Do you love watching new shows and movies from the comfort of your couch? If so, you’re not alone. Last year, stay-at-home orders drove more people than ever onto streaming services to be entertained. It was perfect timing for new services like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock, which all launched in 2019 or 2020.
Streaming was on the rise even before the Covid-19 pandemic. “Streaming is a dominant form of viewing because of the two C’s: control and convenience,” says Myles McNutt. He’s a professor of communications and theater at Old Dominion University in Virginia. Unlike traditional television, which allows you to watch only what’s currently airing, you can pick from the streaming services’ huge libraries. It’s also more convenient than hunting down a physical disc like a DVD.
During the pandemic, streaming services also became a way to see new movies that would normally require a trip to a theater. Soul, Wonder Woman 1984, and many others premiered on streaming platforms. “With viewers encouraged to stay at home and movie theaters closed, streaming became the dominant form of mass culture,” says McNutt.
Going forward, it’s possible that studios will continue to release new movies directly to streaming services. But McNutt doesn’t think this is the end for theaters. “The experience of a big dark room, a tub of popcorn, and an emotionally charged crowd remains a key part of what people love about the movies,” he says.