As many continue to debate the merits of streaming movies versus seeing them in theaters, streaming revenue is set to overtake the worldwide box office by next year. This marks a major turning point for the next era in entertainment.
Top streaming services like Netflix and Amazon got their start as an alternative to renting already theatrically released films, but as people became more accustomed to the convenience of home entertainment, the services soon began creating their own content. Now, following the rapid growth of a wide variety of streaming services, the era of binge-watching has finally given these streaming services the financial upper hand against movie theaters and the worldwide box office. As new as streaming may be, the revenue data speaks for itself.
Streaming services now produce a third of all scripted TV series, and they are now expected to top $46 billion in revenue in 2019 compared to less than $40 billion projected for the worldwide box office. These numbers come courtesy of a study published by Ampere Analysis (via: THR). According to the study, streaming service revenue in the U.S. already outpaced theatrical revenue in 2017, the U.K. market is expected to fall by the end of this year, and China, the world’s second-largest theatrical market, is expected to do the same by next year.
The study found that the most likely reason for this drastic shift in viewer habits comes down to cost. In nine of the 15 markets surveyed in the study, the average price of a cinema ticket was more than the monthly cost of a streaming service subscription. However, the study also found that streaming subscribers tended to be more likely to attend a cinema than those who did not subscribe to a streaming service - more evidence that streaming services are not the death knell to movie theaters, despite these revenue numbers.
While streaming services have gained in popularity, they are still fighting to be recognized as legitimate contenders during award season. Amazon took the route of releasing their projects in theaters prior to placing them on their streaming service, which has resulted in a handful of nominations and a few wins - most notably for Best Screenplay and Best Actor wins for Manchester by the Sea in 2017 at the Academy Awards.
Netflix, on the other hand, has taken a harder line on releasing their original films on their platform simultaneously to limited theatrical runs. Their refusal to play by the rules saw a change in law for the Cannes Film Festival after 2017’s Okja and The Meyerwitz Stories screened there without a typical theatrical release. So far, Netflix has only found limited Oscar success with their documentaries, but this year, with Alfonso Cuarón's critically acclaimed Roma (which Netflix did release theatrically, though in a limited number of theaters, prior to its debut on the streaming platform) landing on many “Best Of” lists and garnering plenty of awards buzz, Netflix might just crack the code to financial and critical success.