Netflix has become a household name across the world. At the end of 2018, it had almost 150 million customers subscribed to its service. That’s almost half of the population in the United States. Netflix isn’t alone in its success. Other streaming services like Hulu and Amazon are also popular, though their subscription numbers are mere percentages of Netflix’s. With the booming popularity of these in-home TV services, movie theaters are seeing a rapid decline in ticket sales — 2017 saw an astronomical 25-year low. It’s not far-fetched to believe these services may replace theaters altogether.
In the 1930s, over half of the U.S. population went to the movies weekly, while today, the average American goes to the movies about four to five times a year. In part, this is due to a combination of the increasing modern-day cost of physically attending the movies and the fact that the “hype” of movie theaters has died down since its birth in the early 1900s. While both of these factors contribute to the decrease in movie theater attendance in recent years, another factor is the rise of streaming services.
With Netflix charging $12.99 monthly, (and this price likely to rise in coming months) and other services like Hulu charging even less, it may not be a mystery why fewer people see the need for movie theaters. For less than $15 a month, customers with a streaming service have access to hundreds of movies and shows, often including new releases like “Black Panther” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Some of these major blockbuster hits came out just over a year ago in theaters with a single ticket costing anywhere from $11-$14.
Additionally, Netflix Original TV shows and movies shouldn’t be forgotten about since they’re some of the most well-known films in America. Shows like “House of Cards,” “Stranger Things” and “Orange Is the New Black” are highly discussed and rated shows. The Netflix Original movie, “Bird Box,” had 45 million Netflix accounts tuned in on the first week alone.
Between highly acclaimed originals and well-liked classics like “Silence of the Lambs,” it’s often more enjoyable for consumers to sit in the comfort of their own home while saving money instead of going to theaters. Yet, one study finds the complete opposite to be true.
A study by an economic and statistics group found that movie theaters and streaming sites are complementary. It was found that those who visited theaters nine or more times within a year were more likely to use streaming sites like Netflix than those who only go to the movies twice a year. Therefore, the study concluded that those who more frequently use streaming sites are still giving movie theaters a good amount of business, meaning these sites are unlikely to replace theaters.
This compatibility between streaming sites and theaters won’t last forever. With Netflix’s growing popularity and newer features like original films, there’s no telling when it’ll stop advancing. It might not be improbable that one day Netflix may team up with the theater industry. Instead of theaters, Netflix may be the one to release brand-new movies where they would be exclusively available for some time. This deal may incentivize the movie theater industry by saving them money as they wouldn’t have to pay millions to upkeep theaters and pay employees.
Even if something as drastic as streaming sites buying out the theater industry doesn’t happen, other options still seem likely. Each year, Netflix puts out more newly released movies. Maybe in the near future, Netflix will cut a deal where they can advance to the release of new movies as soon as they leave theaters. This would certainly raise the incentive for consumers to wait until the movie hits Netflix before they spend their money in theaters.
Recently, a new service called “Red Carpet” has come to fruition in the media. This service allows subscribers to watch newly released movies from home — but for thousands of dollars per film. While the service is engineered for the top 1% of Americans and not something that will be accessible to most, it certainly helps prove that the movie theater industry is already being immediately threatened by online services and that it’s not a far-fetched idea that Netflix could be close behind.
In any case, it’s a fact that each year the movie industry sees a smaller turnout of customers. With the rise of streaming sites in recent years, it’s not difficult to attribute them to this downfall, and it doesn’t seem unlikely that they could end the theater industry in the future.
Josie Haneklau is a freshman political science and psychology double major. Contact Josie at firstname.lastname@example.org.