After a year-plus of COVID-19 pandemic era concerns driving major decisions in the film industry, many distributors are trying to pivot back toward theatrical exclusivity windows. While day-and-date releases, where companies put movies on streaming services like HBO Max or Disney+ the same day they are released into theaters, may have made some sense as a temporary measure over the past few months, Disney has already pivoted back to putting movies exclusively in theaters, while Warner Brothers vows it will do the same in January 2022.
But these pivots back have elicited some groans from consumers who have gotten very comfortable watching new releases at home. And while I understand the frustration to some extent, I also think it’s important for consumers to realize that a theatrical exclusivity window these days might be 17, 30, maybe even 90 days. After that? The movie will be available to watch at home for the rest of time. It makes sense that directors like Denis Villeneuve or Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan want their films to be shown in theaters. After all, they typically make the movies with movie theaters in mind, and once their limited runs are over, the consumer can consume them however they’d like at home. I don’t think it’s too much for them to ask of us, the moviegoing public, to let them show it their way at first.
The struggle from here is going to be that rocky transition, though. After months of watching Godzilla vs Kong or Judas and the Black Messiah at home the day they were released, there will definitely be some resistance to going out to theaters. Some thought, and maybe even hoped, that day-and-date streaming releases would be permanent, but the fore-mentioned Christopher Nolan’s newly negotiated deal with Universal, which will see him make a movie about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the nuclear bomb, comes with a negotiated theatrical exclusivity window. It seems that established filmmakers, especially Nolan, are not ready to give up on theaters. And the upshot for them is that I know I speak for a certain demographic of filmgoers when I say that I also can’t wait to once again file into theaters to see those movies as safely as possible. Hopefully the transition back to theaters can be a nice reminder that the pandemic is not forever.
I’m Evan Rook.