Our entertainment choices are changing the world around us


Wolf Richter recently pointed out how Disney’s new model of releasing movies was impacting traditional movie-watching habits.

During its opening weekend, Black Widow brought in $80 million at box office ticket sales in North America. This was only a “record” for any movie since March 2020, a “pandemic record,” so to speak.

But these ticket sales lagged far behind the actual records set during opening weekends by other movies. According to movie data tracker, The Numbers, those ticket sales were in 98th place!

And they were 78% lower than the record debut weekend for a movie, “Avengers: Endgame,” which premiered in April 2019 and grossed $357 million at theaters in North America during the first weekend.

The brutal reality for brick-and-mortar theaters now:

  • “Avengers: Endgame” played in 4,662 theaters the weekend it premiered; on average each theater grossed $76,601.
  • “Black Widow” played in 4,160 theaters over the weekend; on average each theater grossed $19,231. That’s what this “record” means for movie theater chains.

. . .

Walt Disney disclosed the other fascinating thing about the plight of brick-and-mortar movie theaters: It had raked in $60 million from streaming “Black Widow” over the weekend on Disney+, for $29.99 per home, on top of the monthly subscription fee, no theaters involved.

Disney gets a cut of maybe less than 50% of the $80 million in box office ticket sales. But it gets 100% of the $60 million it took in via Disney+.

This … shows the very chilling prospects for brick-and-mortar theaters.

What changed during the pandemic was Disney’s decision to release movies simultaneously in movie theaters and on Disney+.

So now, some people can go to a theater to watch a movie when it premiers and make an event out of it; others can watch the movie at home when it premiers, the whole family for $29.99, which cheap soda and popcorn thrown in on top.

. . .

… the power relationship between studios and theater chains has changed forever. And studios have their own streaming services. If theater chains try to boycott a movie, so be it; they will just push more people to the streaming service.

There’s more at the link.

I grew up in an era when “going to the movies” was a real treat.  In South Africa, of course, we had no television at the time (it was only introduced in the 1970’s, for various religious and cultural reasons), so as far as “modern” visual entertainment went, the movie theater was it.  There were no other options.  Even so, the Saturday morning movies for kids put on at our local cinema were special occasions, and to be deprived of them was a huge blow to a child.

Even as an adult, with TV available, an evening excursion to a movie theater was somehow “special”;  freely available, but a choice to be ranked alongside many other forms of entertainment.  Some movies, such as the Star Wars trilogy, were far and away best watched on the big screen.  They just didn’t have the same impact or immediacy when viewed on a goggle-box.

Now, however . . . there are whole generations who’ve grown up regarding the TV as their primary form of visual entertainment.  The sale of outsize screens for “home theaters” has become a normal feature of the marketing landscape.  The pandemic merely hastened an already-growing trend:  it was no longer necessary to go outside the home to watch visual entertainment.  Even sports crowds were dwindling as more and more people discovered that the close-ups, replays and commentary available on TV made the game more interesting at home, and a heck of a lot cheaper than being bled by stadium ticket and concessionaire pricing.

I’m not sure what this means for more traditional forms of live entertainment such as classical music, ballet, opera and the like.  I used to enjoy visits to a symphony concert.  The Cape Town Symphony Orchestra used to perform every week at very reasonable ticket prices, and people would dress up and attend with season tickets.  Frequent “low-brow” concerts, at lower ticket costs and without dress codes, were also held, making classical music available to everyone at accessible prices.  Now?  The pandemic has disrupted all that, on top of the impact of home viewing, the availability of HD recordings of concerts, operas, etc., and the growing complications surrounding planning a night out (babysitting, transport, parking, weather, and now the risk of demonstrations and riots as well).  Can classical music and its associated arts recover from that blow?  Can they survive without an audience?

What about art?  Will consumers make the trek to see a famous painting or statue in person, or will they be content to watch a TV program about it, complete with close-ups, commentary, etc.?  What about museums?  There are plenty of TV channels dedicated to history, science, technology, etc.  Is it worthwhile to many younger people to go to a museum to see a famous aircraft, or the skeleton of a dinosaur, or whatever, when they can learn all about it on the goggle-box?

As far as movie theaters go, the big production companies are increasingly eager to glom onto every dollar they can make, at the expense of sharing their income with distributors, exhibitors and other associates.  If it’s more profitable for them to direct most of their marketing effort to home entertainment, they’ll do so in a heartbeat.  I’d hate to be a theater operator today – cinema, concert, or whatever.  The economics of staying in business amid a sea change in the way they do business must be daunting, and I’m not sure the latter can be made to work.  One can’t automate many of the functions involved, so it’s hard to save money on personnel costs, and one must deal with all the competition from lower-cost home entertainment.  Can the neighborhood movie theater, or the city symphony concert hall, survive?  One can’t be sure.

Will our children grow up with such entertainment venues and habits still available?  Who knows?  And does it matter, except to nostalgic oldsters like us?



  1. Don't worry. After WW3 there won't be any electricity, so people will have to go to live events.

  2. As for modern entertainment, don't forget video games.

    Top AAA releases can bring in hundreds of millions. Plus they can be played anywhere and offer many more hours of entertainment at a lower cost than going to a first run movie.

  3. A few weeks ago going to lunch, I saw the answer to the question of movie theaters. A steam shovel was in the process of demolishing the AMC Theater, which had been built as the anchor to a strip mall. The other retail stores were built to feed off the moviegoers traffic, so I've got to wonder how long they will remain in business.

    I can remember seeing the theater built about a decade & half ago, and now I've seen it demolished. Prior to the pandemic, they usually had a reasonable crowd from looking at the parking lot. So the conclusion I draw from this is AMC doesn't see the crowds returning.

  4. I don't know. I went to see Black Widow on Tuesday afternoon at our local 10-plex. For the two of us it was $10.70. I could pay $30 to see it at home (well, on top of whatever Disney + costs). Without a good sound system, the big screen LCD pales in comparison to a theater.

    The economics are entirely different for adults in our situation. Movie theaters make the majority of their money on weekend date nights, a time I'll gladly cede to the kids. Even when I was working but approaching retirement, we'd go to a weekend matinee.

  5. I have had high end projector based home theater systems for over 15 years. I prefer the quality and convenience of watching in an environment I control, and I own the disks, which can often be purchased used at half price. My wife and I also like 3D, which on home theater systems is far better than the version used in theaters. My wife is hard of hearing, and we often watch with wireless headsets so that she can turn up the volume on hers. We can also turn on subtitles for actors with strong accents that she has trouble understanding. The experience is better than a theater.

    And if a studio happens to be some slave outfit like Disney, who hates to sell disks because it cuts into their new streaming revenues, or is an anti-freedom studio, like everyone in Hollywood these days, I have heard there are ways to capture those streams and share them, for free, as downloads across the internet, depriving them of revenue but allowing people to see their products, and depicting actors doing what they do so well – pretending to be something they aren't.

  6. Since most of the movie industry said they don't need conservative money, they don't get mine.

    Not even from Redbox, if I have a say.

  7. Chris' point is well taken – for the younger generation and even parts of my own, games are the new movies. If fact, you can watch videos of entire gameplay.

    Movie theaters are largely done, I think – everyone was waiting for a company to make the big break of theatrical release and streaming release, and Disney has done that. Agreed that $30 is more than I would pay against a theater, but then again if one streams Disney, one can just wait and it will become part of the standard fair (the equivalent of "Coming to video").

    As to the future of other venues like concerts, museums, theaters, etc…I have no idea but I suspect their draw will focus more and more to a tighter group. It is odd – I live in an urban area with several museums, but I am only likely to go to a museum with somewhere else as there is nothing compelling enough for me locally to go.

  8. just a historical note: in '70s NYC the movie theaters were already on the way out. various tribes would use the theater to disrupt and start fights. non-tribals, not permitted means of defense (NYC, remember) would try to remain apart, and, at times, not be allowed to escape the ensuing melee, resulting in injury.
    Clean-up and damage cut severely into theater owner profits resulting in a number of closures, even in the "better" areas.

  9. We generally wait for a movie to hit a streaming service (or something like Prime video) just because movie theaters are so flipping LOUD, but the one problem this new model is going to run into is the question of how many streaming services will people pay for? We have Disney+ and Hulu (free with other services), and Netflix and Amazon Prime. I've already rejected calls to pay for CBS, ABC, Universal, HGTC, and all of the other services simply because that's just too much money to pay on top of cable (for local and the NFL network, apparently). With all we already have, if there isn't something to watch, I'll just pop in Heartbreak Ridge and watch it for the 267th time.

  10. Motion pictures as a form of mass entertainment did not exist in 1900. Neither did recorded music. Somehow, people existed without that which we have come to regard as "entertainment" to a large degree. These things will continue to exist on a reduced scale, but have largely been superseded by other forms of "entertainment" for the masses Times never remain static; change is the essence of existence. I, too am nostalgic for the way things used to be, but that is largely an artifact of my realization that my time here on this mortal plane is likewise drawing to an end. As to what the "younger generation" will do with the time they have been allotted, that is up to them. I can only hope they use their time wisely, and always act in the knowledge that eternity lies before them and that the choices they make here determine their eternal destiny. I can only hope that they will heed the advice the old knight gave about choosing which vessel was the true Grail, "Choose wisely.

  11. The price to watch "Black Widow" on Disney+ right now is $26.99 but after October 6th it is included, meaning FREE. We use my daughter's Disney+ creds (in trade she uses my DISH Network creds for channels she can't get) so it's free to me anyway. If only these streaming services knew how much revenue they are losing because of sharing.

  12. Ha, concerts. Yeah. When even something more than a community band costs $50+ per person for the cheap seats, not including parking fees (between $10 and $20) and all the other expenses add up to, even in one's own town, around, minimum $110 for two people, if one is lucky, and adding in if Ticketmaster is allowing the cheap seats to be sold (been to too many 'sold out' concerts where you couldn't pre-buy the cheap seats, get there, the cheap seats are empty or being sold at the gate.)

    Same with local sporting events. Used to be, what, go during your lunch break or after your shift, drop a minimal amount of money and see at least a minor league team of some sorts for just the fun of it. Now? Even high school sports is often priced out of 'just fun watching money' let alone anything 'professional' where you need either a corporate unlimited account or win the lottery to have season tickets.

    Same with any other 'live' entertainment. Either it's roughly equivalent to watching one's kids' school play (and sucky at that) or it costs serious dough.

    Like, well, concerts (of the classical/romantic music variety) used to have afternoon cheap performances. Gone. Even the 'matinee' performances are pricy.

    Heck, last time I tried to see a decent Independence Day fireworks display it was $20 for parking and you had to get there way ahead of time to find a decent place to watch (which we circumvented by going home and pulling off on the Interstate along with lots of other people and watching it from our cars at not $20.

    So, well, movies were expensive before the Covidiocracy. After the Covidiocracy? Lots of people have re-prioritized their lives, and their expenses.

    And that's not even counting the stupidity of Social Justice Costumed Warriors that seems to be affecting everything. Saw one blogger referring to the M-She-U (Marvel She-Shared Universe) and that has a lot to do with it. Love Ms. Johansson's looks and acting, but when she complains about being oppressed and having to 'fight for work,' well, that turns me off of watching her.

    Maybe that's the reason why ticket sales are so pathetic, both in real live and streaming. Maybe we're seeing the violent reaction to having SJW shoved down our faces. Oh, kill off the white superheroes and replace them with people of color. Kill off the male superheroes and replace them with females who weigh 100 pounds and can beat pro-football players and pro-wrestlers even without superpowers.

    Seriously, I'm looking forward to another Deadpool movie. Other than that, no superhero movies for me, can't stand the toxic messages pushed out.

    And it's not just me. Lots and lots and lots of people don't want to pay to be preached at, or pay to see their beloved characters destroyed and neutered in front of their eyes.

    It's the reason the current seasons of "Dr. Who" are failing, spectacularly. Or the latest "Star Trek" dreck. Heck, on-tv right now is a black female Batman. Whut?

    Tired of it. Lots of people are very tired of it.

    Even in the Great Depression, people could afford, once in a while, to go see a movie that was just fun, or scary, or full of drama, that could take them away from their poopy lives (thanks to FDR making the depression worse…)

    But what do we get? Expensive preachy garbage.

    Ain't paying for expensive preachy garbage.

    Which is why, well, ME-TV is doing so well. Showing tv shows when they weren't expensive preachy garbage. Currently watching "The Rifleman" and enjoying the living daylights out of a good Christian show.

  13. Went to see Black Widow after opening days, because Marvel.

    Matinee, daytime. Maybe 15 people there, tops.

    Fell asleep somewhere in the middle. Woke up about 2 minutes from the end. Don't feel I missed anything.
    Except the $10.

    Get it on Blue ray, someday?
    Maybe when it shows up in the Fin Bin at WallyMart, for $5. Prolly a week after they dump it on the shelves, to a tremendous collective yawn.

    The last two movies I saw so boring I literally fell asleep, were Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman.

    Clever readers will detect a theme here.

    Movies are dead, unless and until ever wokehole gets culturally enriched at the base of guillotine.

    Which, truth be told, is probably going to be sooner than later.

    "Vive La Révolucion"

  14. I don't know. The appearance of recorded music, and later of radio, didn't destroy the market for live performers. There'll always be those who want to see and hear an artist at work in person. With movies that isn't possible; a movie is inherently a recording.

    Movie theaters were originally needed because the projection equipment you have to use to see one was too expensive for the typical person to buy. When that changed, the theaters were kept alive because the studios insisted on releasing new movies to theaters first. Now that Disney's broken that bar … why go to theaters?

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