Are movie theaters dying?


Jorge Simonet via Wikipedia

Post-pandemic, the moviegoing experience is forever changed.

Jayne Abraham, Editor-in-Chief

Movie theaters are no longer what they once were.

In an era of endless iterations of Netflix and Hulu, our bedrooms have turned into movie theaters, containing much cheaper snacks and fewer unwanted companions. 

This phenomenon, likely exacerbated by a drawn-out pandemic, has quite successfully driven out the quintessential moviegoing experience that has been depicted in media for ages.

Why anxiously wait in line for a movie ticket when you can pay ahead online? In fact, why even see the movie if you can just find it online — legally or not so legally — and watch it at home? 

In due time, the experience of going to the movie theater, getting an overpriced and over-buttered popcorn, excitedly watching several movie trailers and finally enjoying a newly-released film on the big screen may be obsolete. Perhaps this is a reality that must be accepted by cinephiles and nostalgic moviegoers alike, or perhaps, something can be done to salvage the silver screen.

Senior Lauren McGovern certainly agrees with the former sentiment. “I think movie theaters are dying, and while I’m glad that this makes movies easier to watch and more financially accessible, it takes away a big part of the social aspect of movies,” she shared. “Instead of getting together to watch them, movies can be accessed by the click of a button. This also deflates some of the excitement one might build from waiting for a theater showing, and makes each movie less special.”

But senior Mitchell Wood feels not all hope is lost. “To put it simply, no, movie theaters are not dying,” he said. “While the cultural impact theaters had in previous generations is gone, as long as the high-budget, action blockbusters stick around theaters will survive. For example ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ edged its way into the top 10 all time domestic box office in a post-pandemic landscape.”

While Wood believes the experience of going to the movies is not completely gone, he acknowledged that the culture surrounding movies and movie theaters is forever altered. “I think that the general moviegoer sees theaters as a vehicle to watch newly released movies when, in my opinion, it needs to be treated like an event,” he said. “In other words, you aren’t buying a movie; you are buying an experience.”

However it seems the appeal of the moviegoing experience has lost its magic for the modern-day consumer. 

Wood also drew an important connection between the decline in movie theater popularity and the absence of “movie stars” in Hollywood today. “Audiences used to have incredible emotional attachments to movie theaters large in part to who were appearing in the movies. There once was a time where people were incredibly invested in the actors in Hollywood,” he said. “These actors could carry an entire movie’s monetary success. Now, we see movies where the characters or franchise is what gets people to come watch.”

Whatever factor it may be attributed to, the movie theater experience is evolving. 

Perhaps movie theaters will be another victim of the digital age or, maybe just maybe, nostalgia will be enough to keep this experience alive.