Another content service provider, Spafax, works with carriers like Delta and Alaska on forming an entertainment strategy and brokering deals. "They're in the room with us when we're working with Fox and Warner and Disney," Scotland says. "I'll say that we've got a really strong relationship with two studios in particular where we can say, 'Here's our budget.'"
Each airline-studio deal differs depending on size and entertainment needs: some have an all-you-can-eat plan where there's a flat fee for unlimited content, while others may pay per movie. "A deal between Disney and JetBlue is a very different deal between Disney and Emirates," says Kelly.
Informed by similar data points and driven by the consolidated business model, every airline finds itself pulling from a similar pool of films, which is why we tend to see crowd-pleasers like superhero movies, La La Land, Battle of the Sexes, Goodbye Christopher Robin, and The Hitman's Bodyguard on a handful of major flights. Only carriers who've worked out major deals with movie studios -- like JetBlue has with Disney's upcoming A Wrinkle in Time -- land exclusive titles that can debut a few weeks to a month before all other airlines. It's these partnerships with studios -- and most importantly, those with the blockbuster hits that passengers are dying to see -- that airlines hope translate to impressionable, in-flight experiences that are subtle, but which they believe are the difference between your next round-trip decision.