Is this the curtain call for movie theaters?

Low sales, closures, and lack of movies hurting movie theaters overall

Column By Collin Frazier


With everything that’s going on in the world, both before COVID-19 and now, one thing that I could always count on is that movies provide comfort and joy for a few hours. They can take you into new worlds, make you forget all the craziness going on, and even teach you lessons you never even thought of. What makes this experience even better is going to do it at a movie theater. No hate on Drive-ins and the like, I just prefer going to a theater. The kind of comfy chairs, the somewhat good food, and the 30 minutes of trailers before the film even begins, nothing beats it.

But, just like everything else in the world, COVID-19 had to ruin it for everyone. Unlike some things, this damage may have a serious impact on theaters. I hope I am wrong, but here is why I am nervous for the future of the movie theater.

The first thing is the box office this year has been awful. Yes, the reason is obvious, but it still has been bad for the industry. According to, the current total box office for 2020 is around $2.3 billion. Doesn’t sound awful, right? However, when you compare it to the last ten years where the box office grossed over $10 billion each year, it’s easy to see the problem. Having a deficit of over $7.7 billion dollars is probably something that movie theaters as a whole will never be able to get back. It does not matter how many blockbuster movies will come out in one year, not everything is Avengers: Endgame or Avatar. This will have some serious consequences once the movie industry is back to normal. The only way that theaters could make the money back is by either raising ticket prices or removing special subscriptions, such as AMC’s A-List (if you like movies, definitely look into that. Completely worth it).

No one is going to want to pay more than they already have to for tickets. This could put movie theaters in a debt they will never be able to repay.

The next reason is one that theaters hoped would not happen… again. For the second time this year, some theaters will be closing their doors due to a rise in COVID-19 cases (which could be avoided by wearing a mask and social distancing, but I digress).

One of the bigger theaters to close its doors is Regal Cinemas. With more than 570 locations, many people will be out of a job and options to watch movies. This will have an impact on the industry because the theaters will not be able to cover operating costs when they open back up. So many movie goers will still be wary of going to theaters that it would be a waste of time for the theaters to open back up. It would become a vicious cycle of closing, opening up when things calm down, craziness happens, and they close again. Opening theaters could be more trouble than it is truly worth at this point.

The last reason is probably the biggest problem with theaters; absolutely nothing is coming out. Before shutdown, the biggest movies were Birds of Prey, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Invisible Man, all good movies that made money (except Birds of Prey).

However, recently, the only movies to come out in theaters that have had some sort of buzz are The New Mutants, which was fine for being inconsequential, and Tenet, which was a great action film, albeit hard to follow at times. Anything else that was planned to come out which could have easily grossed over $1 billion is now delayed. Some of these include Wonder Woman 84, Black Widow, Dune, Fast & Furious 9, and No Time To Die. This lack of big-named movies right now is going to make less and less people come out to the movie theaters, which will have future problems.

Furthermore, some movies, such as Trolls: World Tour, Bill and Ted Face the Music, and Mulan, which probably would have grossed $1 billion easily, have all switched their films to streaming services. If more companies do this, there will be nothing for the movie theaters to have.

I really hope I’m wrong on all of this and movie theaters get back on their feet with ease. Some of my favorite memories come from seeing a movie surrounded by people, namely when I saw the IMAX premiere of Endgame and seeing Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood on a 35mm camera. At least, those are my most recent memories. But, with everything going on, and seemingly no end in sight, we may be in the final act of movie theaters.

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