Streaming Service Killed the Cinema Stars

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Julia Neves, Queen’s University
Edited by: Sandrine Jacquot

The emergence of streaming video services has been both a blessing and a curse depending on which perspective one examines. Some of the bigger video streaming services are Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Crave, providing a variety of options for those who subscribe to each. As a consumer, this boom in streaming service has been beneficial both financially and convenience-wise. No more need for cable television or DVDs anymore; all one needs is an electronic device with the right app. Especially during the pandemic, this has been a blessing because movie theatres were closed for a long period of time. However, on the flip side, those who produce this content may be at a disadvantage financially, with the presence of these services – especially when the cinema is involved.

When a movie is seen by individuals in theatres rather than on a streaming service, the people involved in the making of the film will receive more profit. This is because streaming services do not operate on a pay per view basis, therefore if the studio releases the movie they would receive less revenue than if it had been released in cinemas. Studios would only be receiving profits from the monthly subscription which would not cover the large production costs and payrolls for all their movies. For example, the movie Black Widow cost somewhere between $150 million to $200 million, and made around 376.6 million from the worldwide box office. In comparison, the movie made $67 million via Disney+ Premier access which clearly would not allow the studio to break even. This shows how important it is to go to the theatres as opposed to waiting for it to be on a streaming service. Adding on to this example, it becomes evident why Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney for releasing the movie on Disney+ before it stopped being shown in theatres.

The reason why she is suing Walt Disney Co. is because of the streaming release of the movie being at the same time as the theatre release. Johansson said that it was promised by the studio that it would have been a regular theatrical release. A regular theatrical release would imply that it would be in theatres for about 90 days, and only after this point would the movie be accessible on Disney+. However, this was not what occurred, as Disney released the movie to Disney+ Premier Access subscribers. Johansson sued on the basis that she was deprived of earnings that could have come in had the movie been exclusively shown in theatres. The lawsuit has been settled between both parties in which Disney has agreed to compensate the actress, however, the terms have not been disclosed. Although during the legal dispute the dual release of the movie was justified by the other party as a second source of revenue for Johansson, it is evident that it has more of a negative impact on her earnings. Another factor to take into account is pirating of the movie and how releasing it on streaming services can facilitate this process. Therefore, it is justified that actors, directors, film crew, and others involved do not want to support the placing of this movie onto streaming services.

To sum it up, although the rise in the consumption of streaming services has been an advantage to the consumers, it severely disadvantages those on the production side. As we begin to slowly reintroduce activities that were closed down due to the pandemic, it is important to support them. This is especially true for the cinema, wherein  many high-budget films have been pushed back in the hopes of having a large audience turn out in theatres. It is not to discourage people from streaming services, but to consider going to the movies in order to keep this industry afloat. In these hard times, it is nice to lend a helping hand so that things can return to a new normal.


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