The Documentary Film Bubble

The Documentary Film Bubble

At this point, it can be said that the documentary film market is booming. More documentary films are being produced and watched than ever before, and their cultural and political influence is unprecedented.

However, this has led some industry insiders to believe that we’re experiencing a bubble–one that is likely to burst. Some argue that the industry isn’t doing as well as everyone believes. Is this really the case? Only time will tell, but some indicators seem to suggest as much.

Netflix Effect

One reason for the sudden popularity of documentaries is the so-called “Netflix Effect”. It is easier than ever to find and stream films, due to services such as Netflix that make it easier for the average viewer. This, however, is not a surefire way to measure engagement. The playing field continues to grow more crowded, and saturation is setting in. It’s likely that Netflix’s domination of the field will not survive long-term.


There’s money to be made in online content streaming, and competitors to Netflix are stepping up for their share. The biggest competitor is currently Disney+, but Amazon and new services provided by Apple are worthy contenders as well. This is all likely to affect the average documentary viewer, but not always in a positive way. There will surely be more streaming sites to choose from, but most users will limit themselves to just one or two.

The State of Festivals

Many important festivals shape the film industry as a whole, and these types of events are only growing in numbers. Festivals often help fund small and struggling filmmakers, and is a way to counter the more traditional film industry of California.


This phenomenon is most noticeable in fictional film, but can be found with documentaries as well. Traditional movies are no longer the dominant art form, with great storytelling happening in serialized form. Serialization allows for more time and space to express complicated ideas, and viewers are tuning in to watch.

Societal Issues

We live amid interesting times, with constant societal changes brought about by politics as well as far more complex forces. These changes are not always pleasant, but they offer endless fodder for the documentary film industry. There’s a lot to explore, explain and unpack, and documentaries are one of the best ways to do it.

Is it There a Bubble?

In the end, the question remains: is this popularity a bubble, or a long-term trend we can rely on for years to come? Experts claim it both is and isn’t. Some facets of the industry point to the fact that a long-term profitable streak is on the horizon for documentary filmmaking.