Movie Theaters’ Painful Future Against 4 Growing Trends

America is back…just not in movie theaters, which is a more somber note than it seems.

As the Coronavirus begins to slowly subside, it is possible we may never be the same about going out in public. Rather, we will need to adopt new norms to enjoy the same ol’, same ol’.

Among some of the hardest hit industries has been cinema, specifically movie theaters. Films will always be made, but how we enjoy them may never go back to how it used to be — in the comforts of a pleather recliner clutching to a $10 box of Milk Duds.

Think about it: How has everyone gotten in their fix for entertainment since they haven’t been able to venture out to movie theaters — streaming.

They’re safe, sound, and at home. And, they’re probably in the same clothes they’ve been wearing for six days straight. Movie theaters offer comfort and eardrum-popping sound, but people are considering the comforts of home versus the experience of cinema. Are you?

Statistics of Movie Theaters and Staying Home

Movie theaters closing due to COVID-19
Credit: Rebecca Rubin/Variety

Currently, the global cinema market is facing a $5 billion loss in the face of COVID-19. It took decades to make an Avatar or Avengers: Endgame. Without a juggernaut like that, movie theater chains may never come back. Why? In only three months of struggling with a worldwide public health crisis, cinephiles are learning something that may have never been realized otherwise:

I don’t need to see a film in movie theaters to really enjoy it. 

The problem for the struggling megalopolis brands (i.e., AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Marcus) is the people who were filling those seats now watching VOD look at their wallet noticing there is still money in there.

Rise of theater ticket prices 2001-2019 Look at the roller coaster on-ramp from Statista highlighting the trajectory of North American movie theaters’ ticket prices. In 2001, it cost $5.66 to see a movie. Then, 18 years later, we dole out $9.16. That’s a staggering 62% increase. 

Oh yeah, that doesn’t count the astronomical $9 soda and $15 for a bite to eat. Some folks can’t afford the cinematic experience and it took COVID-19 to realize it was an expense that one could possibly live without.

Because of the financial implications and battle against Coronavirus, there are four potential trends that could balloon for cinephiles and geckaphiles alike and greatly affect what’s next for movie theaters in the coming months.

Bargain Movies

$1 movies
Source: WXYZ-TV/ABC-7, Detroit

If you are a more seasoned cinephile like me, you remember the glorious $1 movie theater. Once the buzz has eroded, spoilers have been leaked, and promotions has ended, you could see every summer blockbuster two months later for $1 each. It was awesome.

Remember how much everything is costing just to get to the theater? What if it didn’t cost that much? Would that help your public health concerns a little?

You know social distancing will be implemented for ticket sales and placement. You know everything will be sterilized, from doorknobs to seats to toilet handles. And you know fabric seats are about to go the way of the dinosaur, cue cat, rotary phones, VHS tape, and smart television on free TV. (That means leather recliners for all.)

If cinema owners want to get butts in seats, plea to their pocketbooks. Bring back the almighty dollar…theater. That’s always how people vote.

Drive-in Movie Theaters

Drive-in movie theaters making a comeback amid COVID-19

Back in my beautiful downtown area of my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas rests the divine Coyote Drive-in. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a renaissance among the drive-in theater. People finally realized they could actually go to the movies, stay in their car, and remain in compliance with social distancing.

Nothing changed except for public perception so drive-ins are in the middle of a righteous comeback. Prior to this mess, I would be there frequently, but lately, I’m a stockholder. And it doesn’t even matter that every “new” movie has been delayed to Q4 or even 2021. This was a retro double-header with Back to the Future I and II. Greatness.

Today, these havens of health are considered “low-risk businesses,” which mean while they are not considered essential by health standards, they are definitely permissible to stay open. And thank the good Lord for that. You can’t replace the cinema experience, only enhance it.

Ironic. It took this Coronavirus mess for us to realize the quality of cinema by literally going back to the future. Drive ins were then but today, they are now.

Streaming Finds a Home

Amazon may purchase AMC Theaters to protect them from bankruptcy during Coronavirus
Source: Shutterstock, File

Amid this pandemic, theaters are taking a bath because no one is around to go to the movies and spend half a paycheck on refreshments. So, Jeff Bezos smells more than popcorn — that’s opportunity tickling his nostrils.

AMC Theaters, the world’s largest theater chain, is swirling the drain with claims of potential bankruptcy protection due to the overwhelming amount of debt it picked up as liquidity just to stay open. You know, while their doors were closed. With its stock down 50% and more than $5 billion in debt, the rumor mill began spinning about a corporate takeover.

Enter the opportunistic Bezos to buy a new toy on the cheap. One word of that rumor caused AMC’s stock to spike 38.4%. That’s one day. There’s another reason that collecting a trinket of free capitalism — Oscar.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has a problem with streaming networks making movies, releasing them via Internet, and trying to collect Oscars. Netflix has purchased defunct theaters to release its contenders for a run; thus, stifling the old farts at AMPAS and forcing them to give movies like Marriage Story, The Irishman, and Roma its much deserved gold.

Prime Video could do the same thing with AMC screens and streaming could really take over Hollywood. For cinephiles, it doesn’t matter. If films are good, they’re just good. And if watched from home, they cost so much less, which is nice too. So, suck it, Oscar. Streaming is finding the loopholes.

VOD

COVID-19 forcing films out of theaters and into VOD
Sources (L to R): Working Title Films, Pixar, Universal

Hollywood can’t keep delaying movie releases. Even the beautiful people have to make a paycheck, which is why Video On Demand is becoming the latest trend to stick it to movie theaters. Most national houses have shuttered their doors and even if they wanted to be open, who would go without careful inspection of sanitizing of arm rests and toilet seats?

The impressive recreation of Universal’s classic The Invisible Man and Cathy Yan’s glorious reintroduction of Harley Quinn with Birds of Prey were the first two to enter our homes early. Both VOD releases helped make a nice profit for each film. Trolls World Tour and Emma caught wind of that and thought to jump in the deep end of the virus-ridden pool. Then, Onward was released on Disney Plus.

Dominoes fell. Movies delayed. Hollywood smiled. Movies theaters wept. Here is why, courtesy of Variety.

This is the mass total of closed movie theaters in the U.S.

I guess the old adage is being updated in the face of COVID-19 also. Pity.

The show must go on…line.

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