Photo by Karina Murray ’22
It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon. You decide it’s a good day to head to the movies; your favorite blockbuster just came out with a sequel. After picking up some friends on the way, you are welcomed into the theater with the scent of buttery popcorn and people buzzing with excitement to see the long-awaited and highly anticipated film of the year. You sit down in a big, comfy chair as the satisfying Coca-Cola advertisement of the soda being slurped out of the glass fills the screen. It’s movie time. Or is it?
The coronavirus has been detrimental to the movie theater industry globally. The coronavirus pandemic paired with the increase of movie accessibility from home raises questions of whether the moviegoing experience will ever return to normal.
A report from the Los Angeles Times lacks confidence that it will.
“The sustained closures are taking a huge bite out of the theatrical movie business,” the Los Angeles Times reported, “effectively quashing the traditional summer box office season that normally accounts for 40% of annual ticket sales. Wedbush Securities estimates that the North American box office will total $4.4 billion in 2020, down 61% from last year.”
Not only were movie theaters themselves closed for several vital months, but the production of films also ultimately slowed to a standstill during the pandemic. While production has started up again now, the setback will cost the industry millions of dollars and has increased popularity of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
According to BBC News, “Almost 16 million people created accounts in the first three months of the year… that is almost double the new sign-ups it saw in the final months of 2019.”
While some believe that the convenience and efficiency of these streaming services could be detrimental to the movie theater industry, others believe that this boom in home streaming is temporary.
According to a Business Insider article written in April, “51% of US respondents reported watching [Netflix] more due to the pandemic.”
The direct correlation between the pandemic and increased streaming poses concerns for its sustainability. As the quarantined nature of the pandemic digresses, this number will likely continuously decrease as people return to lives of normalcy. In fact, some people believe that the moviegoing experience is more necessary than ever as these tough times are endured, and some are even optimistic that theaters will bounce back stronger than ever before.
“History has shown that during difficult times, people seek entertainment, specifically movies, in order to escape,” Lauren Bullock, a Staples media teacher, said. “So over the past 100 years, the way in which we escape through entertainment has evolved with television and the internet, yet the movie theaters have remained. Why? Because watching a film is enhanced by the communal experience of the theater. People need people to share experiences, especially during difficult times.”
Whether the moviegoing experience will ever return to normal is still up for debate; the movie industry is being challenged with several threats, including movie theater closures due to coronavirus, streaming service giant overtakes and stunted production of films as a result of the pandemic. If it manages to survive these threats, it could bounce right back stronger than ever before. But one thing is for sure: the moviegoing experience will always possess a certain magic that simply cannot be replicated at home.
“I think most people do think that a movie theater is an oasis,” Lee Peterson, manager of Cinema Village said to BBC. “A haven of safety where you can come and leave everything out there behind.”