Will Movie Theaters Survive COVID-19?
And if they don’t, do you care?
This is a very unfortunate time to own a movie theater. I remember when I was in middle school (2008ish) and my parents were seriously considering purchasing a video rental store in our small town. Ultimately they decided against it and it’s a good thing since Redbox hit our town right after they told the shop owner no. We all felt bad for the woman, but looking back, she very well might have known what was coming down the pike, being in the industry and all. Anyway, Redbox was the thing, remember? But wait, Redbox! Not so fast! Right around the bend was Netflix, who all but sealed the fate of the floundering video rental stores. Netflix was such a hit that dozens of other streaming services followed.
Jump ahead to 2020 and the global pandemic from which we are still not out of the woods. Now hear me out, I know movie theaters were already struggling. Think about the fact that only Marvel-type movies seem to be made these days. The reason for that is that studios need to make a TON of money now on films in order to stay afloat. Therefore, a lot of studios are working with streaming services on-the-cheap to produce quality films quicker and with the ability to reach millions more people than the theater experience would afford. Think about it…$9.00 a month for hundreds (if not thousands) of movies on Netflix or $11-$15 for a single movie ticket at a theater? On Netflix (or Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.) if a movie sucks, guess what? You turn it off and try another one. No harm, no foul, no extra money out of your pocket. You also don’t have to return any movies to a store, Redbox, or forfeit your ability to hit “pause” for a bathroom break or phone call like in the theater. If you love the movie, you can watch it on a loop. No one cares and you don’t pay a penny more than that low monthly subscription.
So yeah, theaters were already struggling. They sure as hell didn’t need a mass pandemic to drive the knife in any further.
The question is less, “Will theaters survive COVID-19?” and more, “Do we really care if they don’t?”
I polled 100 of my social media followers to get an answer to that question, and a few others. Here’s the results:
72% said they have not gone to the movie theater since the first lockdown in March
63% said they don’t miss the theater experience (the top reason cited was cost).
6% said they (or someone they knew) lost a job at a movie theater due to COVID.
87% said they prefer to stream movies
13% said they would rather go to the theater at least twice a month than to stream all of their films
I think that if theaters are going to stay relevant, and certainly for the sake of survival, they need to find a way to bring down the prices and come up with some creative ticket packages. For example, did you know that there is a 1,275% mark-up on movie theater popcorn? Come on, man. That is totally unnecessary. That statistic alone kind of makes me want to root against them. About those creative ticket packages, some Cinemarks had started to screen older movies before COVID hit. You could get 5 classics for a set price (something like $20). They counted on the lure of the concession stands to bring in money while people viewed movies they’d never had the chance to see on the big screen. It was a good idea, but seriously, a lot of the films are free with streaming. Besides, hit up your local Dollar Tree for almost any movie candy you can think of, which will equate to hundreds of dollars in savings per year (more if you’re a movie buff)!
So what’s the verdict? Do you think theaters will survive? And moreover, do you care?