This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

Are Documentaries More at Home on Streaming?

Stocks in this article: NFLXAAPLAMZNGOOG

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- You didn't have to buy a ticket to see any of the feature-length documentaries nominated for Academy Awards this year. You just had to have a decent Internet connection, a few bucks and some time on your hands.

Four of this year's five nominees for Best Documentary Feature -- The Act Of Killing, The Square, Cutie and the Boxer and Dirty Wars -- were either already on Netflix or headed there by the time they were nominated. The fifth, 20 Feet From Stardom, was available as a pay-per-view stream through Amazon, Apple's iTunes, Google Play and YouTube when the nominations were doled out.

There's a strong chance that, with few exceptions, this is how the U.S. public is going to see documentary films from now on. It's not to the credit or fault of documentary filmmakers or production companies, mind you. It's the U.S. moviegoer that's increasingly gravitating toward his or her couch and taking this genre with it.

According to BoxOfficeMojo, the 10 top-grossing documentaries of all time in the U.S. -- An Inconvenient Truth ($24.1 million), Sicko ($24.5 million), Katy Perry: Part Of Me ($25.3 million), One Direction: This Is Us ($28.9 million), Chimpanzee ($30 million), Earth ($32 million), 2016 Obama's America ($33.4 million), Justin Bieber: Never Say Never ($73 million), March Of The Penguins ($77.4 million) and Farenheit 9/11 ($119 million) -- were all released within the past decade. With few exceptions -- like 1994's Hoop Dreams ($7.8 million) or 2005's Mad Hot Ballroom ($8.1 million) and The Aristocrats ($6.4 million) -- only polarizing U.S. political polemics, behind-the-scenes pop music tour diaries or cute animals seem to bring out moviegoers in any large numbers.

Last year's top grossing documentary was the One Direction film named above. The next highest-grossing documentary after it, 20 Feet From Stardom, took in roughly one-sixth of One Direction's take ($4.9 million) despite being in theaters since June. Overall, only 133 of the 1,165 documentaries BoxOfficeMojo has documented since 1982 have made more than $1 million.

Generating loads of box-office income isn't really the point of a documentary. By its name, it's supposed to serve as a historic or cultural document and a dispatch from a particular time and place. It's the subject that is all important, not the receipts.

Unfortunately, that doesn't exactly fit the agenda of the modern film industry's costly digital upgrades, vanishing theaters and shrinking audiences. After a brief uptick in movie ticket sales in 2012, movie audiences retreated again in 2013. The number of tickets bought fell 1.3%, to 1.34 billion. That's the seventh downturn in ticket sales within the past decade and only moderately better than the post-recession low of 1.28 million tickets sold in 2011. It's also well below the industry's peak of 1.58 billion tickets sold in 2002 and roughly the same amount of tickets the industry moved in 1996.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 17,195.42 +221.11 1.30%
S&P 500 0.00 -2.75 -0.14%
NASDAQ 4,566.1380 +16.9120 0.37%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs