Movies & TV / Columns

What Does the Future Look Like for Movie Theaters After COVID-19?

May 23, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
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I know some of you really, really, really wanted to talk about Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League getting its release on HBO Max but when I sat down to pound out a worthy clickbait article I just couldn’t summon the strength to do it. I simply don’t care.

I did find an interesting study about people’s attitude about returning to the movie theaters that I wanted to put out there and see what you thought. While I’m reading stuff online that says people are rushing out the door, what I’m seeing around me is another story. 

According to an exclusive new study anxiety over health and safety in public spaces still still weighs on people’s minds, especially when it comes to gathering in large groups for entertainment. The results from a survey of roughly 1,000 people in mid-May by sports and events analytics firm Performance Research, in partnership with Full Circle Research Co. say the entertainment industry is in for a struggle.

For example, when asked whether respondents would rather see a first-run feature as a digital rental at home or in a movie theater, if both were available today: 70% say they are more likely to watch from home, while just 13% say they are more likely to watch at a local cinema (with 17% not sure).

“Just as the country begins to open up there has been a swing toward increasing caution, with a majority of Americans clearly saying ‘not yet’ when it comes to attending large public events,” says Jed Pearsall, president of Performance Research.

More findings match a similar study conducted in mid-March that looked at how people will adjust back into an active life. After the CDC and local governments say it’s safe to do so, 52% of respondents say they will attend fewer large public events, up from 44% in March, just days after the CDC declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. This month, 60% of respondents say the idea of attending a big public event “will scare me for a long time,” up from 47% in March.

39% say they’ll attend major indoor concerts less often, up from 33% in March; 36% say they’ll attend theme parks less often, up from 26%; and 33% say they’ll attend theater and performing arts venues less often, up from 29%.

For Broadway productions, 51% of respondents say it will take a few months before they will attend a Broadway show in New York even after it’s deemed safe to do so, and 16% say they may never go again.

When it comes to long term movie theater attendance: 37% of respondents say they plan to attend less often, up from 28% in March, and 10% say they may never go again, up from 6%.

What should the entertainment industry be focusing on? Cleanliness and social distancing. Since March, already strong sentiment about the need for clean and sanitized food service areas and restrooms has only grown, from 64% to 74% and 66% to 73%, respectively. 

“Event organizers should take notice,” says Pearsall. “Fans of all types of events can identify significant milestones and new safety precautions that will get them back. Simply opening the doors will not be enough.”

Look, I know statistical questions can be phrased in a way to slant the results but entertainment does face some hurdles to get people coming back.

Will you be going back to the movie theater right away? What will you be looking for when you do? Let us know below!

Also, if you’re stuck without an idea of how to occupy your time inside, my kids have some ideas. Be a pal and watch their videos…