The film industry returns to theaters

The+future+of+the+film+industry+is+uncertain+as+production+companies+are+releasing+new+films+simultaneously+in+movie+theaters+and+on+streaming+services.+

Camila Oliva '24

The future of the film industry is uncertain as production companies are releasing new films simultaneously in movie theaters and on streaming services.

Films are returning to theaters after lying dormant during the coronavirus pandemic.  In 2019, the film industry was flourishing with independent and franchise films, but COVID-19 safety procedures halted production.  Now, after nearly a year on pause, the film industry spotlights female filmmakers after historically privileging white male directors.  Ms. Ellyn Stewart, Director of Media Studies and Design and Innovation, and Jhonni Dixon, a junior in Creative Filmmaking, both reflected on how they would like to see the film industry grow. 

Several movie theater chains shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, causing a decrease in box office sales.  Courtesy of Mr. Nathan Bajar

While select movies are showing in theaters, box office sales have decreased since 2019 because films are now simultaneously released on streaming platforms, according to the New York Times.  This has caused financial issues for movie theaters.  However, people believe that streaming services and movie theaters can now coincideWhile some would rather watch a new film from their homes, others prefer the experience of going to the movie theater, according to forbes.com.  Ms. Stewart commented on the impact streaming services have on local movie theaters.

“The film industry has been evolving rapidly with the advent of streaming services,” Ms. Stewart said.  “Even before the coronavirus pandemic led to massive theater shutdowns, many industry insiders were questioning the sustainability of movie theaters.”

For decades, moviegoing has fluctuated as the content of films changes to appeal to specific audiences.  In 2021, it is uncertain whether or not box office sales will rise again with many films releasing exclusively on streaming platforms.  Although many now favor watching new films from the comfort of their couches, Ms. Stewart spoke about members of the film industry who prioritize keeping the moviegoing experience alive. 

“There are outspoken directors such as Batman and Inception director Christopher Nolan who argue that films deserve to be seen on the big screen,” Ms. Stewart said.  “He delayed the release of his 2020 film, Tenet, three times so that he could premiere it in theaters.”

Filmmakers tend to favor franchise movies over independent films as a safety precaution because they typically assure box office success, according to forbes.com.  However, many classic blockbuster movies like The Godfather and Jaws first started as experimental films, according to The Washington Post.  Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, franchise and blockbuster movies dominated the industry.  Most franchises have existed for many years, so people keep coming back to watch them.  Jhonni discussed the effect younger generations have on production trends. 

“I definitely see people our age going for big event films,” Jhonni said.  “Whether it’s Marvel, its Star Wars, Fast and Furious, movies like that, but I don’t see us going for independent films.”

Movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings welcomes moviegoers after lifting restrictions.  Courtesy of Ms. Gabby Jones

While 2020 hindered the production of films, it helped designate 2021 as a year to bring recognition to women in the film industry, according to The New York Times.  In response to the Academy Awards’ predominantly white male nominees, the Indie Spirit Awards endeavors to highlight overlooked filmmakers, according to The New York Times.  This past year, the Indie Spirit Awards only nominated women and people of color for Best Director.  Jhonni spoke about how she would like to see the film industry develop in the future. 

“I want to see more women in film, especially women of color,” Jhonni said.  “I find myself after movies and TV shows looking at the credits or looking up online who’s behind the camera and most of the time I feel like I just see men.  I think Chloé Zhao winning best director at the Oscars for Nomadland definitely put more attention on the fact that there aren’t as many women in the industry as there should be.”

Films can express messages and emotions that words cannot.  Watching them in theaters provides an experience that differs from streaming them on a personal device, according to The New York Times.  Jhonni described the feelings she experiences after watching a film in theaters. 

“It is just pure escapism,” Jhonni said.  “People love to watch movies and escape what is going on in their real-life.  I think films have the ability to put people in other people’s shoes, to learn new cultures and learn new stories.  I think that’s a really important thing and a really big impact that has on people.  You walk out of the theater thinking about how the movie made you feel, how the characters made you feel.  It’s really cool to think about how much work goes behind that.  People have specific color palettes, specific shots, music cues, and all these different things that go into the emotions in a film.”

Featured Image by Camila Oliva ’24