For a long time, the movie theater has been a staple of entertainment for film productions and fun family outings. They were a central point to highlight the works of talented filmmakers and producers. Recently, the movie theaters have been particularly affected by COVID-19, decreasing the amount of interest in going to theaters or watching the next blockbuster movie on the big screen. This also means that some film productions have opted-out of using the theater to premiere their films, contributing to the unprecedented and continued rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. One thing is for sure, the road ahead for the cinema faces an uncertain future.
On March 18th, two major theater chains had to close their doors indefinitely after weeks of continuous failure to draw in crowds and profit. Both AMC and Regal Cinemas struggled to maintain their losses for weeks, with COVID-19 growing more abundant in the USA; for months leading up to their closure, these and other theater chains were closed worldwide as governments rushed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
On August 20th and 21st, AMC and Regal Cinema reopened their doors despite the threat of COVID-19 still lurking. While cinemas received some business, the overall damage had been done to the once-dominant industry, even with the lure of famous Hollywood director Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet making an in-theater debut.
The film was predicted to revitalize the theater-experience and make up for the losses made in previous months. However, the film managed to draw in merely mediocre reviews, serving as a warning sign to many cinema workers. Then when Tenet released on September 3rd, it opened to low box office numbers, only drawing in 9.5 million—making the film a severe underperformer when it came to the box office. It was sure to say Tenet had failed to revitalize the theater, despite months of anticipation and marketing.
However, Tenet’s failure wouldn’t be the only hurdle for cinemas as streaming services had become much more abundant. Spiraling off Netflix’s success, new competitors such as Disney and HBO would join the online streaming market. This would create another set-back as specific movie releases would go straight to digital services and skip theaters entirely.
By all counts, it seems the cinema faces a very unknown path ahead. With the initial global theater closure through August, theaters were left to fill the holes in terms of profit, finding little to no success. The question left by this is, can movie theaters survive the impacts of COVID-19, or will the pandemic result in more long-term theater closures? Only the coming months and our efforts to reduce this virus will tell.
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