OPINION: Say goodbye to movie theaters, streaming services are taking over


Amelia Howell

In 2023, streaming services are expected to grow in popularity while movie theaters fall behind in numbers.

Since 1905, movie theaters have become a staple in the film industry. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, streaming services like Disney+, Netflix, HBO Max and Hulu have impacted the way people watch movies, leaving the theater industry behind. Even with the pandemic mostly in the rearview mirror, streaming services will keep growing while theaters recover. If trends for these services continue into 2023, theater companies will go out of business while streaming services become the main source of revenue for the film industry.

Movie theater corporations were doing well, but sales began to take a major hit from the pandemic. According to an article by TheNumbers.com, movie theater companies in 2019 had a box office revenue of around $11.3 billion. In 2020, revenue tanked to $2 billion. As of 2022, it will have a box office revenue of $7.6 billion. 

The industry is showing signs of recovery, but the situation is nowhere near ideal for movie theater corporations. Theaters contain multiple people in one place, and COVID-19 forced people to quarantine, causing conflict. To step up in its absence, streaming services fulfilled the role of entertainment, leading to the decline of movie theaters.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be problematic for movie theaters, streaming services capitalized. BusinessOfApps.com reported global revenue for streaming services was around $50.5 billion, but with over 200 streaming services available around the world, each streaming service had a revenue of around $253 million. 

When movie theaters closed indefinitely, streaming services began to gain traction as global revenue skyrocketed to $72.2 billion in 2021, with a 2022 revenue of $84.3 billion. Streaming services are expanding at a rapid rate, showing no signs of slowing down. In 2023, they are projected to have a global revenue of $90.8 billion. Due to the success of streaming services over the last few years, all signs are pointing toward streaming services overtaking theaters in the near future. 

Ultimately, the biggest factor comes down to consumers. According to an article by Flixed.io, people would rather stream movies at home because it is more comfortable as they can be in more control of the setting. While a theater experience can enhance viewer experience, it may be time to move on from movie theaters. Streaming services seem to be the future for the film industry. As consumers prefer to watch movies at home, movie theaters are starting to fall out of relevance. 

The future remains unknown for the movie theater industry as it is shrinking at a rapid rate, paling in comparison to streaming services. Offering their own streaming services or changing the time window for consumers to watch new movies are possible solutions, but the attempt to try and stay competitive may not be enough. The end result could hurt movie theater corporations, and that is for the best.