There was once a time when movie theaters dominated the world. Audiences would flock to the nearest theater, buy a ticket and an overpriced bucket of popcorn for a 90-minute spectacle. They would watch in awe as their favorite heroes and villains clashed against each other on the screen, and cheer at their victories. Now, it seems like that was a lifetime ago. Today, cinema is dying, and streaming services are but one of the factors behind its fall from grace.
The first blow to theaters came in the form of a pandemic. Much like many unfortunate industries, theaters like AMC, Regal, and Cinemax suffered greatly during the COVID-19 crisis. Countries that were epidemic hot-spots shut or restricted all its theaters’ doors. Due to this, the global box office fell to $2.2 billion in 2020, an unprecedented 80 percent drop. Films entering production also stumbled, plummeting by 46 percent.
It seemed 2020 would be one of entertainment’s darkest years.
Ironically, the saving factor of entertainment would be the next blow to cinemas. With cinemas shut down, streaming services saw a giant jump like no other. For the first time, subscribers of online services reached 1.1 billion, a 26 percent gain over 2019. Studios acted quickly to move both released and upcoming films to their respective platforms. Movies like Frozen II, Wonder Woman 1984, Soul and more found a home in streaming, where audiences could pay to watch or even watch for free.
Eventually, cinemas reopened to the public. However, it seemed that audiences had grown to favor streaming services. We asked students whether they preferred to watch movies in the theater or at home to test this theory, and 135 responded. Of the 135, 42.2 percent of the respondents said that they preferred theaters. Though 57.8 percent of respondents said that they preferred to watch at home.
So, any films that dared to have theatrical releases ended up taking refuge in streaming services when they underperformed at the box office, such as Onward and Spiral: From the Book of Saw. Other films like The Suicide Squad and Black Widow struggled to gain revenue at the box office when fans could watch the films at home. There was no longer a need to buy a ticket when you could simply watch the movie from your home.
Today, it seems that things might change for the better. More and more upcoming movies will have exclusive releases in theaters, forcing audiences to buy a ticket, and a large roster of appealing movies are set to be released next year, such as The Batman, Jurassic World: Dominion, Uncharted and more. With these new releases, we might see a return to form for movie theaters.
This article originally appeared in West Boca Bullseye.