Movie theaters in the age of COVID-19

Like most movie theaters across the nation, AMC Mountainside has not been open for regular business since the start of the Pandemic. Photo courtesy of AMC/Creative Commons/via

Andrew Villardi, Staff Writer

Walking into the Cinemark for a 7:00 p.m. showing of “The Empty Man”, the theater, fittingly, was practically empty. Save the occasional employee and the group of friends I brought with me, the once bustling theater was now barren. After buying my ticket and some refreshments, I headed into the theater (which was vacant save the five in my party) and enjoyed what most have not experienced in months, a night at the movies.
Although movie theaters have been reopened for months, fear of COVID-19 and a standstill in the film industry has kept most from indulging in a once normal social experience, and this has had drastic effects on the revenues of theaters. The Dalian Wanda Group, owners of AMC Theaters, reported a loss of $905.8 million in the third quarter of 2020, and as cases of COVID-19 spike around the nation, it is likely that this trend will only continue.
Despite the reservations some people might have about attending a movie in theaters amidst the pandemic, Cinemark and other theaters have strong contingencies to prevent infection. Although eating and drinking is allowed during the movie, masks are required at all other times. In addition, seats are socially distanced and regularly cleaned after each viewing to prevent the possibility of infection. All this combined with the fact that not many people are actually going to the theater makes the experience a safe and enjoyable one.
Another issue that is keeping people away from theaters is the fact that many large and highly anticipated movies have been delayed or moved to streaming services, which leaves many casual theater attendees uninterested. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen hundreds of high-profile movies such as “Wonder Woman 1984”, “No Time to Die”,Morbius” and “Black Widow” have their release dates pushed back, leaving theaters stuck with movies that simply cannot draw large enough crowds to sustain a profit. While I enjoyed “The Empty Man”, I did not go to the theater to watch that movie, I simply wanted to see a movie in theaters, and for many, the alternatives that exist are more appealing.
Streaming services have seen a boom in popularity over the past few years, but the unique circumstances of 2020 leave most people indoors for the majority of their time, and thus now more than ever streaming has become integrated into the lives of people around the nation.