Is Streaming Destroying the Movie Theater Business?

Source: Belinda Hankins Miller – originally posted to Flickr as Getting Ready For the Movie, CC BY 2.0,

Andrew Jaramillo, Staff Reporter

While streaming has made accessing movie and television content a breeze, I can’t see movie theaters becoming obsolete because of it. Streaming is great for watching thousands of older titles, but theaters still remain the only way to watch the newest movies.

Charles Rivkin, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, made it clear that he wasn’t worried about the rise of streaming services.

“Everyone has a kitchen, but everyone still goes out to eat,” Rivkin said during a panel back in April, quoting the late Sterling Bagby, a movie theater pioneer.

As long as theaters still have exclusive access to the newest movie titles, they have nothing to fear from what streaming services bring to the table. People are obsessed with owning and seeing the newest things as soon as they can, and movies are definitely not excluded from the hype.

Oddly enough, I’ve never been a fan of going to a theater to sit through a movie. I definitely prefer the comfort of my own home where I have more control over the environment. This hasn’t actually stopped me from going out to see something new in theaters, because even though I thrive on the freedoms of streaming, I still crave new content.

Everyone has a kitchen, but everyone still goes out to eat.

— Sterling Bagby, co-founder of B&B Theatres

Some theater chains such as AMC are taking advantage of streaming’s popularity, starting their own at-home services that give viewers access to newer movies sooner than rivals like Netflix.

“There is a high growth opportunity in this digital expansion,” said Adam Aron, Chief executive of AMC Entertainment, while announcing the launch of AMC Theaters on Demand.

I think AMC is jumping the gun on this one, because iTunes and other on-demand services have already been around for years offering similar “pay-per-view” business models to their consumers. 

Streaming is easy, readily available, and more affordable than going to the movies, but the theaters’ exclusive access to newer content is what really keeps their industry thriving. Will they have to adapt to the streaming-age like AMC? I think it’s a definite possibility, but not now, and not for a long time.