Movies & TV / Columns

Will Going to the Movies Ever Go Back to Normal?

October 10, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
AMC Theatres

While we’ve long talked about movie theaters dying off slowly, Covid-19 has pushed the fast forward button and put us in a stark reality of a world without theaters.

All one has to do is look at the soft ticket sales and lack of new products to see that going out to see a flick is becoming less and less of an option for people. Now we have Wonder Woman 1984 being moved from its October release date to Christmas and Black Widow and No Time to Die being postponed to 2021.

On top of that news, things took an even darker turn after Cineworld, the second-largest theater chain in the entire world, closed all of its U.S. and U.K. locations, including more than 500 Regal cinemas domestically. Temporarily can become permanent pretty quick. 

And let’s not forget that Dune was pushed to next year along with Warner Bros. delaying the new Matrix, The Batman, and Black Adam as well.  

Things won’t improve for movie theaters until California and New York reopen more theaters, as those two states alone account for %21.5 of the total U.S. box office totals every year. Without those two players in play, don’t expect studios to open the gates anytime soon. 

“New York State has been following the data and latest science on the virus to re-open our economy safely and we are doing the same when it comes to movie theaters,” Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, said in a statement.

With movie theaters hitting a major hurdle, some are using this to push for studios to put more focus on the streaming side of things, bypassing theaters altogether.

With more and more streaming players entering the ranks, the rush to get new content has never been tighter. Peacock, HBO Max, Quibi, all recently joined a packed field with Disney Plus, Hulu, Netflix, and several others. 

Studios are left wondering if they should move these mega projects over to a streaming service to get a bigger viewing audience. If you were a new streaming service, what better way to draw subscribers than being able to debut a new James Bond or Fast and Furious movie? 

That’s little to no relief for B&B Theatres, the sixth-largest cinema chain in the U.S., which has been operating for nearly 100 years and now on the brink of bankruptcy. 

Since March B&B Theatres was unable to pay full rent and had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair its projectors because the machinery had sat unused for so long. With Hollywood delaying the release of major blockbusters until next year, Brock Bagby, an executive vice president at B&B Theatres, said there’s little hope the business can keep running.

Bagby has been working with the National Association of Theatre Owners as well as with rival theater chains to get relief for cinemas. He said his sister Bobbie, who oversees the company’s marketing, has made hundreds of calls to government officials lobbying for financial aid.

“The government shut us down, so we would hope they’d help us,” Bagby said. “I mean, we didn’t shut ourselves down. And that’s the thing that’s so hard, and I keep telling my dad, ‘You didn’t do anything wrong. This is not your fault.’ But it doesn’t help. It’s still devastating.”

While the movie theater experience has tried to change to cater to a new time, we can’t avoid the fact that people are getting their entertainment elsewhere and in different ways. With the coronavirus putting a halt to our theater entertainment, when this passes what we left behind might not be the same when we come back to it. 

What do you see in the future for movie theaters?

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Steve Gustafson