The Potential Disappearance of Movie Theaters

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Anna Salinas, OwlFeed Lifestyle Editor

The movie theater — a place full of widespread entertainment, photo booths that nobody uses and the smell of bags of popcorn that costs more than they actually should. Movie theaters have always been known as the place where family and friends sit down and watch movies that were recently released before they ended up in DVD form. 

But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, movies have started making their way from the big screen to the smaller ones in people’s homes through streaming services. This has resulted in the possibility of movie theaters potentially closing in the near future. 

The Covid-19 pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020, by the World Health Organization, which resulted in movie theaters and businesses deemed “non-essential” to be temporarily closed. 

This led to a huge flood of people signing up for streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and the recently popular HBO Max. “This shutdown led to record highs of streaming, with Netflix earning around 16 million new customers over the quarantine period, as people in quarantine sought ways to entertain themselves during the lockdown,” said Claire Bahorski from The Current Magazine. 

While some movie theaters have opened after a couple of months into the pandemic, people just haven’t been going as much as they used to.

 In June, a study was held where 14 percent of adults said that they strongly preferred seeing movies for the first time in theaters, while 36 percent said they personally preferred streaming a film at home than visiting the theaters. According to Julia Stoll from, preferences have majorly changed between both 2018 and 2020 due to movie fans fearing infections and feeling more comfortable viewing movies in the safety of their own homes. 

A decision that definitely changed the course for movie theaters was when Warner Bros. Studios announced that they will be streaming all of their movies from their 2021 film slate on HBO Max. This includes movies like Space Jam: A New Legacy, Dune, The Matrix 4, and The Little Things, starring Denzel Washington.

“We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group,” said WarnerMedia Studios and Networks CEO Ann Sarnoff. 

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021,” Sarnoff said. 

If other major film companies continue to put newly released movies on streaming services, it could be detrimental toward movie theater companies like AMC. On the other hand, Warner Bros. has claimed that this is only a temporary plan for 2021.

“We don’t think we’re changing the economics of these movies any more than the pandemic has. We’re adding another interval and period for revenue with HBO Max,” Sarnoff said. 

Though this is a temporary plan and we don’t know how long the pandemic will last, the future of movie theaters at the moment is unpredictable.