The evolution of the theatrical, entertainment and more generally of the media industry has been going for years in a non-linear direction with the coexistence of multiple audiovisual channels e.g films, series, short films, webseries, influencers, whose borders will increasingly be blurred. We now live in a world of connected screens, including movie theaters, and the “video on demand” economic model and its variants will allow the financing of content production. Indeed this “on demand” model also affects music, information, sports and all types of digital content.
This model includes “networks” which are transmitting digital content as opposed to “cables” which are transmitting content through the ether and the analog. Subscription, advertising, premium services, will be combined to recognize the market value of these “intangible” products, including video games, which satisfy our human need for “stories”.
The adage “content is king” will continue to be true, hence the importance of defending and financing the talents who know how to produce the best content, and will find a new balance with respect to the “context is queen” saying – which according to some observers would have slightly shifted the balance from content producers to context developers. The reality is that there is a type of content that reigns in any type of channel and therefore channels suitable for enhancing any type of content. This could be summarized in the saying “great content finds its way”.
We will therefore have short or long contents, single or serial, designed for the small, medium or large screen, linear or interactive, which can be consumed alone or with people and there will be offers suitable for any type of spending capacity. In this new context, movie theaters will also retain their places because they will always remain unique and unrepeatable – at least until a fully artificial virtual sensory experience in a large cinema room, can be transmitted to our connected brain. This does not mean that the economic model of going to the cinema will remain the same. A new model will perhaps overcome the need to make more efficient the way in which film demand meets supply in cinemas.
This evolution should have continued to occur slowly and progressively, giving the economies of production and distribution, including televisions and exhibitors, time to adjust. Startups would have found new formulas and tried new formats, companies that were the first to launch new channels would have learned to produce relevant content, those who produce cinema and large audiovisual formats would always have found the most suitable channels and theaters would gradually integrate into this ecosystem, with new economic models. I think that in 10 years we would have reached a market made up of some large content distribution platforms on all connected screens, with the best new films and series sold at premium prices (compared to the SVOD or AVOD formulas) which can also be seen on the large screen cinemas perfectly integrated into this ecosystem.
The transformation would not have been “painless” for the players that occupy this market today, as shown by the large concentrations of companies in recent years, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a sector that would not have suffered a contraction, indeed I think we would most likely see a constant expansion, although there are those who predict that AI will also be able to generate films in the future.
The current crisis, on the other hand, risks making this transition much more traumatic than it would have been. I have no idea how much the film industry can resist the closure of theaters, destined to spread around the world, nor how quickly and even if it will be possible to return to previous levels in a world where social proximity could be a price that is willing to pay only for necessary goods and services. However, the crisis is already compromising the balance of many operators and inevitably we will face a different world.
The obvious consideration that the longer this period lasts, the more difficult it may be to return to normal, it should push us to use the time we have available to think about what can be done to be already on the path of the new balance. The major crises have a single advantage which is forcing us to focus on the essentials, preserving the sparks that can restart the system and enabling them to restart engines that are stopping almost everywhere. An attention that should go far beyond the problems of the dream factory.