Streaming has taken over Hollywood. Will he also take the best photo?

The pandemic has accelerated the disruption. Traditional studios like Paramount, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. and Disney have redirect...


The pandemic has accelerated the disruption. Traditional studios like Paramount, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. and Disney have redirected dozens of theatrical films to streaming services or released them simultaneously in theaters and online. For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, citing the threat of the coronavirus, has allowed films to be completely skip a theatrical release and still be eligible for the Oscars. The academy had previously required at least a cursory theatrical release of at least a week in Los Angeles.

It’s more than Hollywood selfishness. The worry is that as streaming services proliferate – more than 300 now operate in the US, according to consultancy Parks Associates – theaters could become exclusively the land of superheroes, sequels and remakes. . The venerable Warner Bros. cut its annual theatrical output nearly in half and built a direct-streaming movie assembly line. Last week, Amazon bolstered its Prime Video service by acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the old-school studio behind “Licorice Pizza,” which is nominated for three Oscars, including best picture.

In a year when Hollywood largely failed to revive indoor cinema, streaming services have tightened their grip on viewers. Global ticket sales totaled $21.3 billion in 2021, up from $42.3 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association. (Theaters have been closed for much of 2020.) Some theater companies have gone out of business, others have merged; The world’s largest movie theater chain, AMC Entertainment, has racked up $6 billion in losses over the past two years and its stock has fallen 66% since June. Meanwhile, the number of subscriptions to online video services worldwide rose to 1.3 billion from 864 million in 2019, the group said.

One film that struggled at the box office was Mr. Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” which received an exclusive theatrical run (per his wishes) for about three months. It collected approximately $75 million worldwide (against a production budget of $100 million and worldwide marketing costs of approximately $50 million). “West Side Story” is now available on not one but two streaming services, Disney+ and HBO Max, where it’s almost certainly seen more widely than in theaters. But the film could never recover – among Oscar voters – from being called a box office dud. It has received seven nominations and is set to win in one category, for Ariana DeBose as Best Supporting Actress.

Mr. Spielberg’s equally popular presence in the current Oscar race makes the ancestry of the streaming contenders all the more striking: a lion in fight keeping the Oscars focused on theatrical films is sidelined.

While unlikely, it’s possible that “West Side Story” will come back from behind and take home the Best Picture trophy. Just like Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”, for that matter. Such an outcome would be a bit like 2019, when academy voters, discouraged by a campaign at the top by Netflix to push “Roma” to best picture glory, instead gave the award to “green paper”, a traditional film of Universal Pictures.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Streaming has taken over Hollywood. Will he also take the best photo?
Streaming has taken over Hollywood. Will he also take the best photo?
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