Consent Decrees, The End of Studios and Other Movie News

A quick roundup of some interesting news and commentary from the last couple weeks.

Audiences Still Prefer to See ‘Tenet,’ ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ in Movie Theaters, but Most Would Be Fine Watching at Home

Lots to unpack here, but the gist is that people are willing to wait to watch some of the most high profile films Hollywood will eventually release at home instead of rushing out to see them in theaters. That’s dependent on there being a 90-day window, but even so it can’t be good news for exhibitors who are still hoping those titles will get things started again. Adding insult to injury, another survey indicated people weren’t endorsing a government bailout of theaters.

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Judge Agrees to End Paramount Consent Decrees

It seems to me that the belief that there’s nothing to worry about with ending this rule is a bit naive, of a kind with the opinion that mergers are good for consumers when they almost never are. That the rule is outdated is true, but mostly because the distribution platforms have changed, not because there’s no longer a need for regulations that keep any one company from exerting too much control over an industry. But it’s in-line with the Trump Administration’s overall goal of eliminating as many rules and guidelines as it can find.

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Hollywood Faces the Hardest Truth: Movies Are No Longer King

Anne Thompson absolutely nails the trends happening in the industry right now, including the quote about how movies like Sleepless In Seattle would go straight-to-streaming now and not have a viable future in theaters. Theaters’ inability to adapt over the last decade has put them behind the 8-ball, and the next couple years will show if there’s a future for them. The continued rise of streaming during the pandemic period shows people who might have at first been reluctant or put a cap on how many services they’d subscribe to are getting over that and becoming more familiar landscape, which should also be worrisome to theater owners. Also see Ben Smith’s article about the shift in power from quirky executives to more business-minded leaders.

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Male Film Critics Still Outnumber Female, All Critics of Color Remain ‘Dramatically Underrepresented’

Wait, you mean to tell me that entrenched hiring and staffing patterns have an effect on which topics are covered and therefore which audiences are or aren’t represented? Fetch me my fainting couch, I’ve got the vapors…

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Snapchat Unveils ‘Snap Minis’ With Coachella, Atom Tickets; Announces Other Developer Tools, Games and Partners

Interesting way to get movie trailers and ticket buying into the app, which still has significant market share despite the rise of TikTok and other factors. This could be a way for people to buy tickets as theaters reopen without having to exit the app they’re already using, but I’d be lying if this didn’t remind me a little of the period where Facebook encouraged companies to build mini-apps within that network in an effort to keep them there. This execution has the same advantages and the same potential drawbacks for both users and developers.

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Hollywood’s Fame Scholar Is Reinvigorated

If you don’t stan Karina Longworth, I’m not sure we can hang out.

The Streaming Wars Are Being Fought on More Fronts Than Many People Think

Never fight a war on two fronts. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. These are solid, reliable maxims for those going into battle. You never want to find yourself overwhelmed and overstretched as you attempt to create supply lines to multiple locations and divert your attention.

The Streaming Wars feature dozens of fronts, all of which require the full attention of the various combatants. In the last few weeks, armaments and strategies of more parties became clear. Apple+ recently announced its pricing and original content lineup, Disney+ did likewise and NBCUniversal unveiled Peacock, coming soon and sporting a lineup of classic and new movies and shows. Netflix scored “Seinfeld” and Quibi unveils new shows every three hours.

If the battlefield is beginning to seem ridiculously crowded, you’re not alone.

As media commentator Mathew Ingram said,

Someone – possibly Ingram – pointed out that media was never really supposed to work like this, meaning a separate channel or platform for every media production company or distributor. NBC has always aired NBC programming (though that material used to be produced by a more diverse array of companies), but the television signal coming into your house wasn’t only delivering NBC shows.

Maybe this works better: If you wanted to buy DVDs of the shows you like, you didn’t have to go to the Fox store to get “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” the Warner Bros. store for “Friends” and the ABC store for “Lost.” You could get them all at Best Buy.

This Used To Be Their Playground

At various times many of these companies have run their own retail operations. The Warner Bros. Store was great counter-programming to The Disney Store. The Viacom Store never expanded beyond Chicago. All offered media and goods specific to that company, but that’s what was expected. And, importantly, you didn’t need to pay a cover charge just to get in the door.

The one time media did work like that was when studios owned movie theaters before the 1948 consent decree that such vertical integration was unfair and unlawful.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said it will be a “whole new world” come November when both Apple+ and Disney+ are scheduled to launch, and there may indeed be a price-based shakeout in the landscape not too far in the offing as people decide how many of these are actually affordable. It’s going to be a bit sad if it comes down to who has the more attractive premiere classic sitcom to act as its differentiator.

For as exhaustive as the list above might be, what’s notable is that it’s actually incomplete. At the same time NBCUniversal and others were solidifying their strategies, Instagram announced a new Jonah Hill-produced documentary would be hosted on that platform. Facebook continues to expand its Watch programming with original series featuring big name talent. Twitter isn’t participating in this particular game at the moment, but it has a number of deals with media companies for news programming. Snapchat has found success with original material.

These social media companies aren’t implementing the same model as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ etc, but are competing for the same hours in people’s days. They want to be a go-to-destination for the significant number of hours people spend each day watching television and other video. And those social channels come with the advantage of not requiring paid access along with the fact the habit of checking them for updates, Stories and more is already baked into the audience.

The DTC Media World Won’t Last

Yes, these media companies are in many ways chasing the same direct-to-consumer model that has popped up in the last few years, one that’s evident to anyone who’s listened to more than eight minutes of any given podcast. But there’s a big difference between subscribing to a shaving accessory service and one that delivers original movies and shows. It’s fairly unlikely someone is going to subscribe to three shaving services, mostly because doing so would represent a significant and unnecessary overlap of features.

That’s going to hit streaming as well as people realize that one show they setup a trial account to check out isn’t worth the monthly fee given they don’t watch 75 percent of the other content available. If that sounds familiar, it’s just about the same reason given when people ditch their cable subscription.

I have to wonder how many of these companies are considering the sheer volume of competition they’re up against, including Instagram, Snapchat and more. Goodness knows that people in the audience know exactly how much time to spend on video and will make choices taking that into account, along with which shows/platforms have the attention of their peers.