Will Your Local Movie Theater Survive COVID-19?

     Good things come and go in our lives whether we like it or not. Brands such as Toys“R”Us, BlockBuster, and even RadioShack were at once ahead of all competition; however, they were slowly forgotten by the world as we moved on without them as technology advanced. Their empire of stores became only a handful of locations that at most operate due to purely nostalgia. Now the question on everyone’s mind is: Will movie theaters be joining them next? 

     Covid-19 has shaken the world by shutting down countries and their economies for the safety of their citizens. Movie theaters used to be the go-to place for dates, hangouts, and just time to enjoy oneself. However, we now know them as a failing business that will be joining the brands talked about earlier very soon. Before Covid-19, movie theaters were already struggling. Back on January 13, 2017, AMC stock was worth around $33 per share, but its value later slowly declined to $9 per share around July 5, 2019. This was pre-Covid, and AMC was already in a bad state. Now, fast-forward to April 2020, when the rising Covid-19 pandemic started affecting the economy. The pandemic alone caused a drastic crash in the stock market, which caused AMC’s $9 per share drop down to $2 on April 4, 2020. You’d imagine this would be the silver bullet for this declining, overpriced ticket company but to our surprise, they’re hanging on. Now, this is by a thread, but hanging on nonetheless. 

     For almost a year, movie theaters were unable to open their doors, and to add gas onto the fire, movie companies such as Warner Brothers were tired of waiting for the all-clear from doctors to open theaters once again and feared that reluctant customers would kill off the grand opening of theaters entirely. So to combat this, Warner Brothers launched their streaming service “HBO MAX” to release all their content into the foreseeable future. Because of this, Warner Brothers broke their deal with companies such as AMC and streamed their movie “Scoob” on their platform for families to watch, as DreamWorks similarly did when they released their movie, “Trolls World Tour.” Both movies set records for the highest-grossing direct-to-streaming films on the market at the time, making almost 50 million dollars at the box office. This showed other companies that direct-to-streaming wasn’t as risky as it seemed. Soon, more companies followed suit and abandoned the already drowning movie theater industry and went to make their streaming services. To think that movies such as “Trolls World Tour” and “Scoob!” would be the things to tip the scale to be the demise of movie theaters as a whole! 

    Well at least, that’s what we thought, until these past months when movie theaters started to reopen. If you remember, the movie “Godzilla Vs. Kong” came out in theaters and HBO MAX as one of the first films to screen in theaters since the beginning of the pandemic. Astonishingly, people were rushing back into theaters, selling out all seats almost nationwide! Moreover, AMC’s stock price hit a high for the first time in a long while: as of March 19, the price per share was almost $14, a great signal to theaters that people still want the premium viewing of the big screen. 

     It seems as if things are turning up for theaters as they begin to open up along with the rest of the country, but two things threaten theaters and will seal the coffin for good if not fixed.

     As mentioned before, movie theaters are hanging by a thread, even with the financial success from “Godzilla vs. Kong.” We see those big blockbuster movies bring people back through the theater doors, which is the key to their problems; this would be an easy fix, but as we know, there aren’t any big films to hit the big screen for quite a long time. Films such as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “Spiderman: No Way Home,” “The Flash,” “Black Adam,” and many more have all been delayed until further notice, and have been known to change once time approaches and things have yet to change. So to have a chance at survival, theaters must remain afloat until Christmas, when the next blockbuster movie, “Spiderman: No Way Home,” will open in theaters. Once again, the Christmas release date might change depending on the situation of the pandemic as the film’s release creeps closer.

     While there has been some hype among moviegoers regarding the return to theaters, this hype may be short-lived. If theaters somehow outlast Covid-19 and make it to a normal world once again, they must find a way to fix their prices to be more affordable for people, as once people start going back to theaters, they’ll remember why these businesses were starting to die out in the first place when they see the ticket prices at the front door. Changing prices will be hard for theaters emerging from a recession and could also close theaters for good.

     Going to the movies has been seen as a social event for quite some time, and theaters are loved by many as places to rest and relax as you enjoy the films you’ve been excited for. You might want to take a step back and enjoy theaters while you can, as the odds are stacked against them when it comes to time and financial problems; however, who knows? Coming out from a year when everything turned upside down, who knows what could happen? Theaters might just make it through and be safe for the first time in a long while, or before we know it, they, too, might rest in the graveyard where companies such as Blockbuster, Toys“R”Us and RadioShack lie into this day.