Streaming & The Big Screen

Paper by Joseph Garcia.

Families going to the movie theater, has always been a staple and a part of the fabric of American society since the early 1900s. It was a great leisurely activity that can be enjoyed by many. There are certain aspects and categories that are suitable for some and not others, some movies are appropriate for some ages others are not. Some movies appeal to a certain audience and some appeal to a general audience. But it is hard to doubt that nearly every American has seen a movie and or enjoys them! During the 1930s during The Great Depression going to the movies was common for families as it provided an escape from the real-world issues that were going on.

However, if you fast forward to today, our world is much different. We are no longer in the midst of a Great Depression but more importantly for this topic we are no longer experiencing movie watching the same. In this current world we are still dealing with a global pandemic. A global pandemic which shut down many theatres, businesses, jobs, etc. Which left many of us at home… you could infer that we were streaming more movies than we ever have before. See before the pandemic media streaming was still a prevalent thing among all of us. In 2019 the revenue garnered from the video streaming services industry was $25 billion. Nearly %50 coming from the United States alone. SAGE also projects that $25 billion dollar number to grow to $30 billion.

The streaming industry came from humble beginnings, believe it or not. We see these streaming services as these big entities with endless amounts of media for us to consume. But it started with Netflix just trying to make a name for itself. It was co-founded by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings in 1997. During that time period it was Blockbuster who seemed to have control of everything. There were no streaming services at the time and if you wanted to rent out a movie you would have to walk into Blockbuster in order to do so. They controlled the movie rental space. That was until Netflix came up in the industry and started to innovate and shake things up. Because this is what would typically always happen in Blockbuster. You would walk in there, rent out a movie for X amount of dollars and in order to not have to pay more money, you would return the rental before the due date or else pay a large amount of dollars in late fees. So Netflix’s method circumvented this pressure on consumers using the unrealized online market and mailing services. Instead of getting up and getting ready to go to blockbuster and be limited to what was in store, Netflix allowed you to explore a catalog of 900+ titles from your own couch while only having to pay a fixed monthly rate, rather than pay for each title individually when you rent it out like with Blockbuster. Despite growing to 250k+ titles after around a year, there wasn’t much revenue growth due to only about one percentage of people in the U.S. actually owned a DVD player.
However, in 2004 things were much different in the industry and with Netflix. DVD players in U.S. households grew to an outstanding %67 and Netflix now had around half a million subscribers. Plus, more and more households were using the internet more as it gained more legitimacy among families making purchases. Netflix’s future again was steered by one of the co-founders Reed Hastings. He studied trends and anticipated on demand video streaming and anticipated the internet becoming more powerful and more capable of streaming on demand videos. In 2002 even Hasting said himself that Netflix’s DVD rentals would be part of the grander scheme of things to come. The grander thing being on demand video streaming. This was evident as in 2007, Netflix granted unlimited streaming to its over 7 million subscribed users. This was huge in gaining steam in driving more and more consumers to start embracing streaming. Netflix continued to grow as a streaming powerhouse because in 2013 with their expansion to Netflix original shows streaming on Netflix, they earned a whopping 31 Emmy nominations.

Now as for the looming question if filmmakers are making their movies around streaming services such as Netflix. Yes and no in my opinion. I believe consciously and subconsciously filmmakers make films for certain audiences and platforms no matter what. Subconscious is something you can’t measure but in the back of some filmmakers’ minds they are thinking about how this would be on different types of media platforms. That’s in terms of subconsciously now filmmakers that consciously make their film around the basis of streaming services do this as a strategic approach. They can do this because they feel like it is best for it financially, stylistically, or holistically as a whole. And it’s true, some movies that are on streaming services are perfectly suited for streaming services by themselves. There are some that wouldn’t work out on the big screen whether it be financial wise or stylistic wise. Not all films are made/ meant for the big screen but in that same sense not all films are made for the streaming screen. But what’s been happening more and more often is either the film is released in theatres and on streaming platforms simultaneously or it’s released in theatres and a couple months after it is also released on streaming platforms. This is just one of the many signs that streaming services are integral to the entire industry and are still rising and subsequently here to stay.

The original Space Jam starring Michael Jordan was released in theatres and on DVD/ VHS/ LaserDisc simultaneously on March 11, 1997. They wanted to capitalize on not only getting eyeballs on it in the theater, but also through home viewing mediums as well. Fast forward to today, and there are movies still with that same goal as well, except through streaming instead of DVD/ VHS/ Laserdisc. This is fittingly apparent with the release of the new Space Jam: A New Legacy. First of all, we cannot further discuss this without discussing the amount of advertising there was for Space Jam: A New Legacy. They were not only advertising it coming to theatres, but also being out on HBO Max, a new WarnerMedia owned streaming service. Whether it was through commercials, ads, billboards, fast food partnerships like with McDonald’s, video games like Fortnite, etc. The advertising was immense but again it wasn’t just big advertising for the movie premier in theaters, it was also for the movie’s release on streaming platforms. They were released both in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16, 2021. This made it convenient to watch at home for HBO Max subscribers, and with still the option to see it on the big screen in theaters. This kind of flexibility and options we are getting as consumers I feel like is spoiling us. This is a time like never before where we have such options and flexibility. But not everyone is enjoying all the fruits from the meteoric rise of streaming platforms becoming as integral as movie theaters. Because while there are movie theater exclusives, there are also streaming movie exclusives. And sometimes the streaming platform that the movie is on, you don’t have as a consumer, forcing you to subscribe to the streaming service if you don’t have it. This goes for old movies, and sometimes new movies. Again, sometimes movies are made for streaming platforms but a viewer either doesn’t have that streaming platform or would have preferred to go watch it in theaters. This is why we are seeing more and more movies being released in theaters and on streaming services. Space Jam: A New Legacy was one of the biggest films to do this to this date. So how did Space Jam: A New Legacy do? Well, it has made almost $100 million, and it still hasn’t been out for 2 weeks. This is easily Warner’s most successful movie to come out during this global pandemic. Now in doing additional research into this HBO max states on their platform that Space Jam: A New Legacy is available to stream for free to subscribers but only for the first month of its release. After that, subscribers will have to pay extra for viewing. This opens up another can of worms of the complicated nature of streaming. Some people are okay with this and don’t mind that after the first month of its release additional money has to be paid in order to view the film. But there are also ones who dislike this and feel like they already paid enough money to use the streaming service and shouldn’t have to pay additional money to view it. And then there are also some who see this and believe that streaming complicates things and is becoming too much of a focus. And again, there are some that believe that streaming is the future and movie theaters will fizzle out some day. I personally think movie theaters are here to stay for the very long run. I don’t see streaming services outright ending movie theaters as a whole in the near future or in the far future. Nonetheless, a huge film in Space Jam: A New Legacy not only being in theaters, but also debuting on streaming services is something we have never really seen before. I anticipate more films such as huge superhero films to eventually start following this same path more and more. Not just releasing films through movie theaters, but through streaming services as well.

The next film I wanted to focus on is a very interesting one. It’s one that has had 3 things. It’s a film that was released independently in theatres by a legendary filmmaker on August 8, 1986. It is a film that ended up on streaming services for people to watch decades later. And finally, it’s a film that was remade into a show on November 23rd, 2017. The film that started it all, was She’s Gotta Have It, made by Spike Lee released on August 8, 1986. She’s Gotta Have It was an amazing independent film by famous auteur Spike Lee. It followed the love life of Nola Darling, her sex life, and herself as whole. She was sleeping with 3 men with no relation to each other, but they all wanted her for themselves. But Nola put her own freedom first before anything, and she felt like if she tied herself down, she’d be losing that self-freedom. Now how did this 1986 black and white film end up becoming a multi-season show on Netflix, a streaming service? Well since they have more flexibility with it becoming a show, they slow play everything and have the characters get to know each other more and better as well as having the audience getting to know all of the characters and the world better as Nola deals with not only the men, but societal issues as a whole. The whole She’s Gotta Have It brand if you will, has been see through it all. In theatres, through DVD, streaming services (as a movie), and through streaming services as a new show. All of this shows the flexibility, and the power streaming has; and how much power it can give to the content itself. Having movies like She’s Gotta Have It (1986) come to streaming services like Netflix allows more eyeballs to see it and allows it to be appreciated by more people. Streaming does this in allowing more appreciation to old films not just new ones. That’s the power streaming has. It can rejuvenate and revitalize certain franchises.

Streaming services offer so much for those making shows and films. Another movie I wanted to focus on was Monster Inc. Monsters Inc. came out on November 2nd, 2001. An animated family/ kids’ movie about monsters that work as scarers in a scare factory. It follows the scare adventures of Sully and Mike Wazowski. It was an excellent film and did very well. Another film following the two monsters came out on June 21st, 2013. It was Monsters University following the two monsters focusing on their journey to becoming scarers. It was also a successful film. Both films were released in theaters and on DVD. In having all of this success, they appeared on Disney+ for Disney+ subscribers. A beloved children’s move that’s available to watch again. But now a new show has come along in being the offspring of these two movies. It being called Monsters At Work which came out on July 7th, 2021. It’s a show following an aspiring scarer at the scare factory, only for him to finally get to the scare factory and it changing to a laugh factory. All of these film examples show how much of a powerful tool streaming services can be. They can exist in a symbiotic relationship with films that were originally shown on the big screen and help them garner more attention.

While during this entire topic there’s been a juxtaposition of streaming services and the movie theater, I entirely believe that they can both co-exist for years to come. While it can be very convenient to be in the comfort of your own home and browse through a catalog of movies, sometimes people want to experience the movies on the literal big screen. Sometimes people just want to experience it to create bonds with their friends or family. Movie theaters can generate money through ticket sales, and very notably in concessions. There is too much support behind movie theaters despite the growing emergence of streaming services. Too much support from the consumer side, and from Hollywood themselves. Streaming services and movie theaters can %100 exist together symbiotically for several years to come.

Work Cited

Agnihotri, Arpita and Saurabh Bhattacharya.”Dynamics of the Disney–Fox Merger.” SAGE Business Cases. London: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2021. 27 Jul 2021, doi:
Lewis, Jon. American Film: A History. W.W. Norton, 2019.
“Monsters At Work” IMDB 7 July 2021,
“Monsters Inc.” BoxOffice, 2 November 2001,
“Monsters University” BoxOffice, 19 June 2013,
Rataul, Paul, et al.”Netflix: Dynamic Capabilities for Global Success.” SAGE Business Cases. London: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2021. 27 Jul 2021, doi:
“She’s Gotta Have It” IMDB 8 August 1986,
“She’s Gotta Have It” IMDB 23 November 2017,
“Space Jam” BoxOffice 15 November 1996,
“Space Jam: A New Legacy.” BoxOffice, 23 July 2021,

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