Fun fact: I worked at a movie theater when I first started blogging! So this topic is tied to some personal memories of mine!
I’ve seen a lot of things in movies die and change in my time. I was just young enough to see the end of the VHS era. I had front row seats for Netflix’s murder of Blockbuster. Blu-Rays didn’t kill DVDs, but they did knock them off of their high horse. Point is, I’ve witnessed a lot of changes. But the biggest one of them all has been the rise of the streaming service.
We live in an age of easy accessibility. You can watch pretty much any movie at any time. Yes, there are now a hundred quintillion streaming services out there, so the market is getting super oversaturated. But that’s beside the point. Point is, people don’t need to leave their homes to watch movies anymore like they used to.
Still, we’ve never quite let go of the old ways. Redbox is still a thing, so movie rentals aren’t dead yet (also, there’s still one open Blockbuster apparently). Most importantly: movie theaters are still alive and well.
Or at least they were. Then a modern pandemic started.
But I have a simple question: even without a global plague, should movie theaters still be around? Can they survive in the modern landscape? Or will the era of streaming murder theaters too?
Now, I’m not saying theaters will die any time soon (excluding pandemics). Trust me, I worked at one long enough to know that they make money. Big releases are still huge events with lots of people coming in. I understand why; when you go to a theater, you’re not going just to watch the movie. You’re going for the experience! For the seats, big screen, sound system, and overly-expensive food!
Movie releases are also big for the studios behind them. Mainly because they mean quick money. Fact is, movies are expensive and studios want quick returns! For big movies (or cheap horror films), they’ll often get their cash back in just a few days. It helps that tickets are expensive enough to make it easy.
From that, you might think that this whole article is pointless. Surely theaters are untouchable, right? They’ve been around this long! There’s no way in hell that it will ever die off!
Except for one thing. People are lazy.
The reason streaming took off as much as it did is because of this very reason. “You mean we don’t need to leave our homes to watch a movie?!” people said, “Hell yeah! Let’s do it! Anything to do as little work as possible for our entertainment! All I gotta do is buy some two-dollar treats from the grocery store and boom!”
Let’s be honest. Going to a theater can be a great time. But it’s also a hassle. If you don’t have a theater in your town (like I don’t), you need to head to the next one over or wait for the release. Then you have to deal with getting good seats, if there are any seats at all. You need to sneak in snacks to avoid bankruptcy; that, or you could pick up the scraps left behind by the last disgusting person who sat in your seat. And God forbid you’re watching a kids movie because those little fuckers do not understand the meaning of the word ‘quiet’! The only real benefits are the nice screen/sound and seeing a new movie.
Unfortunately, this system has a bit of a problem. See, if something were to happen, say… a global pandemic, theaters are suddenly hit with big problems. Movie studios delay their films to avoid hurting their profits. Theaters shut down to avoid spreading disease. Suddenly, the whole film industry shuts down!
But there is a simple solution. Digital releases are a thing, right? Why not just do that?
Releasing a film digitally has a lot of benefits. For one, it’s instant money for the studio. Two, people don’t need to leave their homes, which is convenient. Three: people who can’t go to a theater can watch it right away, which could make for an extra boost in sales, however small.
Just look at Disney/Pixar’s new movie, Onward. It’s only been in theaters for a few weeks in theaters. Then, one the pandemic started, Disney smelled the blood in the water. So they gave it a dramatically earlier release date! By the time this article is published, it’ll have been available for ten days!
Everything aside, I don’t think that movie theaters are going to die out just yet. However, there is blood in the water. If more movies take the Onward approach from here on out, they could be in trouble. Things are changing. Whether those changes happen sooner rather than later is still yet to be seen.
Or maybe this whole thing is just my imagination. I’m not exactly a business expert. I could barely pass a marketing class!