Brace yourself for a life without movie theaters


Photo by Alex Hanks

Bella Nieto, Assistant News Editor

The wafting aroma of freshly made popcorn. The mysterious stains on the carpeted floor. The long lines at the ticket booth. The blinding flash of light upon exiting the darkly lit movie theater. These all seem like distant memories in the time of a global pandemic. 

When the country began shutting down in March, no one could have foreseen the ramifications that such a shutdown would have on local businesses, the airline industry and the movie industry. Even as parts of the country have reopened, movie theaters still suffer from revenue loss at the hands of COVID-19, but the decline of the industry predates the virus. 

The emergence of online streaming services has made the necessity of movie theaters nonexistent. Instead, consumers are actually buying the novelty of the affair, but sometimes it’s not worth the cost. In 2019, movie ticket sales decreased by 5%, the decline reflecting a decade-long trend.

One effort to compensate for the steady downturn in revenue has been an increase in prices; that’s why consumers sometimes must spend unreasonable amounts of money on their favorite candy and snacks. Still, the increase in prices has created inadvertent consequences actually deterring people from going to the theater or at least encouraging them to sneak in their own snacks instead. In addition, streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have, in addition to cable shows and movies, incorporated original content that cannot be accessed without a subscription, gaining leverage over theaters. 

Adding fuel to the fire, COVID-19 has derailed the entire movie industry, postponing production schedules and release dates. The delay of potential blockbusters means that movie theaters that have opened are left with no options except to replay already released films to satiate consumers.

Unfortunately, there is still a major cost-risk analysis that is inherent in a global pandemic. Before March, the few concerns movie goers had were if the lines were going to be too long or if they were willing to spend $20 on popcorn; now, movie goers have to worry about the potential contraction of the virus.

It’s no secret that the movie industry is in serious trouble, and COVID-19 may have been the last nail in the coffin. Large chains, such as AMC and Regal, have a reasonable chance of surviving the pandemic, but local theaters may have lost their safety net as financial aid from the CARES act dries up. The disappearance of cinemas further ushers in an era of streaming services and microwavable popcorn.