The future of movie theaters is uncertain. For the most part, theaters have been closed since March, and when they were open again for a short period of time, very few people were willing to risk contracting COVID-19 in exchange for two hours in a movie theater.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, movie studios have had to make some tough decisions about the movies that were slated to be released this year. Some movies have been postponed, some have been released in theaters regardless of the low box-office numbers (take “Tenet,” for example, which was meant to be one of the biggest movies of the year but made much less than what was expected) and some have gone straight to streaming services (such as the Disney+ “Mulan” release).
I love watching movies. There’s something about being able to insert yourself into a world for a few hours and come out with a new outlook on life that I find so incredible. It’s indescribable, really. But I think that relying on streaming services for movies takes away the shine of new movies. Don’t get me wrong: Some movies are made for streaming. Netflix’s original movies are a perfect example. They were made for and sometimes by a streaming service. They were made to be watched on a home television or on a computer or laptop. They were not made for a theater. There’s something about being in a movie theater audience that enhances the movie experience. The environment, the people around you, they all contribute to how you view a movie. Sure, it’s fun to be at home on your couch watching a movie sometimes, but some movies need to be experienced on a large screen with movie theater sound quality and a huge audience of other people who care about the movie as much as you do.
Wide release movies put out by huge production companies were made for theaters. Take Disney’s “Black Widow,” for instance. Originally slated for a May 2020 release, “Black Widow” has been pushed back again and again since the surge in coronavirus cases. Now it is supposed to come out in May 2021. Many people are starting to wonder, however, if that will end up happening. People are starting to believe that Disney should utilize its Disney+ platform and release the film so that people can enjoy it now.
I think that’s wrong. As a self-proclaimed Marvel superfan, I can say with 100% sincerity that I would rather wait, however long it may take, to enjoy the experience of viewing “Black Widow” the way it was intended.
In contrast, Warner Bros. has announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be released both in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day. I understand the need to put out content and gain profit. The creators of these films have worked so hard, and they deserve to see the outcome of their art. But is it better to have the instant gratification of seeing a movie as big as “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max rather than waiting? I can’t see how that would be the case.
True fans will wait. And frankly, everyone should be willing to wait. Safety is the number one priority right now, and while I commend production companies for their understanding of the current circumstances and their decision to release few movies in theaters that could risk a surge in COVID-19 cases, I don’t think that streaming services are the answer.
I’m not an expert on any of this. I haven’t crunched the numbers or pored over the data to see what would be the most fiscally responsible decision. But I love movies. And I know what I’m willing to do. I’m willing to wait to see movies in theaters, even if it takes many months, or even years. I don’t think anyone should sacrifice quality for instant gratification, no matter how ingrained into our society that need has become.
I’ve waited since 2010 for a “Black Widow” movie. I can wait a little bit longer if that means that this movie gets the widespread release that it deserves.
Daily Arts Writer Sabriya Imami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.