Skip to main content

Tech Master Musk Defends an Industry Under Threat From Technology

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has made his name and brand on innovation, comes to the aid of an industry that's threatened by -- progress.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Elon Musk is the disrupter in chief.

Tesla's  (TSLA) - Get Free Report CEO has, in less than 20 years, transformed the car industry. The billionaire entrepreneur's premium electric vehicles are perceived by many, in the industry and outside it, as living rooms on four wheels.

Automakers are increasingly competing on the technologies they put into their cars; it is a rare new vehicle that lacks some of the latest innovations.

This revolution has been pushed and accelerated by Tesla and Musk, who are known for delivering over-the-air software updates -- and continuous innovation -- to their customers, as the company describes.

And it's not just cars that he's trying to transform. The richest man in the world and his Neuralink company are developing a machine aimed to enable us to download our brains and personalities. 

What's truly odd, then, is to see Musk defending an industry or economic activity that' actually been threatened by progress. 

And yet that is what he has just done. 

Musk Hopes Movie Theaters 'Never Go Away'

Indeed, during a thread on Twitter, the tech tycoon flew to the aid of cinemas, an industry whose death has been pronounced for several years now. That premature announcement stems from the explosion of streaming video and plus studios' decisions during the pandemic to release movies as premium video on demand.

It all started with a Twitter user recounting his experience after quitting Diet Coke.  (KO) - Get Free Report The writer explains that his health has not changed and that he is less happy. 

Musk commented by praising Diet Coke. He then took the opportunity to slip two compliments to movie theaters. The second one sounds like a cry from the heart.

"Diet Coke is amazing, especially the soda fountain version at movie theaters with salt & butter popcorn," Musk said.

"There’s something special about enjoying movies in a theater with total strangers," the billionaire added. "I hope that never goes away."

The post has generated many comments. A user asked which movie Musk most recently saw in a movie theater. The billionaire answered without hesitation: "'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.'" 

He added that he would probably go see "Top Gun 2."

"I heard Top Gun 2 is good. Will check it out."

A Big Shakeup

Questions about the threat that streaming poses to cinemas have spread with the covid-19 pandemic and its related societal restrictions and lockdowns.

The pandemic led many theaters across the U.S. to close, which in turn caused enormous upheaval, and financial losses, in the cinema industry. Indeed, the major studios decided to release some of their blockbusters on their streaming platforms.

In spring 2020, as the pandemic took hold, Universal  (CMCSA) - Get Free Report said that "Troll World Tour" would be released early as premium video on demand, from theatrical to home release. The starting price was $19.99 for a 48-hour rental. 

The studio maintained that it was committed to theatrical releases and that PVOD was only an option.

In December 2020, Warner Bros.  (WBD) - Get Free Report said that 17 major films would debut on the streaming service HBO Max the same day they hit theaters in the U.S.

"We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said Ann Sarnoff, chairwoman and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, at the time. 

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021."

As for Walt Disney,  (DIS) - Get Free Report the studio decided to make its blockbusters "Soul" and "Luca" available only on Disney+, in hope that it would generate interest for the streaming platform.

The blockbuster "Mulan," with a budget of $200 million, was released only for Disney+ subscribers as well. 

And last January, Disney angered many fans when the studio said that the newest Pixar film, "Turning Red," would be available only to stream on Disney+.

The cinema industry's difficulties are illustrated by those at AMC Entertainment  (AMC) - Get Free Report. The group's stock fell 53%, to $12.78, in 2022 through the close of trading June 9.