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 yr in a row, the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences, citing the coronavirus menace, allowed movies to skip a theatrical release entirely and nonetheless be eligible for Oscars. The academy had beforehand required at the very least a perfunctory theatrical launch of at the very 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 USA, in keeping with the consulting agency Parks Associates — theaters might grow to be solely the land of superheroes, sequels and remakes. The venerable Warner Bros. has slashed annual theatrical output by virtually 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 yr when Hollywood largely failed to jump-start theatrical moviegoing, streaming companies solidified their maintain on viewers. International ticket gross sales totaled $21.3 billion in 2021, down from $42.3 billion in 2019, in keeping with the Movement Image Affiliation. (Theaters have been closed for a lot of 2020.) Some theater corporations have gone out of enterprise, others have merged; the world’s largest 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 around the globe 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 finances of $100 million and international advertising and marketing prices of roughly $50 million). “West Facet Story” is now accessible on not one however two streaming companies, Disney+ and HBO Max, the place it has virtually assuredly been seen extra extensively than in theaters. However the movie was by no means capable of get better — 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 hanging: a lion in the fight to maintain the Academy Awards targeted on theatrical movies is pushed apart.
Nevertheless unlikely, it’s potential that “West Facet Story” might come from behind and win the perfect image trophy. So might Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” for that matter. Such an end result can be a bit like 2019, when academy voters, turned off by an over-the-top campaign by Netflix to push “Roma” to greatest image glory, as an alternative gave the prize to “Green Book,” a standard movie from Common Footage.