A long, long, long time ago… I stood in line for hours to get into see the latest big blockbuster. I remember waiting for Star Wars, Star Trek II, Ghostbusters… in fact the movie line experience was a big part of my childhood. It was probably a big part of yours too. But think… when was the last time you stood in one of those long lines? When was the last time you even went to a movie theater?
Don’t blame the pandemic
I’m sure that movie theater owners are quick to blame the pandemic. And yes, there’s certainly something to that. In some states, movie theaters were closed for over nine months. That’s enough to change people’s habits. But let’s not believe that the problem started in March, 2020. There was a long-growing problem with movie theaters and we talked about it for a decade before the world changed. Movie theater owners were forced to accept bad deals just to show the latest mega-blockbusters. Income from ticket sales kept dropping. Increasingly, they had to rely on food and drink sales, and that kept those concession prices high.
But yeah, also blame the pandemic
When people simply couldn’t go to the movie theater, studios pivoted. They sent their movies straight to streaming. Sometimes they did it for free, or in the case of Disney, they started a “Premiere Access” tier. I’ve been saying for years that I would pay the same price as two movie tickets, just to see the movie at home the same day as it’s in theaters. That’s a reality now.
This wasn’t a completely new trend, either. More and more content was going straight to streaming before any of this happened. But the pandemic showed us that straight-to-streaming releases didn’t need to be “Sharknado” or some other 2nd-tier form of entertainment.
Now that people are used to getting top-tier movies at home without having to wait 3-6 months, what’s to get them going back to the theaters?
You’ve probably seen these too
You’ve probably seen the commercials where this movie star or that one tells you how important it is that their film be seen in theaters “as it was intended.” You might have read about some actors suing because their films went straight to streaming. There are even some very well-regarded directors who have spoken out against streaming.
And, if you’re like me, none of it has convinced you. We like watching movies at home. Sure, there are a few times we’ll go to the theater for the shared experience, but in so many ways, watching at home is better. For under $2,000 you can invest in a massive screen and a decent sound system and not worry about sticky floors or overpriced popcorn. Those Hollywood types aren’t convincing anyone.
They’re getting desperate
2020 was probably the worst movie theater year ever. But 2021 isn’t going to be much better. And it’s making theater owners desperate. It’s a good thing, because desperation leads to innovation. Maybe someone will crack the code and figure out how to get people back into theaters. Maybe studios will stop charging massive prices just for downloadable files, and theater owners can make a little more money from each showing. I don’t know.
But let me be clear, I welcome their desperate moves. I would love to feel like I could see those movie theater lines again. I may be too old to participate in them, but I’d like to see the tradition continue.
In the meantime, just like you I watch movies on satellite TV and streaming. It’s a better experience, and until movie theaters are desperate enough to see that, it always will be.