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COVID-19 is affecting how we watch movies

We are officially in the midst of a global pandemic. Unless you were alive and old enough to remember the Spanish Flu of 1918, this is an unprecedented event in living memory. The rest of the semester has been moved online, not just for us at Oklahoma Christian but all around the state and the country. Jobs are being affected and “social distancing” is strongly encouraged by governments around the globe. In this time of crisis, I am here to bring you the latest news out of the entertainment world. Sure, it is far from the most important thing to consider right now, but I believe COVID-19 is the catalyst to speed up changes in the film industry which have been speculated about for years and, to some extent, are already taking place.

First and foremost is the issue of drastically reduced movie theater attendance. The conveniences of streaming have taken a chunk out of movie theater revenues over the last decade or so, but at the current moment and for at least another month, the idea of sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers and having to touch heavily-used surfaces sounds like unnecessary risk at best and complete insanity at worst. My job is to see movies, and I get my ticket costs reimbursed, but even I have been hesitant to go to the movies in the past weeks, especially considering my being immunocompromised. Actually, I only just now thought to check showtimes near me, and it looks like the closest theater operating at the moment is 50 miles away, so I could not go even if I wanted to.

Obviously, movie studios still want to make money, so many of them have pushed back the release dates for their biggest blockbuster hopefuls, such as the newest James Bond film, “No Time To Die,” which was originally scheduled to premiere next month but is now set for a Thanksgiving release. Movies just released in theaters are coming out on demand mere weeks after they hit theaters. Disney+, for example, released “Frozen 2” on their platform much earlier than they had initially planned and, more surprisingly, they announced several days ago Pixar’s new film, “Onward,” will be available to stream with a Disney+ subscription starting Friday, April 3. “Onward” is a movie which has, so far, made a little over $100 million worldwide on a budget of $200 million. Such a thing would be unheard of outside of these extreme circumstances. Disney claims to be doing this out of pure benevolence towards those stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future, and that may have a grain of truth to it, but it is obvious there are financial motivations as well. Movies from different studios—“The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt”—are doing the same thing.

Whenever this pandemic does end, I am curious to see whether theaters will be able to return to business as it was before this whole situation started. I think there will always be a place for theaters and there will always be people who go to them, but, as a competitor, streaming is definitely taking over.

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