It’s been an interesting year for streaming as Hollywood scrambled to find alternatives to theatrical releases for blockbuster films. Some releases (like James Bond) were postponed altogether, some opted for straight-to-streaming releases (Tom Hanks’ Greyhound), and others have split the difference with a hybrid, same-day theater/streaming premiere.
But while pandemic restrictions have lightened to a certain degree, the movie release landscape still isn’t back to “normal,” and the exclusive theatrical experience may never return. New data from Hub’s “Predicting the Pandemic” study indicates that about two-thirds of moviegoers expect streaming at home to become a regular part of their consumption of new movies. In fact, among viewers who intend to watch new movies in the next year, an equal number say they intend to mostly stream at home (38%) as say they’ll mostly go to the theater (36%). About a quarter (26%) intend to use both streaming and theaters equally.
“Before the pandemic, more viewers were already paying a premium to watch new movies at home,” said Jon Giegengack, principal at Hub and one of the study authors. “HBO Max and Disney poured more gas on the fire by redefining the release window for new movies. Add in the fact that many upgraded their home viewing tech during the pandemic, and we have perfect conditions for driving consumption of PVOD even after anxiety about theaters has faded completely.”
It’s true that Disney+ has been directing a lot of energy into its Premier Access feature which gives subscribers access to theatrical releases at home. The streamer earned $60 million from the opening weekend of Black Widow on Premier Access, and more than $30 million last month from the Jungle Cruise premiere. However, the feature hasn’t come without backlash. Scarlett Johansson is currently in a lawsuit with the Walt Disney Company for cutting into her salary by releasing Black Widow before the theatrical window had closed. Disney+ has also reportedly been sending out user surveys to get feedback on the Premier Access feature, indicating they’re open to changes.
But while Hollywood struggles to find a balance between theaters and at-home releases, more viewers are continuing to adopt the idea of watching movie premieres at home. In July 2020, only a fifth of respondents said they had paid to stream a movie that skipped the theater because of COVID. By June 2021, this number had risen to a third.
And as Hub’s Jon Giegengack mentioned, many people have upgraded their home viewing set up because of the entertainment surge during the pandemic.
Among those with a smart TV, almost 40% said they had bought a smart TV during the pandemic (i.e. during 2020 or 2021), and half of that 40% said they had bought a smart TV after vaccines became widely available in April 2021.