The future of entertainment, and the film industry specifically, is of great interest and importance. Times are changing and what worked as recently as 10 years ago may already be obsolete. Major studios are either folding entirely (Fox) or launching their own in-house streaming services (Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal) to better compete with deep-pocketed tech companies such as Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Apple (AAPL). There’s a costly arms race being waged for notable content creators and valuable intellectual property. Branded entertainment has become the only consistently viable lane to operate in as the theatrical movie model continues to constrict.
Someone who appears to see both the worthwhile upside and concerning downsides of the streaming industry’s impact on entertainment is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.
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“We’re entering this age of streaming where things are so immediate and all of a sudden you have a new show, eight episodes of a new brilliant show that comes on that you can watch almost every other day,” DiCaprio recently told Variety. “So when you’re talking about a movie that’s shot on film where you have all of Hollywood Boulevard that like physically transformed into 1969 with no CGI, this is kind of a real throwback to an era of filmmaking we’re not going to see anymore.”
Theatrical ticket sales have steadily declined in the U.S. since 2002 as enticing at-home options and the television boom have reshuffled the entertainment hierarchy. Cinema used to be the big ticket draw and now it’s fighting desperately against the gravitational pull of our couches.
“In a way it is a bit of a dinosaur,” DiCaprio said. “I just hope we’re going to have this communal theatrical experience of going to see a great piece of art all together and enjoy it.”
Blockbuster filmmaking is a studio’s best box office bet in today’s IP-driven ecosystem. But that doesn’t leave a ton of room for mid-budget, adult-skewing fare. There’s a reason smaller studios such as Blumhouse, A24 and even Paramount Pictures have all signed partnership deals with major streamers. The movie theater experience will never die, but DiCaprio may be one of the last throwback stars of Hollywood’s old guard model.