The fight to stay alive: COVID-19’s effect on movie theatres

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Chelsie Cooley

The Regal Wilder movie theatre’s parking lot is empty, save for the cars of a few employees.

     You’re sitting in a dark room. The faint scent of Coke and buttered popcorn fills your nostrils as you stare at the big blaring white screen ahead of you. You recline your seat back and prop your feet up, sinking into the cushioned, leather seat. The screen changes colors as the movie begins and as noise begins to fill your ears. You look around the room in anticipation to see other people’s reactions but no one is there with you. It’s just you in a big empty room. You adjust your cotton face mask and fixate your eyes back on the screen ahead of you. 

     This is what is going on in movie theaters all around the United States. Opened but not populated, desperately trying to get people in to buy a movie ticket. In August, AMC Theatres reopened with a retro price of 15 cents after planning their reopening for weeks. 

     People have gone to the movies with their families, friends, and significant others for decades. They have been a place for teens to hang out or for people to go on dates. 

     Senior Jasmine Rehberger recalls, “Probably once a month, it’s a family tradition of ours to go to a movie theater at least once a month and see our favorite movie.”

     However, this tradition, alongside movie theatres, may face its end. 

     This tradition of buttered popcorn and giant screens may have fallen, but there is something to catch it: streaming services. Streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Youtube TV were a big hit even before COVID-19, but after movie theaters were closed and movies were getting postponed, more and more movies began to get released on the services. For example, Disney’s Mulan was able to be purchased for $29.99 on Disney+., 

     With these streaming services,  people are able to watch new movies in the comfort and safety of their homes. 

     Sophomore Kathleen Price said, “With all the electronic developments of movies, I don’t think they’re going to stay around much longer.” 

     The movie industry is panicking at the moment, believing that COVID-19 might be the end of movie theaters. As of May 2020, COVID-19 cost the film industry $10 billion, and while this isn’t movie theaters, this directly affects them. While some people believe that movie theaters can bounce back from this, others believe that COVID-19 will indeed be the end of them.

     Junior Valerie Mead shared her opinion, saying, “I hope it’s not the end, but I think it might be the end of the way movie theaters used to operate. At the very least they’re going to change things up a little bit.” 

     Some people are in the middle, not believing one or the other for certain. 

     Freshman Jace Sexton offered her opinion on the matter at stake. “I think that some of them will close but, as cases get lower, people will want to start going out again.”

     Although it might not be the end for big theaters, 70% of small and medium-sized theaters will have to file for bankruptcy without the support of government funds at this time.

     With many movie theatres closing, there are a few alternatives, other than sitting at home and watching from one’s couch. 

     Starlite Drive-In in Amelia, Ohio is a small, fun place to enjoy watching movies from the comfort and safety of your vehicle. They have decided to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic while putting safety precautions into place. They ask that you follow social distancing protocols, staying away from other people and cars. They also state that you must wear a mask unless you are in your car. Like many other places, their park area is closed along with the lobby of their concessions building. When you purchase a ticket from them, this signifies your agreement to these policies.

     The question is: should movie theaters be open? Many people do not agree that they should, as they are not considered an essential business. But many people say that they should have the chance to be open with some conditions. 

     Junior Kayla Weber thinks that they should be opened. She said, “Yes [they should be open] if you wear your mask until you get to your seat. People should be spread out in their seats and they should sanitize before the new people come in for the movies.”

     Others disagree completely, believing that movie theaters should be closed during this time due to safety concerns with the current state of the pandemic. 

     Senior Abby Bach voices her concerns, saying, “[They should] probably not [be open] because the seats are cushioned and I don’t think we can really clean those that well compared to hard surfaces.”

     Based on an Instagram story survey, 32% of people voted that movie theaters should be open right now and 68% of people voted that they shouldn’t. 19% of people believe that COVID-19 will be the end of movie theaters and 81% of people believe that COVID-19 will not be the end, eventually letting people come back with more strict guidelines.. The data is clear; even though most people believe that movie theaters should be closed right now, they do not believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will be the end of movie theaters altogether.

     If you’re planning on going to the movies this fall, whether it’s at a drive-in or a movie theater, make sure you’re taking the correct safety precautions to keep yourself and others safe.