By Emma Reilly
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted how new movies will be released, but those of us who value in-theater experiences shouldn’t worry about it disappearing entirely.
Film lovers and casual movie-goers alike missed out on the in-theater experience for months due to COVID-19-related shutdowns. Many theaters were closed, and many people — especially at the height of the pandemic — would not have felt comfortable attending theaters even if they remained operational.
Movie theater closures and people’s health-related hesitancies are still affecting the industry.
According to Gower Street Analytics’ Thomas Beranek, 23% of movie theaters in the United States have been closed since March 2020.
For those theaters that have reopened, patronage may be in short supply. According to Morning Consult’s Wesley Case, 55% of Americans are still uncomfortable with seeing a film in theater.
To combat the effects of closures and quarantines on the film industry, studios increased investments in a dual-release process. This process involves the synchronous release of new films in theaters and at home on streaming services.
Nothing can replace going to a theater with family or friends for the release of a movie you’ve been anticipating. Many people probably worried that they might never have those experiences again.
Their concerns were likely amplified by news coverage of several studios’ shift to a dual release model. Journalists seemed certain that movie theaters would be phased out because of the pandemic.
The numbers are telling. According to Variety’s Brent Land, in 2020, AMC Entertainment’s revenue dropped 77.3% from the previous year.
Despite these concerning figures, headlines like Brink’s “Is This the End of Hollywood?” were only dramatizing a shift that began pre-pandemic.
“[Movie] industry analysts had commented this trend was already beginning [before the COVID-19 pandemic],” Forbes’ Brad Adgate said.
Predictions that the COVID-19 pandemic would be the end of movie theaters certainly drew attention, but weren’t realistic.
“Here is a multi-billion-dollar industry that…howl[s] predictions of its own death with every cultural shift or industry innovation,” Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara said.
The movie industry may have changed during the pandemic, and those changes will certainly last, but it isn’t headed towards some finite end.
“Disney, Paramount, and now Warner Bros. have agreed to exclusive theater release windows,” Business Insider’s Katie Canales said.
The separation of in-theater and at-home release windows demonstrates an interest on the part of studios to preserve the unique in-theater experience.
However, home releases will not be eradicated completely. According to Canales, the theater release window is being shortened significantly by those three studios, which will allow for quicker access on streaming platforms.
In the end, we’re getting the best of both worlds. Movies may last in theaters for less time, but they will still be there. The release of those same new films on HBO Max a few weeks later does nothing to encroach on the in-theater experience for those who prefer it.
If you want to enjoy popcorn and a new movie in the theater — or in the comfort of your home — you’ll have the freedom to do either — or both — as we enter a period of “new normal”.
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