The internet is finally going to change the movie business, and it could cost theaters billions

Technology has upended most of the media industry, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the new movie business: If you want to see most films when they’re released, you have to go to a movie theater to watch them.

That is finally going to change, says MoffettNathanson analyst Robert Fishman, in part because the movie studios want and need it to change, and in part because Netflix is going to push the industry forward whether it likes it or not.

That is probably good news for you, a person who wants to see movies wherever you choose to watch them. That is bad news for the movie theater companies.

The studios are pushing for a new “window” which would let you see a new movie at home, for an extra fee, before the standard 90-day waiting period after it opens in theaters.

And Netflix doesn’t want you to wait at all. It has started aggressively building up a straight-to-streaming library of movies, which could theoretically compete with ones that are in the theaters.

Figuring out what that could mean for the theater operators involves a lot of guesstimating, because it hasn’t happened yet. But Fishman is convinced it is finally coming: He does some back-of-the-envelope math and figures the two moves could cost theater owners up $3.6 billion a year in annual revenue, and as much as 20 percent of their profits.

That has prompted Fishman to downgrade two of the largest theater chains, Cinemark and Regal, to “sell”; both stocks seem unaffected by the call today.

  • Tom

    All well and good, but the real change to the film industry will be when it isn’t controlled by a single tribe to serve their own narrow cultural and propaganda purposes. We have no idea what that change would even look like. Whose stories are waiting to be told?