Are Movie Theaters Really Coming Back?

Image courtesy of Bloomberg

By Margaret Adams

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic ushered everybody into an era of great isolation and melancholy. Since quarantining in early 2020, people have learned to lean on many different outlets for release and escape from reality, like television and film; streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon took advantage of this and became most peoples’ sole source of new media, changing the way audiences watch films forever.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, movie theaters across the country have closed their doors for several months; movie theater companies such as AMC, Cinemark, and Marcus Corporation have reported more than $1 billion in lost revenue. 

The lack of movie theaters left a void in entertainment that streaming platforms like Disney+ and Amazon began to fill. Viewership on these streaming platforms generally increased by 20% – 50%, according to the New York Times. Netflix doubled its expected subscriber count, and Disney+ gained over 22 million subscribers.

Studios like NBCUniversal began to completely skip the box office, and started releasing their films immediately on streaming platforms; this caused an even bigger rise in subscriptions to streaming platforms. 

“Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” said Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBCUniversal, in a statement.

If watching new movies from home is now possible, why should movie theaters ever come back? Streaming platforms generally make the experience of watching a film cheaper, easier, and less stressful. As a result, streaming platforms have made a huge difference in the way audiences watch films. 

With that being said, the experience of going to a movie theater to see a film is starkly different to– and more enjoyable than– just downloading and viewing a movie from home. 

When you sit down to watch a movie at home, there are no new sensations that add to your experience of watching the movie. At a movie theater, however, the drive to the theater, the smell of the popcorn, the seats you sit in, the people you see the movie with, and even the songs that play on the ride home all contribute to your experience of seeing the film. It’s a more full and emotional experience, and it helps cement the event in our memories; it is also much more exciting than watching a film alone on your couch. 

The experience of going to see a film at a theater is what will inevitably save the movie theater industry; not all at once, but over time people will recognize how special and unique movie theaters are. In fact, the time spent away from the theaters will contribute to a new era, ushering in a new appreciation for the theater and the experience that we all love. 

“Watching movies at home suddenly felt like ‘traveling’ by looking at Instagram,” tweeted filmmaker, Issa Lopez, about her experience at the movie theater after quarantine. 

Streaming platforms have provided an easier, more convenient, and more accessible way of seeing great films, but it will never completely replace the special experience a movie theater provides.

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