“For me, there is nothing more valuable than how people feel in a movie theater about a movie.” – Will Smith
That sentiment is astoundingly correct, and it seems that soon, the enjoyment of going to a movie theater to watch a film may recede. Why? An interesting question for an exciting time where certain revelations regarding entertainment are coming to fruition. In the upcoming years, the businesses surrounding movie theaters may be in jeopardy of closing. If we were to predict what we happen in the next decade, that would be a bold statement.
What we must consider is movie theaters were already facing a reckoning before the pandemic struck. Streaming is the future. While movie theaters have their structure in place with (almost) all theatrical releases coming from their venues, some new films may happen to jump ship to the streaming platform community directly. Look no further than the famous examples of Bird Box or The Irishman in the last two years. Both garnered significant attention across the media outlet, and the latter received ten nominations at the Academy Awards this year. If that is any benchmark of success, more companies may choose to have their films released onto digital platforms. Ask Disney for reference since they will distribute their remake of Mulan in September on their streaming service for $30 (and will distribute it theatrically in countries where the service is not available).
Movie theaters will have to start committing to change. There has to a driving force for people to willingly continue to take the time from leaving their households or workplaces to visit a theater and enjoy a show. Certain events must transpire to procure a sense of striking interest. In 2019, Disney released Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Both not only signaled the “end of an era” for their respective franchises but induced a pop culture event that assuredly would draw millions of viewers in from the natural moviegoer to the diehard, know-it-all fan. Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level legged out incredibly because of the inherent fun derived from its 2017 predecessor and how some recognized actor Robin Williams was associated with the 1995 original. Warner Brother’s Joker became a one billion dollar+ grosser because people were intrigued to see Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the iconic Batman character after other excellent actors like Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger played the role.
Streaming services, unfortunately, jar the potential performance a film can make theatrically. We live in a world nowadays where people and critics post their reviews/opinions about the movie before it releases, putting a disadvantage at how much a film could gross. Some may wait till it releases on VOD before watching it, rather than waste a movie ticket plus concession items (movie tickets average nine dollars while streaming services are cheaper per month subscription). Some may altogether have no interest. No wonder why some films have been underperforming at the box office as of recent such as Dolittle or The Call of the Wild.
Then again, there is still major hope movie theaters will continue to survive for some years to come. The main reason is it feels more appropriate to enjoy a film with crowds, especially if it is opening weekend. The experience is not the same as watching in one’s household. Most teenagers and young adults are compelled to venture out and discover activities in the outside world, and some may find interest in returning to the theaters more than once a month. Socializing with people occurs outside, not from one’s confined space (properly, at least).
Overall, movie theaters may still live on till the next decade. Human nature enjoys the sensation of waiting for the next big thing to arrive. Big-budget films will need to make a profit, and the next few years are lined up with hotly anticipated films. Audiences will dig it all up and express their sincere gratitude upon release. It will be a matter of time when other variables start severely disturbing movie theaters’ effectiveness, and how they (and audiences) will proceed from there.