I love movies. I love going to the movies. In the pre-pandemic times my wife and I would regularly go to the movie theater – almost weekly.
We love watching movies at home, but really, we love the experience of going to the movie theater.
Last week Warner Brothers announced that they will launch all of their 2021 movies on their HBO Max streaming service at the same time they hit theaters. This has been coming for a while, and I think the pandemic and quarantines and shutdowns have only accelerated this move.
On one hand, that’s kind of cool. On the other hand, it kind of sucks and could help push movie theaters – particularly small and independent theaters – to the point of extinction.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe had been with us for 10 years when Avengers: Endgame was released. Many moments in the above scene have been building for years and when they were finally realized on screen, well, you heard the reaction. Watching these movies at home I do get excited during these scenes, but nothing beats seeing it with an audience, the shared experience of these movies made this final battle so much more emotional and meaningful.
We’re lucky enough to live near several Alamo Drafthouse theaters – since we discovered them in 2012 we have only been to a non-Drafthouse theater twice. Once because a movie wasn’t playing at the Drafthouse, and another time because we had a gift card to another chain. The Drafthouse loves movies and it shows. They make the movie-going experience amazing – from their technology and equipment at the theater to their food and drinks to the infrastructure that powers their ticketing and account systems – they sweat the details which make going to the movies all the more enjoyable.
That’s not to say watching movies at home isn’t enjoyable. It can be. But it can’t compare to a theater.
My living room is not optimized for watching movies. I have a decent TV, okay speakers…and that’s about it. The room is too bright, we don’t have surround sound, we don’t have movie theater-quality popcorn or hundreds of people sitting around us enjoying and reacting to what we’re experiencing together.
I saw Endgame in the theaters five times – the most I’ve seen any movie in the theaters. I’ve watched it at home at least a dozen times but seeing it on a giant screen with state-of-the-art projections and surround sound is the optimal experience, especially when you are surrounded by a hundred people. This isn’t only for big action blockbusters – think about a movie with a huge twist. Sixth Sense is a movie that you could have enjoyed streaming in your home – but that twist ending is so much more enjoyable when you see it with a crowd and the air is sucked out of the room when that twist comes.
Now on the flip side, this has the ability to make seeing new release movies more accessible. That is if you have the luxury of being able to spend $15 a month on the HBO Max streaming service. $15 a month to see all the new movies and the back catalog of movies is an amazing deal. But that’s just Warner Brothers. Want to have Disney properties? That’s another $7. As more studios move to this model that starts to add up.
I think giving consumers more opportunities and venues to see movies is great – but I don’t want to see it come at the death of theaters.