007: No Time to Stream, let’s keep cinemas alive

007: No Time to Stream, let’s keep cinemas alive

No Time To Die, the 25th instalment in the James Bond franchise has been delayed for a third time because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite the current popularity and pressure of streaming services, there seems to be no plan to premiere the film as a home release in a bid to keep cinemas afloat.

It is now coming up to a year since the Coronavirus pandemic started and one of the first industries to feel the full impact of lockdown was the entertainment business, especially cinemas.

Amid fears of the public health crisis, the latest instalment of James Bond was initially delayed from April 2020 to November 2020. Since then, the film was delayed again to April 2021 and now subsequently has been postponed for a third time – scheduled for a global release on 8 October 2021.

No Time To Die’s delay highlights a wider topic of debate that the film industry now faces – should films be postponed and released in cinemas or should they go straight to home releases?

Since the pandemic started, we have seen the rise and domination of streaming services, such as Netflix and HBO Max, which have been catering to the increasing demand for TV shows and films. Wonder Woman 1984 is an example of a film scheduled for cinema release but instead released on HBO Max. Wonder Woman’s home release was the outcome of a wider deal between Warner Brothers and HBO Max which agreed for all Warner Brothers films for 2021 to be released exclusively on the HBO streaming site.

This deal causes concern for the future of the film and cinema industry, as streaming giants have begun to dominate the release of new movies including Mulan which went straight to Disney+ and the remake of The Witches which came out on HBO Max.

In fact, the controversial deal between the two industry giants has created tension between Warner Brothers and filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who has reportedly decided to break away from the entertainment conglomerate after two decades of working together.

The delay of No Time To Die could be a beacon of hope for the future of the film industry, showing that despite financial pressures, there is still a demand and insistence to release films on the big screen as intended during filming.

For big-budget films such as the next James Bond chapter, it’s necessary to fulfil its box office potential. This is something that can only happen once audiences feel safe to attend cinemas again.

Delaying the film can also work in the studio’s favour. The 007 franchise has a cult following with a loyal, established fanbase who will invest in the film no matter when it is released.

It’s the devotion of fanbases such as these which will hopefully re-establish why films are made for cinemas rather than plasma screens.

It’s important to note that the switch from cinema to home releases is not a sudden change that has occurred out of the blue. Rather, the pandemic has been a catalyst in speeding up this process.

For years now, we have seen the evolution of TVs, DVDs, home cinema sound systems and other technologies that try to recreate the cinematic experience from the comfort of your house.

From Blu-Ray players to 4K DVD releases, with large plasma screen TVs and projectors, it is now possible to create your own personal cinema. Home cinemas are no longer an unusual concept in people’s homes. Here lies the foundation for how sending awaited films straight to home releases could be the new ‘normal’.

Indeed, there is still an high demand in wanting to watch new releases. Due to lockdown more people are likely to subscribe to streaming services, whose companies can increase their fees and profit off a guaranteed audience. As seen with Disney, who took the opportunity to charge subscribers an extra $29.99 on top of their regular charge to be able to watch Mulan as a premier access title.

With the introduction and reliance on streaming services, it’s likely that the production and purchasing of physical media such as DVD’s will phased out as streaming subscriptions soar.

We’ve already seen this transition with Disney now releasing their films on Disney+ rather than on a DVD format. This option is more convenient, profitable for companies and likelier to reach a wider audience, all of which previously led to the closure of businesses such as Blockbuster Video in January 2013 and LoveFilm in October 2017.

However, I would argue that this hasty decision to either have delayed cinema releases for movies or no cinema release at all is a short-term solution for a long-term problem, which inevitably causes more damage than good.

Cinemas are an integral part of the entertainment industry that bridges the gap between the film industry and consumers. Not only does it act as a form of escapism, but as a chance for people to socialise, come together and most importantly enjoy the magic of film.

Krists Luhaers/Unsplash

Everyone can remember their first trip to the cinema or the first time they watched an Oscar-winning film in a movie. Creatives make films with the intention and goal of having their end-product being experienced by hundreds of strangers in a large, theatrical space.

Remember the feeling you had when you watched Jurassic Park or Jaws? Or perhaps, Avengers: Endgame or Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2? What about Interstellar or Get Out, or the latest Star Wars film? Now imagine how you would have felt watching it for the first time at home. The feeling and impact are not the same, no matter how hard tech giants have tried to recreate it. There’s an unexplainable thrill and sensation of watching a high production film in your local cinema with friends, family or even alone.

Not only is the cinema important for audiences and the film industry, but there is an urgency to keep cinemas open to protect the hundreds of jobs that are at risk of being lost due to the pandemic.

People have already experienced turbulence in their employment since last March when the pandemic first started and with the government already neglecting the entertainment industry, it is unlikely there will be any emergency financial aid to stop the liquidation of cinemas such as Cineworld, Odeon and Vue. These cinemas are a multi-purpose establishment which provides equal benefits to all sectors of society and our economy.

The cinemas are not the only companies that benefit from people visiting – they behave as a hub for customers who may watch a film and then go to a restaurant or bar after. They have a knock-on economic impact on other surrounding businesses.

However, not all hope is lost. Despite Warner Brothers films now going to HBO Max, there is a promise for films to be released in cinemas on the same day as on the streaming service. This includes the likes of Dune, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy and The Matrix: 4. Also, we are still waiting for A Quiet Place: Part II, Top Gun: Maverick, Black Widow and of course – No Time To Die, which are all still scheduled for cinema release.

This provides comfort to fellow cinemagoers who are concerned about the damage caused to the industry, because perhaps there may still be a future for cinema releases.

This time has proven that we need to put our faith into two places. Firstly, we need to have confidence that filmmakers, such as Christopher Nolan, will continue to create and release their films in cinemas despite the temptations to profit from streaming sites. Nolan still released his film, Tenet, during the pandemic despite fears of the film not reaching its box office potential.

Secondly, we need to have faith in ourselves as an audience that we will continue to support cinemas once it’ll be safe again, ensuring we can continue immersing ourselves in cinematic universes.

As long as there are still film fanatics, loyal fanbases and evolving creatives, I believe there is a post-Covid future which still has space for our cinemas.

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