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

The epidemic accelerated the disruption. Traditional studios such as Paramount, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. And Disney turned dozens of theatrical films into streaming services or released them together in theaters and online. For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, citing the threat of coronavirus, allowed the films to be abandoned for theatrical release altogether and still deserves an Oscar. The academy previously needed at least one week of irregular theater releases in Los Angeles.

This is more than the ego of Hollywood. The concern is that, as streaming services grow – with more than 300 now operating in the United States, according to consulting firm Parks Associates – the theater could simply become a land of superheroes, sequels and remakes. Respected Warner Bros. Has halved annual theatrical output and created a direct-to-streaming film assembly line. Last week, Amazon boosted its prime video service by acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, the old studio behind “Licorice Pizza,” which has been nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

In a year when Hollywood largely failed to start theatrical moviegoing, streaming services strengthened their grip on viewers. Total global ticket sales were $ 21.3 billion in 2021, up from $ 42.3 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association. (Theaters were closed for most of 2020.) Some theater companies have gone out of business, others have merged; AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theater chain, has lost $ 6 billion in the last two years and its stock has fallen 66 percent since June. At the same time, the number of subscriptions to online video services worldwide rose to 1.3 billion, up from 864 million in 2019, the group said.

A film struggling at the box office. Spielberg’s “West Side Story”, which received a special run in theaters for almost three months (according to his wishes). It raised about $ 75 million worldwide (against a production budget of $ 100 million and a global marketing cost of about $ 50 million). “West Side Story” is now available on not one but two streaming services, Disney + and HBO Max, where it has almost certainly been seen more widely than theater. But the film was never able to recover – among Oscar voters – it was branded a false box office fire. She received seven nominations, and is poised to win a category for Best Supporting Actress for Ariana Debos.

Mr. Spielberg’s presence in the current Oscar race also makes the rise of streaming contenders even more compelling: a lion is pushed aside in the fight to keep the Academy Awards focused on theatrical films.

However, it is unlikely that the “West Side Story” could come later and win the Best Picture trophy. So it could be Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” for that matter. The result would be a bit like 2019, when academy voters stopped an over-the-top campaign by Netflix to push “Roma” into the glory of the best picture, instead rewarding the traditional film “Green Book”. Universal Pictures.

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