My Post Covid Movie-Going Experience
By Avery Hellberg
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted every aspect of the entertainment industry. In March 2020, thousands of theaters around the country shut down, and no one anticipated a lockdown lasting longer than two weeks. Many reverted to streaming services to replace their typical movie theater experiences. With COVID cases rising and falling, the future of movie theaters is incredibly uncertain.
In early 2021, vaccine rollout was promising. By April 2021, there seemed to be a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Theaters began to reopen, and there was hope that with the new year, theaters would be able to bounce back from 2020. According to the Motion Picture Association of America's Theatrical Market Statistics Report for 2020, globally, the box office for films hit a low of $12 billion in 2020, down 72% from 2019.
One of the main concerns has been concessions. Despite popular belief, concessions, not ticket sales, account for most movie theater profits. The food and beverages that movie theaters serve are not conventionally high-class, luxurious delicacies. Things like popcorn, soda, and candy are essential to the movie-going experience, allowing theaters to price these products to their heart’s desire.
Because indoor mask mandates are still widely enforced in many cities, movie theaters are no exception. Many who may have never thought twice about eating in a movie theater before may feel hesitant because doing so requires removing your mask. If people aren't buying concessions, it isn't easy to envision a future where theaters profit.
The pandemic forced billions to recreate their outside lives within the confines of their home; this includes watching movies. According to data from the Motion Picture Association, around the world, the number of subscriptions to online video streaming services reached 1.1 billion in 2020.
When it became evident that the pandemic was not ending anytime soon, in late 2020, major production companies turned to streaming services to debut their new movies. Before the pandemic, streaming services posed a considerable threat to theaters because of their instant accessibility to film.
However, now that they are providing old movies and new movies, it won't be easy to encourage all those who became comfortable with streaming the latest Hollywood films from the comfort of their homes to return to the theaters.
I have always been a movie lover. Before the pandemic, I saw a new movie every week in theaters. There is something extraordinary about sitting in a theater with my snacks, getting ready to enjoy a new film surrounded by my community. It was more than just getting to see a new movie. It was the entire experience of going to a theater.
I was devastated when I learned that my favorite local theaters had to close during the pandemic. When I was fully vaccinated and felt comfortable returning to the theaters, I was the first in line.
The most disappointing thing about the pandemic is that it has completely changed every aspect of everyday life forever. With limited seating and no concessions, the movie-going experience is now incredibly depressing. I found myself dozing off in the middle of the movie and waiting for it to be over. I've become so accustomed to watching a movie on my couch with my favorite blanket that now, anything else feels lackluster.
While I will continue to support these theaters as much as possible, I fear the unique experience of going to a movie theater has changed for me forever.