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The Future of Movie Theaters


By Hugo Hatche

- Oct 15, 2020

Matinees and Daily Doubles

For years, it’s been easy to wonder about the long-term future of movie theaters. When I was a kid, movie tickets were a few dollars (and super cheap on certain days of the week). Concessions were always pricier than just buying a soda and candy from the grocery store, but still, it wasn’t too crazy. But, going to the movies wasn’t necessarily an expensive thing. At the same time, there weren’t a lot of options for seeing movies outside of theaters when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Movies eventually ended up on TV, but that took time and not every movie was ever put on a broadcast channel. 

The VCR came along and started to change the rules, once consumers could go to their local Blockbuster and rent a movie from a comparatively large selection of recent releases and older films. Next came the explosion of cable TV, with so many channels, including various subscription/premium options like HBO, that also focused on showing many movies that were only recently in theaters.  

Streaming Services

Finally, on-demand streaming services arose with the wider availability of broadband internet access, making the at-home movie viewing environment even more user-friendly. Add in the affordable prices for large screen TVs and suddenly consumers could create a very comfortable and high-quality home movie viewing experience, removing the hassle of going to the movie theatre, parking, paying a huge markup for popcorn, etc.

While we saw the video rental stores get swallowed up by all these at-home streaming options, movie theaters have maintained a place in the major studio movie release process.

The Future of Movie Theaters


Then we all know what happened when 2020 kicked into gear with stay-at-home orders, temporary closing of restaurants, stores, and of course, movie theaters. Movie studios all began delaying the release of upcoming blockbuster movies indefinitely. Even as the economy has opened up and some theaters have begun to re-open, the demand for movies in theaters is questionable.

As the year has progressed, we’ve seen movie studios begin looking at taking more movies straight to streaming - sometimes on their own subscription platforms. 

The Future

So, the question is whether movie theaters have a path back to popularity and profitability heading into 2021 or whether the pandemic will hasten the shift toward at-home movie viewing that has been progressing for decades. With more studios creating their own subscription services, will it become more feasible to simply make movies available for streaming immediately upon release? Some film distributors were testing these types of simultaneous release schedules (in theaters and on-demand at the same time) in recent years. 

Will the next generation of kids have any recollection of what seeing a movie in a big theater is like or will everyone watch the latest Marvel, James Bond, or Fast & Furious movie from the comfort of their own couches? Only time will tell.