How major Hollywood studios are changing their streaming strategies as the movie industry recovers

News, Entertaiment

Still from 'The Batman'.

Still from ‘The Batman’.

Warner Bros.

  • Industry executives say the big movie studios are moving away from simultaneous releases on streaming platforms .
  • However, the exhibition windows in theaters are getting shorter compared to before the pandemic.
  • Start the day well informed with the selection of news from Business Insider Spain: subscribe for free here.

During its 45 days of exclusive theatrical release, The Batman earned $760 million at the worldwide box office, of which nearly $370 million came from the United States alone.

It was the first Warner Bros. movie in over a year to be released exclusively in theaters after the studio released all of its 2021 movies simultaneously on streaming platform HBO Max.

While The Batman is now streaming on HBO Max, the change is representative of Hollywood’s other major studios, which seem to be moving largely away from “day and date” releases , as they’re called, in favor of exclusive windows, but shortened, in theaters.

Movie industry leaders are convincing studio executives that an exclusive window can help build momentum for an eventual streaming release.

“The exclusive window not only benefits the exhibitors, but also the studios,” Mooky Greidinger, CEO of the Cineworld theater chain, told Business Insider . “The more successful a film is in theaters, the bigger it will be in ancillary markets.”

Theater executives say they’ve been assured by top studio executives that they’re committed to the theatrical experience — including industry newcomers like David Zaslav , the CEO of newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery . , and Brian Robbins, who became head of Paramount Pictures last year.

“The energy and enthusiasm that David Zaslav brings to Warner Bros. and his enthusiasm for the business demonstrate that the theater is an important mechanism,” said Rolando Rodriguez, CEO of Marcus Theaters and president of the National Association of Theatrical Owners. Cinema (NATO). “We’ve heard similar comments from Brian.”

During a speech at last month’s CinemaCon exhibitors’ conference—where studios show their upcoming movies to theater owners—John Fithian, director general of NATO, went so far as to declare that the day and date were “dead as a model of serious business.”

The model is not completely dead; Universal has released the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock. Theatrical industry leaders accept that studios had to release some movies this way during the pandemic and that they can continue to do so. But they don’t see it as a viable long-term strategy.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t dealers occasionally toying with that concept,” Fithian tells Business Insider . “But from what we’re hearing from the studios, they’re focused on their slate of movies that are destined for theaters with an exclusive window.”

Young people do not love (so much) streaming platforms: they prefer to be entertained in the metaverse and with video games

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in The Lost City.

The exclusive windows of the cinemas are shortened to accommodate the premieres in ‘streaming’

The typical window in theaters before the pandemic was 75 to 90 days, which meant that a film would only play in theaters for that long before reaching home entertainment. Now, as studios recommit to exclusive theatrical releases , the pandemic has seen the timeline shortened and streaming released , as media companies also try to build their direct-to-consumer business.

For example, Paramount’s The Lost City premiered on Paramount+ on Tuesday, 45 days after it hit theaters.

However, streaming is a taboo subject in the film industry. Studio presentations at CinemaCon were careful not to mention their streaming components.

When Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich noted that it was the only studio to have released movies in theaters last year, the applause was muted; it was also the only studio to release all of its movies on the day and date with a streaming service.

The presentations focused instead on box office results.

The Lost City earned $95 million domestically and $163 million worldwide, an impressive amount for an original comedy in a market dominated by superhero franchises. And The Batman was approaching $800 million worldwide before it could be seen on streaming.

But industry leaders Business Insider spoke to at CinemaCon say that while a new standard for movie theaters is emerging, they’re no longer set in stone. Some movies may have longer or shorter windows than others.

“I’m not sure if there will be a standard window for every content provider,” says Jim Orr, president of national distribution for Universal. “It looks like it’s coming together around 45 days, but it’s not a sure thing either. Nothing will be as fixed as in the past.”

Below is the current theatrical distribution strategy of all major Hollywood studios:

Disney

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'.

Disney has won over the movie industry again, despite being the only major studio that hasn’t announced some kind of showcase strategy for its 2022 schedule. In November, CEO Bob Chapek comments that the company was “sticking to to your flexibility plan.

Disney caused NATO’s frustration last year when it released Black Widow simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access. But after the summer movie season, it released its remaining 2021 slate with an exclusive theatrical window.

As of now, Disney is expected to release its movies this year exclusively in theaters. And his agenda has industry leaders buzzing.

“People forget the power that Disney had in 2019,” says an executive close to the theatrical industry (Disney released 7 of the top 10 movies at the US and world box offices that year). “But Disney has the merchandise, from Doctor Strange to Avatar . I have no doubt that they will be pre-eminent.”

Who is who in the ‘streaming’ war: Disney Plus, the ‘major’ strikes back

paramount

'Scream'.

When Paramount replaced studio boss Jim Gianopulos with the more digitally-savvy Brian Robbins last year, it hinted that the company wanted to beef up its streaming business .

That’s right, and he’s putting a lot of resources into Paramount+. But this year it has also launched an exclusive exhibition period for its studio films that ranges between 30 and 45 days before its premiere on the streaming platform.

Some movies may have longer time frames. When Paramount announced its shorter run last year , Top Gun: Maverick was not part of the announcement.

Puck’s Matthew Belloni recently reported that it could have a 120-day window, which would be even longer than the typical pre-pandemic model. Paramount has not responded to Business Insider’s request for confirmation.

Sony

Tom Holland in 'Uncharted'.

Without its own streaming platform , Sony has championed windows in theaters during the pandemic, and they have varied depending on the movie. Spider-Man: No Way Home had an 88-day window before debuting on video-on-demand platforms, earning over $800 million in the US alone.

That’s not to say the studio hasn’t turned to streaming services in the last two years.

Licensed Tom Hanks’ war film Greyhound: Enemies Under the Sea to Apple TV+ and Hotel Transylvania: Transformation to Amazon Prime Video.

Last year, Netflix picked up the domestic streaming rights to Sony’s theatrical releases for 5 years, starting with its 2022 slate. That means movies like Uncharted and Morbius will appear on Netflix after their theatrical releases. theaters and in homes.

After the premieres on Netflix, which are expected to last 18 months, they will move to Disney ‘s streaming platforms.

Who’s who in the streaming war: HBO Max, much more than HBO

Universal

Chris Pratt in 'Jurassic World: Dominion'.

During the pandemic, Universal announced that movies that gross $50 million at the US box office on their opening weekend could be released on video-on-demand platforms after 30 days. Those that debuted below $50 million could be released after 17 days of being in theaters.

That deal remains in place, but Universal movies can be released on NBCUniversal ‘s streaming service, Peacock, as early as 45 days after their theatrical release.

“We’re meeting the customer where they are and monetizing our movies right, and that allows us to put as many movies in theaters as we are,” says Jim Orr, the studio’s president of national distribution.

Universal is expected to release more than 20 movies this year in theaters, including Focus Features movies as well.

However, although most of them will continue to have a window, it has not completely moved away from simultaneous releases. The studio’s Firestarter movie opens in theaters and on Peacock this weekend.

Warner Bros.

Dwayne Johnson in 'Black Adam'.

After releasing all of its 2021 movies simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max last year, Warner Bros. has committed to a 45-day window before its movies stream on Max.

David Zaslav , the CEO of Warner Bros.’s newly formed parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, has made repairing the relationship between the studio and theaters a priority.

Theater officials are optimistic, but some believe it will be a work in progress.

“David Zaslav will put [Warner Bros.] on the right track, but I don’t think it will happen overnight,” says an executive close to the theater industry.