Warner Bros. woke up this morning to some really sad, but ultimately predictable news this morning. Their $50 million some odd sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, literally died in theaters this past weekend, with possible losses of more than $20 million expected to come home to roost.
That news would be a shock for just about any studio, especially with a Stephen King property. Warner Bros. New Line Cinema imprint has been able to practically print its own money with the It franchise, so why wouldn’t Doctor Sleep wake up in theaters?
Well, for one, maybe no one cares. Doctor Sleep is a sequel to a movie that came out 40 years ago, and despite solid reviews and favorable word of mouth, might not have what it takes to pull people away from their home viewing experience. Doctor Sleep is in no way grabbing the post-Millennial generation that made It such a smash hit.
There is also the 800 pound gorilla in the room: why should anyone go to a theater for anything other than a marquee release anymore, anyway? Doctor Sleep will doubtless hit HBO Max when the streaming service hits in 2020. I’m sure plenty of potential movie goers would rather watch all but a Big Budget Bonanza in the comfort of their own homes.
And it’s not like going to the movies is always a good time. You pay for your ticket, get your snacks, and then hope to hell someone isn’t talking through the film, or staring at their phone, or, worst yet, bringing their baby in. There is nothing like paying good money to have to hope that other patrons will actually shut up and watch the damned movie. Imagine sitting through Doctor Sleep with a screaming baby in the theater. Sure, it might not happen, but do I really want to deal with that?
Now, here we are on the cusp of what I think might accelerate the death of the modern, retail cinema experience. Within 12 hours or so of this article being written, Disney + will be hitting televisions around the country, with The Mandalorian bringing the first big-budget Star Wars story to the small screen. It’s all together possible that audiences will see a show like this and start to wonder if the whole retail cinema experience is even worth it. If the studios start bringing major budget productions directly to home screens, why would we bother leaving the house?
Don’t get me wrong here. The group cinema experience can be extraordinary— electrifying, communal, and sacred to a degree. But let’s not kid ourselves. All but the sure bets are failing now, and all bets are off for what’s next.
Now, I have to take a nap. Disney + hits my region at 4am, and there is no way in hell I’m going to be late for The Mandalorian.