FILM

Will the Coronavirus Finally Settle the Streaming Movies vs. Theater Debate?

With COVID-19 now a full-blown pandemic, industries are struggling to adjust, but the film and TV industry may never be the same

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Less than a year ago, at the 2019 Cinemacon in Las Vegas, Oscar Winner Helen Mirren shared her opinion on streaming movies in no uncertain terms: "I love Netflix, but f*ck Netflix!"

The comment came amid controversy over the criteria by which a film qualifies for consideration for the Academy Awards and other major accolades. At the time, Netflix and other streaming platforms were pushing for their original productions to be included for consideration without the need for traditional theatrical releases, and many in the industry balked at the prospect. Yesterday, Regal and AMC—the largest cinema chains in the US—both announced that they will be closing all their theatres starting today. Together, the two companies operate nearly 50% of theater screens in the US. Other chains have restricted theater crowds, and more closures are certain to follow.

With no clear end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, there is an open question about how the movie and television industries will cope. While social distancing is creating increased demand for streaming content, and numerous scheduled releases and production schedules have been delayed indefinitely, will studios be forced to release their existing projects online? Will selection criteria be adjusted for the 2021 award season? And will movie theaters ever recover?

Almost every aspect of our society is in the process of restructuring to adjust to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more people are working from home. Entire regions are shutting down their restaurants and bars. And citizens and politicians alike are calling for measures that would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago—on the left, many people are pushing for freezes on evictions, as well as rent and mortgage payments, and even some Republicans (normally shills for heartless capitalism) are suggesting universal income measures to help people get by. In the short term it's causing unprecedented turmoil in the stock market, but in the long term, some industries are likely to never fully bounce back.

In some of the most dire cases—movie theaters being a prime example—the change has been a long time coming. American theater attendance peaked in 2002 and has been on a slow decline ever since—with audiences increasingly preferring the convenience of television and streaming services. Independent theaters have been hit hardest, with many closing down in recent years. Likewise, brick and mortar retail has been hit hard by the convenience of online shopping—with many local stores and even some major retail chains forced out of business. The restrictions imposed by the coronavirus—the latest guidelines advise against gatherings of more than ten people—are only accelerating the rate of change that was already occurring.

While many industry insiders would decry the loss of the theater experience—the immersive scale and the communal environment—most Americans have gotten used to viewing even epic films on screens smaller than a sheet of paper. While directors like Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan will argue that movies are made to be viewed on the big screen, when your nose is six inches from the action, it hardly feels small. None of this is to say that there won't be something real lost if movie theaters disappear—just that it might be inevitable, and that the coronavirus pandemic has sped up the process. Empty movie theaters may soon join the suburban blight of empty malls and abandoned factories that dot the American landscape. They may go the way of the drive-in.

Abandoned Mall

With the narrow profit margins involved in the theater business, government intervention (as we've already seen with other industries) could help them stay afloat until things return to normal, but the more realistic scenario may be that things never return to normal. While AMC's closure is currently slated to last 6-12 weeks, there is no way of telling how long it will actually last, and it may end up consuming the rest of 2020 and beyond. Will the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Academy open consideration to streaming content and encourage studios to opt for Internet releases in the case of James Bond, Mulan, and others? Or will they cancel next year's award season entirely? Whatever the case, 2020 is looking increasingly likely to be the year that cements the supremacy of the Internet over going outside.

Meanwhile, with Stephen Colbert delivering his Late Show monologue from home (from his bathtub, to be specific), will we see other productions following suit—delivering much-needed entertainment to the isolated masses while limiting the spread of the virus? The term "bottle episode" refers to the trope—particularly common in 90s sitcoms—wherein a small number of characters are trapped together in a confined space. Will we see a resurgence of that concept with an influx of quarantine content? Or will television networks and studios take it to the next level and invest in concepts that allow performers to work remotely from the safety of home, either with animation, or with live-action shows that play with the fact that no one is in the same room (e.g. the episode of Modern Family that took place entirely on FaceTime) If not, TV may also be left behind by the vast array of independent content creators who are more than capable of working with the current conditions.

modern family

Whatever else happens in the coming months—and as much as this all feels like a throwback to a different era—we should all be thankful, for once, that culture has increasingly embraced isolation with streaming and delivery services that prevent the need to leave our homes. We all thought we were just being lazy. It turns out we were training for a pandemic.

Satire

To Donald Trump: 5 Ways You're Actually a Flawless Being Doing a Beautiful, Unbelievable Job Right Now

You could resign if you want to, but then who will keep America so GD great?

With Donald Trump making a visit to Bangor, Maine today, the editorial board of the Portland Press Herald issued an op-ed calling for President Trump to resign.

The harshly critical piece entitled "To President Trump: You Should Resign Now" was framed as an open letter to the president and got straight to the point with this opening plea, "We're sorry that you decided to come to Maine, but since you are here, could you do us a favor? Resign."

In recent days even George W. Bush has been critical of President Trump's response to protests, so this new piece quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. Obviously this is another baseless attack from the lying news media—AKA lügenpresse. Considering how delicate our president's ego is—he's our special little guy—we can only hope that Donald Trump didn't see the letter; but just in case he did, it's worth writing another one to lift his spirits. So here's our best attempt—with lots of pictures and flattery to keep him reading:

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Journiest

The Top 3 Valentine's Day Gifts for the Zombie Apocalypse

For your partner who probably still has a pulse.

The zombie apocalypse gives you a free pass to break out your dad's old leather jacket and roam the countryside with a chainsaw that also shoots bullets, but it's still no excuse to forget about Valentine's Day.

When the world's gone to hell in a handbasket you want your SO by your side more than ever. Just because everyone else is dead doesn't mean romance has to be too. But what do you get your partner when you truly want to say, "I'd be into you even if you weren't the only thing within 50 miles that still has a pulse?"

3. Zombie Mug

Could any gesture possibly be more romantic than presenting your loved one with a hollowed out zombie head filled with the last of your coffee rations? Unfortunately, drinking anything from a real zombie skull probably doesn't pass health regulations, so a ceramic version will have to do. You can still pretend it's real though, considering nobody else is around to judge.

2. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Your partner is already super capable. After all, they've survived this long. But you can never be too prepared during the zombie apocalypse, and that means reading up on every possible advantage. Together, you and your partner-in-slaughter will learn the best tips on tactics, weaponry, and zombie psychology. Who says you can't love a killing machine?

1. *TOP CHOICE* A Complete Set of The Walking Dead Wines

As much as you enjoy living out your zombie apocalypse fantasy, you can't help but feel nostalgic for a time when you could just watch it on TV. In fact, if it weren't the zombie apocalypse right now, The Walking Dead would probably be about to hit its mid-season premiere. You imagine an alternate reality where you and your partner are cuddled beneath a blanket, a bold glass of Petite Sirah in-hand, watching your favorite survivors slay zombies so you don't have to.

Luckily, it's not too late to give this gift to your partner. Lot18's set of Walking Dead themed wines bring the taste of the zombie apocalypse to the safety of your living room. Each wine is created to match a specific character's personality, from an acidic Spanish Tempranillo with a warm finish for Michonne to a brawny Bourbon Barrel Red Blend for Negan. A half case includes fan favorites Rick, Maggie, Carol, and Daryl, too. Or, if you're feeling especially thirsty, you can get a full case with two of each for a massive discount. Much like zombies, a Valentine's Day gift this good is a no-brainer.

Overall, sometimes the greatest gift for Valentine's Day, especially during the zombie apocalypse, is the gift of spending time together with your loved ones. So snuggle up close with your partner, pour a glass of red wine into your zombie head mug, and enjoy The Walking Dead.

Get your half case featuring all 6 of The Walking Dead wines here for just $99!

Or, for the thirstier couple click here to get a full case, at an even bigger discount!


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com