Home Movies: A New Meaning

While movie theaters were closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, major new movies were being released on streaming services such as HBO Max and Disney Plus. This prompts the question: Will movie theaters become obsolete in the future?

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Susan Cohen

The film adaptation of the video game of the same name, Mortal Kombat (2021), was the most-watched HBO Max title ever. According to Samba TV, approximately 3.8 million people watched at least the first five minutes of the film over its first three days on the streaming service. The film was released on HBO Max as a part of a licensing deal between Warner Bros. Pictures and HBO Max.

The hushed whispers in the audience, the intriguing previews, and the unmistakable aroma of artificial butter everywhere — the movie theater atmosphere is tough to replicate, and unfortunately, none of us have been able to experience it in quite a while, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Over the past year, an escape to a movie theater has posed too much of a risk. Many New York movie theaters were forced to bring their businesses to a halt, and it was not until March of 2021 when they could resume screening films, albeit with limited capacity. 

The Pixar film ‘Soul’ was initially planned to have a theatrical release on June 19th, 2020, in the United States. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it was exclusively released on the streaming service Disney Plus on December 25th, 2020. In contrast to the release of ‘Mulan’ (2020), the movie was accessible to all subscribers. (Susan Cohen)

In the interim, big blockbuster movies like Mortal Kombat, Soul and Godzilla vs. Kong have pioneered the way for films releasing on streaming platforms, with the most popular ones being HBO Max and Disney Plus. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, AMC Theatres reportedly lost $4.6 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, more than 1.1 billion subscriptions were made to streaming services in 2020 globally. Understandably, the popularity of streaming services has increased as people can enjoy watching the newly released movies from the comfort of their own homes. Notable films released during the pandemic include Wonder Woman 1984, Raya and the Last Dragon, Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Justice Is Gray, and Coming 2 America. With the widely anticipated upcoming Marvel film, Black Widow, it begs the question: Will movie theaters be obsolete in the future?

There are many benefits and drawbacks to watching movies at home. I sought to gauge how other students felt about this new movie-watching experience with a survey that asked students to express and compare their preferences about watching movies at home versus at a theater. Some students felt that watching movies through subscription services was the perfect adjustment made during the Coronavirus pandemic that had its own advantages. “When watching a movie from home, you definitely have the benefit of being able to pause the movie whenever you pleas. Whether this is for a snack break, something you feel like you have to say to a family member, or a quick bathroom break, it is most convenient to be able to do this,” said Jessica Singh ’24. 

A common complaint of going to the movie theaters is the bothersome presence of other audience members, which takes viewers out of their immersion in the cinematic world they are watching. Many people feel more relaxed when watching a movie with familiar people than with complete strangers. “I am more comfortable surrounded by my family, since I don’t feel like I have to dress up to watch a movie in my living room. I also don’t get shushed by strangers for laughing too loud,” said Victoria Sanchez ’22. 

Others believed the new experience took away an element of magic. Although watching movies at home is more comforting, certain movies demand to be viewed in a specific environment. “It doesn’t feel the same watching movies at home. At the movie theater, there are loudspeakers, larger screens, possible 3D films, and sometimes reclining seats,” said Arianna Hwang ’24. Even though some may feel uncomfortable watching a movie with strangers, going to the movie theaters is a great place to hang out. “I am willing to attend and to see a movie at a theater if it is with my friends,” said Kashfia Akter ’24. 

The laughter, amazement, and startled reactions uniquely connect you with the audience. Strangers or not, the energy from them can make the experience better as a whole. “I want to see other people excited about those movies like I am, and seeing people on the internet writing good reviews is not the same as an in-person experience. Social media posts can’t compare to the thrill of watching a blockbuster movie in a movie theater that is full of fans, with the opportunity to bear witness to and be a part of the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of the people as they react to the movie,” said Alexa Dumitriu ’22.  

The fourth film in Legendary’s Monsterverse, ‘Godzilla vs. Kong,’ was exclusively released on HBO Max for a month, beginning on March 31st, 2021. Before its release on HBO Max, the film was delayed several times, similarly to the DC film ‘Wonder Woman 1984.’ (Susan Cohen)

Regardless of whether or not movie theaters will become obsolete in the coming years, it is without a doubt that the way we watch movies has forever changed. A few years after a film is released, it is typical for it to end up on a streaming service, so why not speed up the process? 

Over the past fifteen months of the Coronavirus pandemic in America, movie theater franchises have lost revenue every week, and their fates are still up in the air. The larger concern for these operators is the newfound realization that many people not only enjoy, but prefer the stay-at-home option. As New York City continues its gradual re-opening process, we may not have to wait long to find out.

“I want to see other people excited about those movies like I am, and seeing people on the internet writing good reviews is not the same as an in-person experience. Social media posts can’t compare to the thrill of watching a blockbuster movie in a movie theater that is full of fans, with the opportunity to bear witness to and be a part of the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of the people as they react to the movie,” said Alexa Dumitriu ’22.  

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