Whatever happened to dollar theaters

Because of the Corona crisis: the exclusive film launch of the cinemas wobbles

Status: 04.12.2020 12:03 p.m.

The big losers of the corona pandemic in the film industry are the cinemas, the big winners are the streaming providers. How is the business model of Netflix and Co. changing?

by Anna Wollner and ARD correspondent Katharina Wilhelm

While the cinemas have closed due to the corona restrictions, business is booming for streaming services. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and, here in Germany, Sky can look forward to increasing user numbers. At the moment, this experience is the only cinematic thing that is possible because of the Corona crisis. The number of cinema-goers during the temporary reopening was not all that bad, although only a limited number of seats were allowed.

Cinema has something to do with a passion and with a great love and fascination, says director, screenwriter, producer and actor Michael "Bully" Herbig about his great love. "I love to look at a big screen in a dark room with an amazing sound. Many people now have their small cinema at home, but you don't get that experience at home."

Exclusive film launch of the cinemas wobbles

The streaming providers meanwhile compete for new films. For the new "James Bond: No Time to Die" Apple, Netflix and Amazon are said to have entered into a bidding contest a few weeks ago and were ready to secure streaming rights for over 400 million dollars. However, the film should first open in the cinema at the end of March 2021 before it comes to the streaming services.

But the conventional agreement between studios and cinema operators that films may only be shown exclusively on the screen for a few weeks or months before they can be bought or streamed elsewhere is beginning to wobble. Universal Pictures had changed this agreement with some cinema chains and shortened the exclusive time of the films to just under two weeks.

Warner Bros. is now going one step further and plans to release 17 of its big films simultaneously with the theatrical release on its streaming platform HBO Max in 2021, including the "Sopranos" prequel "The Many Saints of Newark", the superhero film "The Suicide Squad" as well as "Matrix 4" with Keanu Reeves, which was partly filmed in Berlin and in the Babelsberg studio.

AUDIO: Warner films will be released in streaming in parallel in 2021 (3 min)

Films are making little money at the box office during the pandemic

The announcement is a bang for the already ailing cinema industry, which has suffered this year from postponed film starts and closed movie theaters. The cinema chain Cinemark reacted cautiously to the advance of Warner Bros. and announced that they would make short-term decisions in the coming year. Warner has not yet shared any details about the new hybrid model.

Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff said, "We know new content is the lifeblood of cinemas, but we have to balance that with the fact that most cinemas in the US are likely to have limited capacity through 2021 . " In concrete terms, this means that the films make less money at the box office. So the blockbuster "Tenet" by Christopher Nolan started after being postponed several times in the cinema and then financially fell short of expectations. The parallel publication on the net is done for financial reasons. To see the films, customers must purchase a subscription to HBO Max.

The strategies of streaming services: Buying up what is already there

Buying up what is already there is a strategy used by the major providers to set themselves apart from the cinemas. Amazon recently had "Borat 2", Netflix has just bought the new Paul Greengrass film with Tom Hanks and the German Helena Zengel from Universal, the Pixar film "Soul" is supposed to boost the Christmas business at Disney Plus and is running at no extra cost the in-house streaming platform.

Produce films and series yourself

But it is not just bought films, but above all in-house productions with which Netflix and Co. continue to try to dig the water out of the cinema and to tie potential cinema-goers to the couch. "Gone Girl" director David Fincher has now made the first streaming film after two Netflix series, "House of Cards" and "Mindhunter". "Mank", based on a 25-year-old screenplay by his father, a making-of for the classic film "Citizen Kane", a bitter reckoning with Hollywood in the 1930s. Already one of the big Oscar contenders for the year 2021 - not only for the lack of alternatives.

Retaining talent

Talent retention also works well. The German director Christian Schwochow shot two episodes of the prestige series "The Crown" for Netflix last year - and is currently filming the political bestseller "Munich" in Bavaria's capital with an international star cast. Start of the film: exclusively on Netflix in 2021. The in-house productions in the film and series offensive bring the German film industry full employment and in some cases even a shortage of skilled workers in production, technology or equipment.

Back to the linear offer?

There was also a long Corona filming break internationally for many film and series productions. But since there is enough stock online, this means an oversupply for the viewer. At home, you are often spoiled for choice and often a failure. In France there is a pilot project at Netflix to go back to linear broadcasting - so as not to overwhelm the viewer completely and to curate the program. Because if the number of new customers at Netflix and Co. shot up at the beginning of the pandemic, they are currently stagnating. This goes hand in hand with the more than understandable desire of many to go out the door again. To the movies.

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NDR Info | Culture | 04.12.2020 | 8:54 am