The Fall Guy’s Digital Release Reveals a Devastating Cinematic Shift

You need more than just a pretty face.

Universal Pictures

There’s been a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the theatrical movie experience ever since the streaming age began, but lately it seems like we’ve all but chiseled the movie theater’s tombstone. As ticket prices rise and movies hit the home market faster than ever, casual viewers have more reasons to stay home than go out. But Hollywood, of course, hasn’t abandoned the theater, and one recent movie’s failure reveals the path forward.

Universal Pictures surprised everyone when it announced that its latest Ryan Gosling vehicle, The Fall Guy, would be available to rent or buy digitally just two weeks after its theatrical release. As of today, you can catch the movie in theaters or watch it from your couch for about the same price.

Ryan Gosling wasn’t enough to draw audiences to theaters, prompting an early digital release.

Universal Pictures

This seems like a big blow to the blockbuster model, or at least a bad omen for a summer schedule full of huge upcoming releases. But The Fall Guy didn’t flop because it’s a flashy blockbuster; it flopped because it’s just a flashy blockbuster. Having a big movie star and a big budget isn’t enough anymore. A movie needs to be an event.

Dune: Part Two was a spectacle that demanded to be seen on the biggest screen possible. “Barbenheimer” was a cultural phenomenon that had fans dressing up in their finest pink garb. The Fall Guy is fun, but seeing Gosling make quips and outrun explosions doesn’t feel like anything new. It’s a movie seemingly designed to make you say, “Eh, why not?” as you scroll through a streaming service.

Gosling stole the show in Barbie because the movie was a cultural event.

Warner Bros.

The Fall Guy’s failure isn’t a mortal blow to blockbusters but a reminder that non-event movies are riskier than ever. It’s likely we’ll see more movies like The Fall Guy be made cheaper and go straight to streaming, while studios will take even bigger swings with their theatrical releases. Oppenheimer all but demanded you take a trip outside the living room. The Fall Guy did not.

The blockbuster isn’t dead yet... but it will have to change again. For better or worse, audiences would rather watch movies like The Fall Guy from home, no matter how charming Ryan Gosling is. Expect strategies to change accordingly.

The Fall Guy is now available to rent or own on digital platforms.

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