The landscape of the entertainment industry has been flipped on its head in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Theaters were closed for months, causing a ton of movies to head online for streaming premieres instead of playing on the big screen. Even as theaters start to reopen, at-home rentals and streaming services are looking more and more like the future of the industry. Some filmmakers, like Christopher Nolan have tried to fight it, while others have embraced it. Actor and filmmaker Ben Affleck seems to be leaning towards the latter, believing that the future of theatrical releases will exist solely with projects like The Avengers or Wonder Woman.
"I don't know what will be the reality post-COVID," Affleck told EW. "Who knows what the theatrical business will be like. What I think has happened is that people have grown accustomed during this time to watching from home. It benefited The Way Back, for sure. It had just come out so I think the ability to see a new movie at home enabled us to get many more viewers than would have come out to a theater to pay money to see a sad movie about an alcoholic dealing with the death of his child. People have now been acculturated to streaming and watching movies at home in ways they weren’t before, which probably accelerated a trend that was already taking place."
Affleck went on to say that, once life returns to normal after COVID-19 is dealt with, movies that aren't major blockbusters, or aren't connected to a franchise, will have serious trouble getting into theaters. Outside of the tentpoles, he believes that most titles will end up on streaming or on-demand services.
"I think after COVID movies like The Town, movies like Argo, all the movies I made would effectively end up on streamers," he said. "There will probably be like 20 to 25 movies a year that are distributed and they’ll all be big IP movies, whether it’s the type of movies that Disney makes like Aladdin or Star Wars or Avengers, something where you can count on the low-end being half a billion dollars worth of business. And I think it’s going to be very, very difficult for dramas and sort of mid-budget movies like [The Town] to get theatrical distribution. You’ll either see massive, massive movies getting huge wide-scale distribution or small movies doing little prestige releases in a few theaters but mostly being shown on streamers. I think that’s for better or worse, and you can draw your own conclusions, but that would be my best guess about the direction of the movie business just based on what I’m seeing now and experiences I’m having trying to get stuff made."
A great example of Affleck's theory is a film called Triple Frontier, which he starred in alongside Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund. The action/heist movie had a solid, but not outrageous budget, and a cast filled with stars, but it ended up on Netflix and found some serious success.
"Triple Frontier did really well for them," Affleck continued. "Would it have been as successful and profitable theatrically? I don't know. But I know it was super successful for them, so the economics may really be shifting so that if you can generate a certain amount of viewership and if they can somehow demonstrate that they get a certain number of subscribers based on that material, then that means value. I think that's the future and it just sort of is what it is. I comfort myself with the idea that you can get a 60-inch TV now for $250, so people are definitely at least seeing it in greater detail, and even a little surround system isn’t that expensive. Now, I don’t particularly love the idea of putting all of the work that you put into a movie and then having somebody watch it on their iPhone; I feel like they’re just going to miss out on a lot. But, you know, sometimes the future makes up its own mind and you just have to go along with it."
Do you agree with Ben Affleck about the future of movies on the big screen? Let us know in the comments!