The effect of COVID-19 on theatres

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

It is a time of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic as so many of us had to undergo social restrictions to protect our health and well-being. This included going to bars, meeting friends at sports games, and right on cue, going to the movies. It’s already been a year since the pandemic started, and any news on what’s happening to cinemas has remained relatively quiet. Which begs the question: Is the movie theatre experience dead?

To better answer this question let’s go back and look at the history of theatres. Back in the day, theatres were people’s only means of watching visual entertainment on a screen. But as technology progressed, we went straight to TV, VHS, DVD discs, and of course streaming services on the internet. Needless to say that despite these multiple outlets for entertainment, people still have an interest in the cinematic experience. It’s not hard to see why as it is a grand experience to see your favorite artists bring their work to a massive screen. Between the family and friends you bring along, and the joy of watching a crowd cheer when something big happens, it’s something a lot of us enjoy. 

Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, Hollywood did a major overhaul and pulled its releases as people were forced into quarantine to protect the public from COVID. This resulted in multiple films getting halted during production, and major releases being delayed or in some cases moved to streaming as a result. For a while, the cinema industry seemed to be quiet. Some production companies created safety measures to protect casts and crew members so that they could complete their work. With smaller chains closing down and major ones sliding towards bankruptcy, many began to wonder whether the industry had any momentum left.

Photo retrieved from Indiewire / (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

One of the most anticipated films that tried to get people back in the cinemas was Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” A film that, while it got recognition from critics and audiences, still didn’t pull in the numbers the studio wanted. As you can imagine, this resulted in multiple studios looking to new avenues to share their content. The most obvious ones being streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, etc. While people were pleased with this choice, many still wondered what Hollywood was going to do to get things moving. 

It eventually got to a point where Warner Bros. made the big decision to dual release their films in select cinemas and HBO Max. On one note, I agree with this choice as it gives people the option to watch it in their homes or see it in public while practicing safety precautions. But there are still people out there that wish they could have seen some of these future films on the big screen as they were originally made for. At first, people thought that everyone would stay at home rather than risk their health. But surprisingly there are some releases that are still doing well even during the pandemic. “Godzilla vs Kong” for example grossed $358 million against a break-even point of $330 million. Even around the world in countries like China, films such as “Hi, Mom” grossed more than $826 million at the box office. In fact, they’re even re-releasing classic films that people have grown to love. “Avatar” being the biggest example, as it retook its place of “Avengers: Endgame” as the highest-grossing film of all time. 

So, with all that going on, the question remains, are theatres dead? To put it simply, while they’re not nearly as big as they were two years ago, they’re not going into oblivion. A lot of them are hibernating. I know people make the argument that they won’t go because they don’t want to be close to others. In that case by that logic does it mean that going to sports games is dead? Is going to see shows on stage dead? Is going to public restaurants dead? My point is that Hollywood isn’t shutting down theatres because let’s be honest, it’s their goldmine. While a movie on streaming can do well, the higher-ups still want to milk these films for what they’re worth. 

It’s also important to note that millions of people are being vaccinated in this country. Summer is approaching, and there is a high interest to go out and do things. While we still have to adhere to social distance standards and guidelines, it’s important to know that socialization is a key part of our society. While it’s still unknown how long this pandemic will last, it’s nice to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


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