Movie Theaters Suffer as COVID-19 Continues

The film industry is forced to adjust plans

Emily Rotenberg, News Editor

Similar to most businesses, the film industry, along with indoor cinemas, suffered and experienced uncertainty during COVID-19. Many movies and films that were supposed to be released over the summer were postponed, and even more, were forced to move to streaming services. Theaters question when they can open their doors again to hold large audiences hoping that watching films on the big screen won’t fade away. 

Although COVID-19 has significantly impacted the industry, this isn’t the first time theaters have suffered due to disease. In 1918, during the Spanish flu, 90% of theaters were closed due to the high death count and flu bans. As a result, they had to rethink how to make revenue and keep the industry alive. Theaters chose to take many of the same precautions we are doing during COVID-19, including social distancing, promoting good hygiene, and wearing masks. Even with these safety precautions, many people didn’t feel safe going to theaters until a year and a half after the flu bans were lifted.

If there is a similar outcome with the coronavirus to the Spanish flu, and people don’t feel safe going to theaters, the film industry will experience large economic impacts. So far, theaters have done their best to improve sanitation for the comfort of their audiences, but many people still don’t feel comfortable going to theaters. Grace Ersfeld-O’Brien ‘22 says, “personally I would feel comfortable if the proper protocols were in place…., but there is that issue of how to actually execute the protocols and people want to protect their loved ones.” 

Additionally, there has been an increase in online movie premiers as well as streaming services. Netflix has gained 10.1 million subscribers in the past eight months of quarantine, leading many to believe this is indeed the end for movie theaters. For numerous years, people have guessed when streaming services will finally take over, but it is yet to happen. Hollywood makes more money by having their movies shown in theaters rather than streamed from home. Furthermore, people would miss the experience of attending a theater.

Although Esfeld-Obrien does use streaming services, she thinks, “there is something special and unique about the atmosphere and going and seeing a movie in a theater.” After being stuck inside for so long, there is the hope that soon, audiences will make their way back to the theaters.