College students rely on streaming for pandemic amusement

Among the numerous aspects of daily life that the COVID-19 pandemic has altered, Cal Poly Pomona students’ consumption of media and entertainment has endured rapid and fundamental change.

While binging a Netflix show or rediscovering childhood favorites on Disney Plus were welcome pastimes for CPP students before the pandemic, it is now a necessity to stay entertained at home. Heading to the theater for a movie night is now a thing of the past.

Within the past year, two new major streaming services have been launched: HBO Max and Universal’s Peacock. Now, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus are the primary way for many students to watch their favorite movies and television shows.

“Being forced into quarantine has taken away other options and people have realized that it’s really convenient,” said second-year theater student Levon Guaderrama, discussing the popularity of streaming services. “You can’t ignore the option of convenience.”

Guaderrama, who worked for a theater chain, believes that the theatrical experience is heading toward becoming a “niche experience.”

While the option of logging into a streaming service and watch a film or television show right at home is indeed convenient, there are also students who argue that watching a film in theaters with an audience is part of the experience.

Jackie Zamora, a third-year political science student, prefers sitting in the movie theater for the special experience.

“I like the personal touch of walking in and getting the ticket stub,” said Zamora. “I believe movie theaters will have a comeback because people will be seeking things that we took for granted prior to the pandemic.”

Movie theaters, which were required to shut down in many states due to the pandemic, have struggled. Variety reported on Nov. 2 that in its most recent earnings period, AMC theaters — one of the biggest cinema chains in the country —suffered a 90.9% drop in revenue.

Despite the hit that the theater business has taken in 2020, there is also the view that the unique experience it provides will be what helps it to endure post-pandemic. With the ongoing delays of big-budget event films like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Black Widow,” theaters will need to continue to adjust to the constantly changing market and local health mandates.

“The theater will still exist after the pandemic because it’s one of those experiences that you can’t get anywhere else,”said Alejandro Ceja, a fourth-year sociology student.

When discussing his preferred method of watching movies, Ceja added that “the theater experience is one of the best ways” because “it cannot be replicated at home.”

The way the film industry adapted to the theater shutdowns has also altered how films in 2020 are distributed. Early year releases like “The Invisible Man” and “Bloodshot,” which both debuted in theaters, were released digitally much earlier than normal to adjust to theater shutdowns. Disney’s “Mulan,” one of the studio’s biggest planned releases for the year, skipped its theatrical release entirely and went straight to the company’s streaming service.

“I didn’t get Disney Plus and Hulu until the pandemic started and now, I use it all the time,” said Dalia Zeno, a fifth-year international business student. “I prefer streaming movies because I can stream them whenever I want.”

As the movie theater industry continues to shift and adapt to the ongoing pandemic, consumers and the streaming service market are having to do so as well.

“They’re just very different experiences,” said Katrina Standon, a fourth-year theater student. “I’ve always liked just being able to watch a movie at home. For seeing a movie for the first time, I like being in the theater with people experiencing it.”

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