Movie Theaters: Can the Show Go On?


Dim lights, darkened aisles, reclining leather chairs, and a giant screen. Could a place like this become obsolete? Going into 2020, avid movie-goers were ready for a new decade of film. Disney fanatics prepared for live-action renderings of old favorites and Marvel fans anticipated the start of phase 4 in their treasured franchise. Quickly, these dreams were pushed back by the COVID-19 pandemic. Movie theaters would only provide a festering environment for the virus with their shared seats and packed theaters. As of March 17, 2020, AMC closed their doors temporarily. However, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the move will be permanent. 

Streaming has been a threat to the theater industry for many years. Netflix has longtime viewers under their belt, and other services like Disney+ and HBO Max are catching up. While the pandemic bodes ill for theaters, it also does for the big corporations. Seeking to earn back possible box office revenue, Disney experimented with “Premier Access” releasing their live-action Mulan for an additional $29.99 on their own streaming service. Recently, they dropped Pixar’s Soul on the service as well, at no additional cost. HBO Max followed closely, releasing the incredibly delayed Wonder Woman 1984. These decisions loom over the movie industry, threatening to condemn movie theaters. 

The largest threat to theater chains is the decision-making at film studios. In early December, WarnerMedia announced what many believe to be a death sentence to movie theaters. All of their theatrical releases for 2021 are to be released in theaters and their own streaming service simultaneously. Yet progress towards public safety is slow, and many won’t risk their health to go into a theater when they could just watch from home. Now, other companies have to face the same challenge. Fans are decidedly against streaming for delayed films like Marvel’s Black Widow, believing regardless of the wait, the film deserves a theatrical release.  

Although large companies are thrilled at the prospect of a future of streaming, the people are less than satisfied. Viewers hold movie theaters close to their hearts, the feeling of stepping into the dark and crowded theater with friends and being immersed in the giant screen is simply unmatched by streaming. Especially after being locked up for what’s approaching a year, people need that classic and comforting experience. Perhaps we can hold off on claiming movie theaters are dead. The first place you’ll see me post-pandemic? Gearing up with my ICEE, popcorn, and candy.