Filmmaker Patty Jenkins‘ recent comments referring to streaming service exclusive films as “fake movies” underline how streaming platforms fail to adequately promote their content. During a panel at CinemaCon discussing the future of cinema, Jenkins spoke about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on film studios’ dilemma between theaters and streaming platforms. On the lessened promotion of streaming exclusives, Jenkins remarked, “All of the films that streaming services are putting out, I’m sorry, they look like fake movies to me. I don’t hear about them, I don’t read about them. It’s not working as a model for establishing legendary greatness.”
The meteoric rise of streaming services in the film industry has taken a different turn since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 was the first of many blockbusters released under a hybrid same-day streaming model, a decision the director labeled as, “a heartbreaking experience and hugely detrimental to the movie.” Soon after, Warner Bros. committed its entire 2021 slate to concurrent debuts in theaters and on HBO Max due to uncertainty regarding the future state of the pandemic.
Jenkins is right to criticize moving big-budget films to streaming platforms, as they have notoriously failed to generate anywhere near the level of excitement as theater-tailored tentpoles such as those quintessential to the MCU and DCEU. At the core of this trend lies a severe lack of quality advertising on the part of well-known streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, and others. The current state of movie releasing strategies, although everchanging, proves that streaming platforms still cannot match the level of hype produced by the traditional movie theater.
Although it may be a stretch to label streamers’ movies as “fake,” Jenkins is correct in her observation that theater-exclusive films tend to generate more buzz, whereas streaming exclusives aren’t talked about nearly as much. The vast majority of billboards, TV ads, and theatrical previews are typically reserved for the newest movies coming out in theaters rather than upcoming Netflix titles, for example. Additionally, movies released under the hybrid model, such as Marvel’s Black Widow and DC’s The Suicide Squad, opened to impressive theatrical debuts, but soon saw their box office profits dwindle — a trend largely attributed to their availability on streaming platforms. Accordingly, prominent filmmakers like Jenkins have a reasonable incentive to fight to limit their projects exclusively to the big screen and away from streaming services.
Other well-known directors who have been critical of streaming services include Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, and Denis Villeneuve, who blasted Warner Bros. for releasing his movie Dune via the hybrid theater-streaming model. Although recent theatrical exclusive releases like Candyman and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings have seen resounding success at the box office, there’s no telling what the future may hold with concern regarding the delta variant still increasing. Even beyond the immediate threat of the pandemic, the direction of modern cinema is primed to shift toward the employment of streaming platforms as a major release method.