The Fate of Movie Theaters

By Morris Matalon ‘24, Contributing Writer

Since the start of the pandemic in March, New York City big-screen movie theaters have been closed as a way to curb the spread of the virus amongst large groups of people. This has posed an obstacle to film studios and film distributors who need to make a profit from the money they’ve invested in their many productions set to be released in the spring and summer. The film industry’s solution to this was to distribute these films through pay-per-view and streaming services in order for families across the world to watch these films at their intended release date without violating health codes and putting people in danger. This now poses a threat to the future of in-person movie theaters and whether or not that business model will be viable considering the millions of people who now know the alternative.

The question “Will the concept of the movie theater die?” has been increasingly discussed in recent years. Due to the rise of streaming, people now can watch anything they want anytime they want from the leisure of their own couch. This makes the idea of getting up and going to a crowded and dirty movie theater sound less appealing to the average moviegoer. However, one of the last features keeping movie theaters alive was the exclusivity of the new blockbuster. Pre-pandemic, large theaters had the latest blockbusters and newest releases before they were available for streaming. The movie theater model naturally relies on this concept, especially in the age of the internet.

But now, we can simply walk to our living room and press play to watch that new and exclusive movie. That exclusivity keeping theaters alive is dead. The only thing movie theaters are hoping for now is the chance for people once again to want to go to the movie theater simply because it is a movie theater. Even after the pandemic ends, people will remember the alternative of going to the theater, and may want that to be their only method of film consumption. Yet not everyone was eager to get up at a certain time to walk long distances and buy a ticket only to sit in a loud and crowded theater. People did it because they had to. Now that they know the alternative, the model of the movie theater is at risk.

To finally answer the question about the fate of movie theaters, the fate lies completely in the hands of the consumer. If the average movie-going public is fed up with going to theaters, the suppliers will adapt to their desires. While I personally don’t see the movie theater staying alive, their outcome is in your hands.

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