more convenient,” said IU student Shane Romoff. 

It is also important to remember that streaming services come with their own costs. The average family spends $48 monthly on streaming. Perhaps the most important costs of streaming are time and social connection. Artificial intelligence (AI) allows streaming services to engage viewers more effectively by recommending viewing options. This viewing is often solitary and without the same enjoyment and benefits of a group experience. 

Streaming services and AI will continue to influence the movie industry and movie-goers. Most recently, actors and writers are on strike, demanding to abolish the rise in AI use during film production. It is yet to be seen where the balance between traditional cinema and technological innovations will settle, but it is clear that movies will remain a part of American culture and history.