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Is Netflix Killing the Film Industry?

Friday, 08 March 2019

Marco, Fourth Form

Netflix is revolutionising the way we watch TV. But some fear that Netflix could be closing the curtains on the big screen. So, is there any evidence to suggest that our love for streaming movies at home could spell the end for cinema? Netflix has added a record-breaking number of paid users to its online streaming service, now topping 139 million worldwide. That’s 3 times the number of accounts just 5 years ago. USA is Netflix’s top market globally, with over 40% of all paid users based there.

The company has also invested heavily into producing original content, including big movie blockbusters. Analysts estimate that the company spent $13 billion on titles like Narcos and Bird Box in 2018. That would be enough to make Titanic, one of the most expensive films ever made 65 times. Its efforts seem to be paying off. This year, its critically acclaimed film Roma has earned the streaming service its first best picture Oscar nomination, with 10 in total. You might think that can only benefit the box office, but Netflix has been criticised for showing films in a relatively small number of movie theatres and for a limited time, before streaming them on its own site.

So, are there any signs that cinemas are suffering? Not really. While analysts said that 2017 was a tough year for movie-makers, last year saw a boost for the box office. Worldwide, cinemas made over $41.5 billion, which is 2.6% more than in 2017. There are other reasons to be sceptical of the suggestions that the rising popularity of Netflix is to blame for the perceived decline of cinema. Comparing the trends in cinema revenues and streaming services is very difficult. There are few links that tie the two together, and just because streaming services seem to be doing very well now, this does not mean it is responsible for the possible downfall of cinemas.

The National Association of Theatre Owners in the States found that people who watch a lot of streamed programmes also go to the cinema frequently, while those who don’t subscribe rarely visit the movie theatre either. But this still doesn’t tell us conclusively about how the use of one platform affects people’s cinema habits. It was thought that bringing televisions into homes in the 1950s, could kill off Hollywood too. And, like TV and cinemas, streaming services such as Netflix face a few challenges of their own. Netflix uses debt to finance its spending on content and has said it will raise prices in the USA and in Latin America as it needs to make more cash. The cheapest plan will now be $8.99 a month. That’s about the same price for seeing a movie at a cinema, with a ticket costing on average $8.97 in the US. Could that make streamers switch off? Netflix also has competition of its own in the likes of Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Also, Disney will be launching its own streaming service Disney Plus, which will launch in 2019 and strip Netflix of many of its popular Disney shows. For now, the film industry is still a growing one, and there is no need to panic for movie loves, as the battle for viewers and their cash, is just heating up.

Are there any signs that cinemas are suffering?
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