By Julian Tack
2020 has been a terrible year all around. The Covid-19 pandemic has closed down many businesses while events have either been postponed or canceled altogether. Some businesses are starting to reopen while others have unfortunately shut down for good. Major movie theater companies are experiencing a bit of both. Some are going bankrupt and others are reopening in limited capacity. The theatrical film experience has been a form of entertainment for decades but are they here to stay or are movie theaters going extinct? Using information about the state of theaters during the current climate, here are my thoughts about the future of movie theaters.
It’s safe to say that limited capacity reopenings are partly to blame for some of the major movie theater closures. Not only is less revenue coming in due to fewer seats being taken up but less people are willing to show up since a majority of the movies that are being shown are older films. The most recent movie I’ve seen since theaters reopened was Empire Strikes Back. Despite having seen it countless times, I wanted to experience it on the big screen since it came out before my time. I know a couple of friends who have done the same thing but this isn’t the case for most people. A majority of moviegoers aren’t willing to rewatch an older, classic film that they may have seen countless times. Unlike new releases however, older movies only cost half the normal ticket price. Once more people are willing to go to the movies they will take more interest in more classic films. Unfortunately it isn’t the only reason behind movie theater shutdowns. Ticket sales have seen a decline over the years due to the rise of ticket prices. $10+ movie tickets make moviegoers think twice about what movies they go out and see. Although $10 doesn’t seem that bad you have to take into account the high snack prices, whether it is IMAX or a 3D experience, as well as how many new movies a person wants to eventually check out in theaters. All of those factors add up, resulting in people only going to see major blockbusters like Star Wars, Marvel movies, and other action films.
Unfortunately reopened movie theaters are less likely to show newer releases nowadays. The reason is because studios want to release movies to as many people as they can. Black Widow was set to release back in May but was postponed to next year simply because they want more people to see their movies. Disney could’ve released it on Disney+ or theaters similar to other 2020 movies like New Mutants and Tenet, however Disney chose to wait in the hopes of getting more viewers to see it next year. It’s hard to blame them considering New Mutants flopped, although you can argue it was dead on arrival because of development problems, and Tenet’s lukewarm Box Office performance. According to Variety, Tenet has reached $177.5 million at the international box office and $207 million globally. As it stands Tenet is close to earning its money back, having a production budget of $200 million. However, Variety clarifies that theaters in major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York were not reopened, so that is also a factor for the less than stellar domestic box office numbers for Tenet. The live action Mulan was also released reaching $37.6 million globally but that can also be attributed to the controversies surrounding the film. Due to this underperformance, Mulan became available to rent on Disney+ for $30. It is also worth noting that just a week after Tenet’s theatrical release, Warner Bros. delayed their upcoming movie Wonder Woman 1984 from October to December of this year.
Despite all the challenges movie theaters are facing there’s still hope for the future. Studios are delaying their films, waiting for movie theaters to reopen in a bigger, safer, and more efficient capacity than they currently are in right now. Not all studios can afford to bank their films’ success on a streaming service. Mulan is just one film to demonstrate that people aren’t ready just yet. The delay of many films such as Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, A Quiet Place Part 2, and so much more also prove that there is still a place for a theatrical experience. Even though ticket sales have declined over the years, blockbuster hits still manage to break box office numbers. Even though some theaters like Regal may be gone, Century, Cinemark, and others are still around and hopefully they can be here to stay in 2021.