Why Movie Theaters Are Getting Into the Streaming Game

Regional chain Southern Theatres has become the latest company to attach a premium streaming service to its loyalty program

Amid the hard work of reopening after the pandemic, some movie theater chains are venturing into the streaming business — but not to compete with Netflix and the other titans of the home entertainment industry.

Instead, chains like AMC, Alamo Drafthouse and most recently Southern Theatres are using in-house premium on-demand platforms to develop their already-existing customer base and to gather data to fine-tune their marketing strategies. Daniel Loria, editor of Boxoffice, believes that it’s a trend that should have happened a long time ago.

“This push towards e-commerce and customer data is something we’re finally starting to see in U.S. theaters but is something that really should have started five to 10 years ago,” he said. “It is something we will probably see more of in the post-pandemic period.”

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Southern Theatres, which operates 18 multiplexes across eight southeastern states, is launching its streaming service this month and attaching it to its “Reel Rewards” loyalty program. Subscribers to the program will be able to rent films from all five major studios after their theatrical run and before they are released on streaming.

This will help somewhat with ongoing plans by studios to shorten the exclusive theatrical window from its pre-pandemic 90-day length. As Cinemark announced last Friday that it has come to confidential terms with each major studio on release windows, it is becoming increasingly likely that the new window length will change depending on who is releasing the film in question. Regardless of that length, a PVOD service could help a chain extend the amount of time it can capitalize on a film’s popularity.

But Southern President/COO Ron Krueger said that the main goal of the service is to provide an extra perk for the chain’s most loyal customers.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster