Opinion: Disney is Killing the Theatrical Experience

This opinion piece was originally formed as a review of the recently released Ant-Man film. I for the life of me could not find the energy to see it. From its promise of a greater universe (and better films) to its lackluster visuals, it simply isn’t worth the trip. But then comes the ever-aching problem of waiting, I could simply wait two months to watch this on Disney+. This is part of a major problem; Disney has conditioned audiences to wait for streaming. Disney among others has ruined the theatrical experience by removing its purpose. Why go to a theatre when you can spend $8 to watch it at home, in a quiet environment, albeit in a worse format. The theatrical experience thrives off exclusivity, community, and bigger, better screens. If we strip this away, it’s an empty hall with holes that art and people should fill. Disney has ruined the theatre-going experience by removing the sense of exclusivity and ruining our sense of wonder from their films. Part of this issue is how stale their films have been, the biggest example being Marvel Studios.

               Marvel Studios has a major problem, they can’t create unique, interesting stories, that get audiences into seats. There are a lot of nuances to this topic, but something that certainly hasn’t helped is lackluster films. Countless films are being released but for the most part, audiences only care for bigger exciting films. For the longest time, the MCU has provided a sense of grand, exciting storytelling that rewards its fans by connecting these films to make a cohesive story. The MCU has become less about creating a grand universe and more about providing homework to its viewers. From its foray into television programming, to lackluster films, the MCU has become less about seeing interesting films and more about hoping for something better down the line. The hope that a better, much grander film is coming has been the main marketing push for the most recent Ant-Man film. With this growing problem of poor films, we see the revelation that most of their visual dullness comes from the exploitation of VFX workers.

               Marvel would rather release unfinished products and make record profits than evolve their process. These films are made in a vacuum, they’re filmed quickly using new technology, and allow VFX artists to finish the job. The problem is just how fast they expect these films to be finished. Last year we saw the revelation that Marvel Studios has become one of the worst studios to work for in the VFX industry. Creating insane deadlines that force VFX artists to work 80+ hour weeks, requiring unnecessary changes, and offering little in pay for the workers. The proof is in the pudding, and we can see in their recent projects, that their films and shows feature poor CGI that will age like milk. Marvel Studios does this because they make record profits every time. Unless they see a dip in profits, they have no reason to release less, and support VFX workers unless those artists choose to unionize.

               This brings us back to Disney, their treatment of the theatrical experience paints a dire look for the industry. Filmmakers want their stories told, they want audiences to gather at those huge screens and witness something unique. Disney doesn’t necessarily care about this experience. They would rather release a decent film for maybe two months and promote their lackluster streaming service. This is not exclusive to Disney either, Warner Bros, Peacock, and more would have to be forced to extend theatrical periods for their films. Rare exceptions like Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun Maverick had extensive theatrical periods and gigantic box office grosses. This is because they took the time to make something exciting for filmgoers and audiences time to see it once and maybe twice. If we give films a chance and realize there is still a future for theatres, we can and should produce films that incentive people to visit their theatres.

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios and Disney.

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