From Streaming Services to the Pandemic, Movie Theatres Struggle to Stay Open

Carly Henderson, Contributor

Most people can agree that the movie theater experience typically goes as follows: sitting in a theater packed full of strangers tuned into the same movie. There’s popcorn, drinks, and a variety of candy to enjoy while you gasp and marvel at the big screen. However, when COVID- 19 shut down many businesses in March 2020, necessary guidelines contradicted the movie theater experience entirely. 

The CDC website recommends to “stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces… Social distancing should be practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks.” Certainly not something that the structure of movie theaters allows for. 

According to Business Insider, pre-COVID trends show that the movie theater industry was already in danger. With streaming services becoming increasingly more popular, movie theater attendance fell by 5.8% in 2017, which is the lowest it’s been since 1992- already  a decrease from the previous years. With concerns of COVID prevalent in the minds of many, theaters need to find a way to ensure that theatergoers can enjoy a safe experience if they come to the theater.

With many companies pushing back the release of their new movies, theaters have no way to draw in customers. Not only are people not going to attend a theater with no movies, but they have a lower chance of doing so with the threat of getting sick, says the Los Angeles Times. 

While this has shown to be a strain on the financial status of many in-person theaters, it’s proven to be beneficial to other forms of theatrical entertainment. “It feels great being able to deliver this experience and open the drive-in, and the guests coming to see the movies, and everyone just really enjoys being out,” says Midway Drive-In Owner Mike Kerz.

Regardless of the obvious setbacks, many remain hopeful. “I absolutely am positive that movie theaters will be back,” says Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson, “It’s just getting through it that’s hard.”