The Theatrical Release Window: Will the Changes Last?

Streaming services and the pandemic are threatening to permanently change the basic economics and mechanics of the movie industry.

The "theatrical release window" — that period of time in which new movies are available only in theaters — has long been the defining factor for how and when audiences view feature films. For decades, you would have to wait three months after a movie was released in theaters before you could watch it at home.


With COVID-19, a traditional theatrical run has been nearly impossible. Because of this, studios have pursued other release avenues in an effort to recoup the cost of a film and test different direct to consumer strategies. Starting with "Wonder Woman 1984" last Friday, Warner Bros. will release all of its 2021 films simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters. Disney has also made aggressive moves in the streaming world by releasing "Mulan" exclusively on Disney Plus, as well as announcing a slew of feature film titles that will live solely on their streaming platform. And with everything from revenue sharing economics to consumer data at play, the theatrical release window may see permanent changes.

So why is the traditional release window under attack -- and what do you really need to know about it? On this installment from our "dot.LA Explains" series, host Kelly O'Grady runs through the key factors that may impact whether this shift lasts.Watch to learn more about the theatrical release window, and follow us on Instagram for daily video content.

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