Many would argue that the retirement of the film industry is just not a possibility, even against known TV drama powerhouses such as Breaking Bad (Vince Gilligan, 2008 – 2013) and True Detective (Cary Joji Fukanaga, 2014 – Present). However, it is TV drama series such as these that have been the stimulus for such debates concerning the production of films in recent years. Director Steven Soderbergh, the filmmaker behind Magic Mike, Traffic, and the Ocean’s Eleven series, expressed his views on the matter during an interview with New York Magazine in January of 2013 in which he also announced his retirement from the Hollywood industry.
Soderbergh also accused Hollywood of treating directors with an increasingly inappropriate manner over the past twenty years and claims this to be one of the primary reasons for his retirement. He explained that in his early experiences of filmmaking “respect was given to those who made great movies, and especially to those people who made movies that made a lot of money. ” Where as nowadays there seems to be a lot of tension and confusion as to who knows more about what the audiences want.
Is it the directors or the people financing the film? One of the biggest reasons that there is speculation around whether or not movies matter anymore is not because of the multiple TV series that are released every week, but because of the platform of delivery that companies employ to get their content to the audience, and that platform is internet streaming. Companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO GO and even Apple TV are all in competition with one another to be the best Internet streaming content provider there is.
In July 2014 Netflix announced their subscriber base had reached 50 million globally and instantly allocated a US$7. 7 billion budget for streaming all of their content, both original and archival, and none of their competitors have been able to match it. The budget that Amazon Prime has for streaming al of its content is just above the amount that Netflix spends on True Detective alone. However, even their extensive inventory of streaming films seems more and more like an addition to the value of a subscription, rather than a reason to subscribe in the first place.
Simply put, the primary reason people subscribe is for all the different TV series, not the film library they offer. The two main reasons for this are, firstly, the license limitations that these companies still face as many of the biggest hit films are not available to stream (sometimes for periods of time up to seven months after cinema release) and they also lack a large number of classic films and fan favourites. Secondly, this is due to the decreasing importance of films in today’s pop culture, whereas film was once at the pinnacle of pop culture achievement.
A question that is commonly asked by streaming companies is ‘Would the average subscriber feel more out of touch with pop culture of they haven’t seen 2013’s highest grossing film, Iron Man 3, or if they didn’t know what ‘The Red Wedding’ (Game of Thrones event) was? ‘ Ultimately, the business models that internet streaming companies have is superior to all other platforms of content delivery for a number of reasons, most notably, giving the paying audiences the opportunity to watch any available content on demand, also with the added benefit of not interrupting streaming with advertisements.
Both of Seth Rogen’s 2014 releases, The Interview and Neighbours, are a perfect example that can be used to draw out a comparison between releasing content on digital streaming or in movie theatres. As soon as Sony decided to release The Interviewdigitally, film industry fanatics have been all too happy to declare “victory” for online streaming over traditional theatrical distribution. As the movie’s revenue reports rolled in first $15 million, then $30 million, and now over $40 million from internet streaming and on demand services.
Not long after, Amazon made a statement that shattered the hopes of pro-streaming fanatics by incorporating theatrical releases into their newly announced plan. To release twelve movies a year in theatres, and have them released before they are available to stream online. “We live in an age where any kind of theatrical release, even one that isn’t profitable, gives a tremendous boost to a film’s value overall. ” Many people have now questioned the motives behind Amazons’ commitment, “Why are they taking a step back when they have already invested so much into the future of online streaming? ”
We can compare the revenue that The Interview generated from digital releases to the revenue it missed from theatrical releases. In most cases, the revenue split on a theatrical released movie is usually a 50%-50 %split between the studio and all theatres, so had The Interview made $40 million in box office then Sony would have made $20 million overall, whereas with digital releases the split is far more in the studios favor and offers an approximate 70%-30% revenue split, meaning the same $40 million would have given Sony $28 million revenue, this supposedly gives the advantage to internet streaming.
However, given the special circumstances at the time of the films release it is safe to assume that had The Interview been released in theatres worldwide the total revenue generated would have been estimated at $350 million. When compared to Neighbours, Rogen’s other headlining feature of 2014, it becomes clear that the limitation for success of a theatrical release is still much greater than any other digital release, as it generated $49 million in the opening weekend alone.
Essentially, when these revenue numbers are compared to those of the TV Dramas True Detective and Breaking Bad it can be easily proven that movies of today are still entertainment goliaths. The entire series of Breaking Bad (with a total of 46. 5 hours of content) managed to generate just over $85 million, averaging out at $1. 37 million an episode and drawing in 6 million viewers a week. Overall this evens out to $1. 83 million per hour of content.
The same can be said for True Detective as each episode was drawing in the same number of viewers and it’s first season made just under $14million, totaling in at $1. 7 million per hour of content. Although these millions may seem extremely rewarding, they are still belittled by the numbers that are produced by movies like Neighbours, which managed to generate $270 million, totaling a massive $167 million per hour of content.
One of the main reasons that movies of today are still so successful (especially when compared to TV series) in theatres is because audience members are not willing to invest 8-13 hours of their time into a TV series that may or may not have a concluded narrative, whereas they are more than willing to spend ~2 hours of their time with a movie that provides a similar level of entertainment.
Overall I would argue that movies of today still matter and are not threatened by the rise of TV dramas at all, but instead are put under immense pressure by Internet streaming companies as they are giving many TV series an instant gateway to audience member, and in the comfort of their home rather than having to travel to a cinema.
If movies were not restricted by the license limitations of Internet streaming companies, and were readily available on their streaming platforms then there would be far less competition between the two entertainment mediums as both would coexist on the same platforms. The only drawback to this change is that there would be far less people going to cinemas as most audience members would choose to watch movies in their homes, therefore, this would lead to a large number of cinemas closing due to the lack of revenue.