I like Patrick, and he makes some good points.
But there is one fatal flaw with his thesis, one culprit he did not even consider.
Prestige TV. Obviously this isn’t new, shows like The Wire and Sopranos have existed for 20 years now, but there has been an expansion and increased footprint for them. As home experienced have improved with things like relatively cheap 4K sets and access to more streaming delivery options, the prestige TV set has absolutely eaten the lunch of the, as he puts it, adult dramas.
Going to the movies is an expensive hassle. Tickets run $15 or more in most places, the experience can be very variable, and if you have kids the logistics and cost are prohibitive at times. Add it all up and to justify going to a movie theater there has to be some justification. There needs to be something about that film that just isn’t the same at home. A movie like Mission Impossible can clear that bar, but a serious drama absolutely can not. Dune will be day one for me, but Killers of the Flower Moon is marginal. While I absolutely am interested in the later, my wife is less so and I am not likely to force the issue for a movie that will be just as good at home for a fraction of the cost.
The reality is that the quality and quantity of serious dramas available as miniseries or regular TV series has increased a lot, and home experience quality has improved. The theatrical serious drama was on life support pre Covid, but once Covid forced things I think whatever lingering connection those had to the theatrical experience has been largely severed.
Same with comedies. Now, granted, I’m quite down on the bulk of American comedies for the last mumble decades. So much lowest common denominator crap, as exemplified by gestures at everything Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider. But even so there have been good ones. Thing is I can watch something like Ted Lasso at home, and get a smart comedy with excellent writing. There isn’t anything that would justify the effort to see a comedy in theaters unless I can take the kids. At best it is equal in quality, for much higher cost.
So a lot of genres just don’t make sense to go see in theaters, and it largely has to do with the quality of what’s available at home. Which, yeah, is related to streaming but is separate still. I think a lot of people, especially the group in their 30’s and 40’s with kids, found the home experience is now good enough that movie theaters only make sense for truly exceptional experiences.
I mean this year has actually been the most active movie theater year for me in a decade. Spiderverse, Oppenheimer, Barbie, Mission Impossible, Guardians 3, Ant Man, Mario, maybe one or two more I’m forgetting right now. Twice as many movies as previous years in theaters, really. Partly because my son is now old enough to go with. Add in movies like Killers of the Flower Moon which I absolutely will watch once they hit Apple TV, and it’s a great year.
But it’s a tall ask to ignore the impact the home experience has in changing what makes sense to go to the theater for.