Streaming Took Over Hollywood. Will It Take Best Picture, Too?

The pandemic accelerated the disruption. Conventional studios like Paramount, Common, Sony, Warner Bros. and Disney rerouted dozens of theatrical movies to streaming companies or launched them concurrently in theaters and on-line. For the second 12 months in a row, the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences, citing the coronavirus risk, allowed movies to skip a theatrical launch fully and nonetheless be eligible for Oscars. The academy had beforehand required at the least a perfunctory theatrical launch of at the least per week in Los Angeles.

That is about greater than Hollywood egotism. The fear is that, as streaming companies proliferate — greater than 300 now function in the US, in line with the consulting agency Parks Associates — theaters may develop into solely the land of superheroes, sequels and remakes. The venerable Warner Bros. has slashed annual theatrical output by nearly half and constructed a direct-to-streaming movie meeting line. Final week, Amazon boosted its Prime Video service by buying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the old-line studio behind “Licorice Pizza,” which is nominated for 3 Academy Awards, together with greatest image.

In a 12 months when Hollywood largely did not jump-start theatrical moviegoing, streaming companies solidified their maintain on viewers. World ticket gross sales totaled $21.3 billion in 2021, down from $42.3 billion in 2019, in line with the Movement Image Affiliation. (Theaters had been closed for a lot of 2020.) Some theater corporations have gone out of enterprise, others have merged; the world’s greatest theater chain, AMC Leisure, racked up $6 billion in losses over the previous two years and its inventory has dropped 66 p.c since June. On the similar time, the variety of subscriptions to on-line video companies world wide grew to 1.3 billion, up from 864 million in 2019, the group stated.

One movie that struggled on the field workplace was Mr. Spielberg’s “West Facet Story,” which obtained an unique run in theaters (per his needs) of about three months. It collected about $75 million worldwide (towards a manufacturing price range of $100 million and world advertising prices of roughly $50 million). “West Facet Story” is now out there on not one however two streaming companies, Disney+ and HBO Max, the place it has nearly assuredly been considered extra extensively than in theaters. However the movie was by no means capable of recuperate — amongst Oscar voters — from being branded a field workplace misfire. It obtained seven nominations, and is poised to win in a single class, for Ariana DeBose as greatest supporting actress.

Mr. Spielberg’s also-ran presence within the present Oscar race makes the ascendance of streaming contenders all of the extra placing: a lion within the combat to maintain the Academy Awards targeted on theatrical movies is pushed apart.

Nonetheless unlikely, it’s doable that “West Facet Story” may come from behind and win the most effective image trophy. So may Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” for that matter. Such an end result could be a bit like 2019, when academy voters, turned off by an over-the-top marketing campaign by Netflix to push “Roma” to greatest image glory, as an alternative gave the prize to “Inexperienced E book,” a conventional movie from Common Photos.

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