Friday, June 2, 2023

Quote of the Day (John Fithian, on What the Last Few Years Revealed About Films’ ‘Theatrical Window’)

“There was a lot of pressure coming into the pandemic and during the pandemic. And release models totally changed. A lot of movies went only to streaming services. A lot of movies went simultaneously to theaters and streaming services….

“But what happened is that a whole bunch of data came out of the pandemic about these theories of the theatrical window. One, it was quite clear when you compare the movies during the pandemic, the ones that had an exclusive theatrical window did much better theatrically, but then also did better when it got to the home. Two, we learned that piracy is exacerbated by shrinking the theatrical window. If movies are only in cinemas, the only way you can pirate a movie is with a recording device. And the quality level is not great. When a movie gets released to the home, a pristine digital, easily replicable, easy-to-distribute-around-the-world copy becomes available. So you’re literally cannibalizing movie theater sales from the very first day.”— John Fithian, former president and chief executive of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), quoted by Nicole Sperling, “The Movies, a ‘Marketplace of Free Ideas,” The New York Times, May 21, 2023

For the longest time, I have been fascinated not only by the making of movies but by the business of them. I wondered during the pandemic if many movie theaters would survive. (One, located not far from me in Bergen County, NJ, did not, and I am sure that many others would not have but for $2 billion in tax relief secured during the pandemic.)

I am still not sure I agree with Fithian’s assertion during his interview with Ms. Sperling that movies targeting seniors are performing similarly to how they did before the pandemic. But I am glad that cinemas are managing to stay on their feet again.

Large screens at home offer viewings that prior generations of movie lovers never had. But films in theaters still provide an experience that is ideal: not just screen sizes that still exceed what can be found at home, but viewing within a community of others, with your undivided attention given over for a couple of hours, the way the creative professionals who put it together want it from you.

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