With streaming services changing the way movies are made and distributed, it’s understandable that many are nervous that the days of cinema may be over. Although it’s true that streaming has most likely contributed to the decline of actual cinema attendance, it has also made it possible for movies and shows to get made that may have not been able to in the past.
One of this 2019’s hits, The Irishman had been on Martin Scorsese’s to-do list for over a decade. Although he is one of the most famous directors in the world, it was still hard for him to secure funding for the film. On the Director’s Guild podcast The Directors Cut, Scorsese said that studios wouldn’t back it. But finally, when Netflix approached him, they gave him free reign to do whatever he needed. And that’s why we now have a film with legendary American actors and a revolutionary new 3-camera system. Without the support of Netflix, none of this would have been possible.
Look at Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach’s exploration of a family navigating a cross-country divorce. It’s not the most intriguing of stories at first glance, but with the backing of Netflix, it’s been able to reach a wider audience than it normally would have and is being hailed as one of the best films this year.
Streaming is even saving old film flops. HBO’s new series His Dark Materials is doing much better as a streaming series than it did as a movie. And for shows like Arrested Development which got cancelled despite a huge fanbase, streaming is able to bring them back. Of course, not all are successful, but the fact that streaming companies are able to gamble on these movies and shows is indicative that while there will inevitably be some duds, these services will enable filmmakers to continue telling challenging, diverse stories, even if they are not typical money makers.
Audiences may not be inclined to visit the cinema anymore—but does it matter as long as filmmakers can still make powerful work? Sure, it’s a tradeoff in how we view media, but in many ways, filmmakers and audiences have to accept the idea that streaming is here to stay and it’s better to create within this world than to fight against it.