Nov 5, 2019 - Economy

Old Hollywood takes on streaming services' new reality

Data: PricewaterhouseCoopers; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Data: PricewaterhouseCoopers; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Legendary Hollywood filmmaker Martin Scorcese is clearing up controversial comments he made last month that Disney's Marvel movies are "not cinema" and instead are akin to theme park rides.

Why it matters: Scorcese's comments reflect a greater sentiment of old-guard Hollywood pushing back against the franchising of action films and the greater digitization of movies in today's cinema landscape.

  • Earlier this year, Steven Spielberg suggested a rules change that would disqualify movies from Oscars consideration that debut on streaming services or only appear in a short theatrical window.

Driving the news: In an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, Scorcese argued that with Marvel movies, there's "nothing at risk" and no "revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger."

  • "They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit," he writes.
  • Disney Chairman Bob Iger said not too shortly before the release of Scorcese's statements, "Anyone who has seen a Marvel film could not in all truth make that statement."

The big picture: The comments come as more digital Hollywood firms, like Netflix, push the boundaries of how soon they can release their Oscar hopeful films on their own digital platforms after first releasing them in theaters, to be eligible for awards.

  • Most recently, Netflix agreed to a month-long theatrical release of its new hit "The Irishman," directed by Scorcese, but theater owners argue that it wasn't a long enough moment of exclusivity for them.

The bottom line: The economics don't mode well for the theater chains, but they aren't miserable either. U.S. cinema revenue continues to plateau as ticket prices increase, suggesting that theater-viewing isn't dead yet. Digital movie-viewing, however, continues to skyrocket.

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