Movie theaters struggle to survive while streaming services attract attention

Texas Senator John Cornyn's effort to provide relief money for live-performance venues, and movie theaters, is included in a larger Covid relief package being considered in Washington. 

The Save Our Stages Act asks for $15 billion dollars to help the struggling businesses and tens of thousands of employees, but some consumers are already turning elsewhere.

Warner Brothers Pictures announced that it will release its new Wonder Woman film, along with its entire slate of 2021 films, simultaneously in theaters and its HBO Max streaming service is a sign of difficult times for theaters and studios.

"The situation is dire for movie theater owners in Texas and across the country," says National Association of Theater Owners CEO John Fithian. He says more than two-thirds of small and mid-size theaters don't expect to survive past spring, without audiences or financial help.


Meantime, consumers are finding an ever-growing selection of options to stream content from the comfort of their own home. An industry poll finds the average user has seven different streaming services, to maximize their viewing choices. 

As TV manufacturers, streaming services, and internet connections race to meet the growing demands, some think home viewing is here to stay. 

"When I have a 4K television available, with enough bandwidth, and my own sound system, I can watch it at any time I want," says Houston tech-expert Juan Guevara Torres.

But those with ties to the movie business are not ready to roll the credits on the industry, where there is a growing argument over movie finances. Many actor contracts include a cut of box-office receipts, that don't pay if the movie streams, instead. 

"You have (big) agencies that have these A-listers that won't commit to a project unless they get a theater guarantee," explains Dave Morales of Backstage OL. "If you don't have the big actors doing these productions, you don't have movies."


It may be the standoff that decides 'where' we watch our movies, in the future. 

"We believe, when we come out of this pandemic, business models will return to some period of exclusivity when the movie hits the theaters before it goes to the streaming service," said Fithian.

Moviegoers need to get onboard with that idea. While an October survey suggests two-thirds of US consumers say they'll go back to movie theaters once the pandemic is over, the rest say they don't know, or won't go.

The battle to catch our attention is just beginning.