Movie Theater Business Isn’t Going Back to Normal: Disney CEO

Are multiplex theaters even viable in the era of streaming and affordable big screen TVs, if studios crush the “theatrical window?”

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Disney will release “Raya and the Last Dragon” this Friday in 2,000 theaters and simultaneously on its streaming service Disney+ for an additional $29.99 fee, on top of the monthly subscription fee. In September last year, Disney released “Mulan” directly on Disney+ for $29.99.  In December, it released its Pixar animated movie, “Soul,” on Disney+ instead of in theaters. The entire family or a group of friends can watch those flicks when they premier, for $30, on a big screen in their living rooms. Any efforts by a studio to pull this off before the Pandemic would have caused all movie theater chains to boycott the release.

But the power relationship between movie studios and the movie theater chains has changed forever as a result of the Pandemic. Are theater chains really going to boycott a studio’s release because it’s released to theaters and in other channels, such as streaming, on the same day, rather than three months later, as specified by the traditional “theatrical window?”

Yes, they can try. Cinemark, the third largest theater chain in the US after AMC and Cineworld, is boycotting “Raya and the Last Dragon” this coming weekend, according to the Deadline today. So good luck negotiating with Disney.

The “theatrical window” – the time span between a movie’s release in theaters and its release on other channels – used to be six months. In 2010, Disney unilaterally reduced it to three months, and got away with it, and the other big studios soon followed. For consumers who wanted to watch new movies at home, the theatrical window always tested their patience.

But during the Pandemic, the theatrical window essentially went away, as movie theaters were closed, and consumers are clamoring to watch movies at home on their new big screens, now, and not in three months, and studios figured out how to leverage the exploding popularity of their own streaming services.

Meanwhile, movie theaters are barely hanging on and may be going the way of department stores, obviated by technology – broadband and affordable big TV screens – and no longer have any leverage to steer these developments.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, reported by Variety on Monday, laid it out:

“I think the consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before,” he said. “Particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them. So I’m not sure there’s going back, but we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”

The revenues from the theatrical runs still matter, once all theaters reopen and consumers feel comfortable going to theaters again. But consumers want a choice when the movie is released – watching the movie at home, or watching it in theaters. And the theatrical window, even if shortened, is just a pain for consumers. It was never designed to benefit consumers. It was designed to benefit movie theaters.

“Obviously, theaters aren’t going to be 100% back,” Chapek said. “But it’s nice to know that we’ve got the ability for people who do want to enjoy it in their home — because they don’t quite feel confident in going to a movie theater — that they’ve got that choice.”

“What this looks like in the future? Well, we’re going to gain a lot of experience and a lot of data points,” he said.

Disney+, which was launched in November 2019, already had nearly 95 million paying subscribers at the end of 2020. If each pays a fee of $70 a year, it amounts to about $6.6 billion in revenues for Disney, plus the extra fees for the special releases. And the service continues to draw large numbers of new subscribers. And it’s not just families:

“What we didn’t realize was the non-family appeal that a service like Disney+ would have. In fact, over 50% of our global marketplace don’t have kids, and that is the big difference,” he said.

If 50% of the subscribers don’t have kids, he said, “you really have the opportunity now to think much more broadly about the nature of your content.”

Consumers have been watching movies at home for years, by buying Blue-ray or DVD discs, or by downloading or streaming, and they have been watching more than ever, from more sources than ever, and they have cut back on going to theaters, and movie ticket sales peaked in 2002.

Between 2002 and 2019, the number of tickets sold dropped by 22%, despite population growth over the 17 years, according to movie data provider The Numbers. Per capita, ticket sales plunged 31% over the period. And if the theatrical window had disappeared in 2003, movie attendance would have likely plunged much more.

Then in 2020, movie ticket sales collapsed by 82% even as Americans watched more movies than ever. It is clear that there is no return back to “normal”:

Chapek didn’t say how, after the Pandemic, the theatrical releases will be timed with Disney+. But he said that consumers won’t have “much of a tolerance for a title, say, being out of theatrical for months, yet it hasn’t had a chance to actually be thrown into the marketplace in another distribution channel, just sort of sitting there getting dust.”

Disney will ultimately let consumer behavior guide its decisions in terms of the theatrical window, he said. And one thing we already know, and Disney already knows: Consumers don’t want a theatrical window at all. They want a choice – whether to watch a new release in the theater or at home.

Can multiplexes even compete with big screens at home if the theatrical window disappears entirely? Is the theatrical window the only thing that has kept multiplexes viable?

In that vein, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said on Tuesday that its Paramount Pictures would shorten the theatrical window to 45 days, and for its smaller movies, to 30 days. Perhaps with reference to Disney, he said, “Some of these other film moves that have been made, it’s not clear to me they’re sustainable. But this move, it puts the titles in the theaters, so if people want to go and get a big-screen experience, they can do that.”

Which makes no sense because if Paramount released the movie simultaneously in theaters and through other channels, people could choose if they want a theater experience or an at-home experience. Disney may be in the process of figuring this out, and figuring out how, via its Disney+ service, it can profit more from minimizing or abandoning the theater window than just shortening it, even if it ultimately triggers the demise of multiplex theaters that cannot compete with the combination of streaming and big screens at home.

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  162 comments for “Movie Theater Business Isn’t Going Back to Normal: Disney CEO

  1. California Bob says:

    The problem is, in order to duplicate the ‘theater experience’ at home you need at least two levels of seats, so an adolescent male can sit behind you and kick the back of your seat during the entire showing. And, you need to recruit a couple teenagers to sit next to you and text, take calls and play games on their cellphones.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      GREAT comment CB,,, and you are SO right about that.
      We used to go to a theater at least once a week, but at the end of 30 years or so, about late ’90s, it was just walking to a local ”art” place that showed really good movies for $5, good popcorn for $1 and real butter for another $0.50.
      Most of the patrons were ”adults”,,, a type of human that is slowly but surely disappearing from movie theaters from what I read here and elsewhere, LOL, and no one under 16 could go to any shows except mornings and matinees on Saturday and Sunday afternoons except with an adult to supervise them.
      Have wondered since why that model has not caught on more??
      I supposed the teens just want to get away from parents, just as we did when I was a teen.

      • ElbowWilham says:

        I used to go to an over 21 theater where you had a reclining seat and a table next to you. You could order real food and drinks while you enjoyed the 3 hours of Lord of the Rings. My group of friends enjoyed it.

        • We replaced squirmy teenagers with squirming in our own seats hoping for a love scene during which we could empty our beer-laden bladders.

        • Joe Saba says:

          I remember implosion of theaters back in 2001
          it’s a recurring theme
          this time doubt it will recover any time soon

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Joe Saba,

          Theater attendance (number of tickets sold) peaked in 2002. Look at the chart. The long-term predictions made in 2001 about the decline of theater attendance have been correct. Starting in 2003, it has been downhill ever since. So yes, this is a recurring them, because theater attendance continues to go downhill. This script is similar to brick-and-mortar department stores, which are now essentially dead.

      • Kent says:

        And as a father of two young boys, there’s nothing out there except, animated cartoon garbage and chicks with balls movies.
        Zero role models and unrealistic portrayals of females.
        So, for the next ten years we’ll boycott all theaters, except one that actually still has a film projector, which theaters now lack, opting for video projection, which is a little better than a home theater, and once a year projects prints of Kurosawa or repertory films.

        F* Hollywood, and Disney, we won’t miss them.

      • 728huey says:

        Wait a minute. You’re missing the inattentive mother scrolling through her cell phone while her three younger children scream loudly for candy while you’re trying to watch the movie.

    • roddy6667 says:

      I wouldn’t feel like my home theater setup was complete until a drunk teenager vomited near me.

      • Thomas Roberts says:

        I’ve been to movie theatres quite a few times and don’t recall anyone ever vomiting in the theatre. With the occasional exception of noisy kids during actual kids movies, the rest of these complaints are very rare.

        Also even with an adult present, kids under 7?, aren’t allowed into r rated movies at any theatre I can think of.

    • polecat says:

      Ah! .. Call Bob, let’s not forget to include those prudent parents …. who never fail to bring their screaming wee little tyke progeny (ages 4 and under?? ..) to attend the NEXT mind-screwing gore-fest (pick you’re cinematic poison – alien$ with serious attitude, criminal p$ychopaths trying to get their way .. and their relentless law enforcement/3-letter pursuers, ZOMBIE$ … can’t go wrong there, and SiFichickflick$! …)
      ‘;]

      • Turtle says:

        Yes, @polecat – that! As far as I can remember, The Return of the King is about a baby crying for three hours. But this is easily duplicated in a home theater environment. At least take comfort in that, @California Bob.

      • polecat says:

        ‘Cal’ (short form) Bob.

        It’s not me – I swear with my own Eye! .. it’s the Machine padawan ‘learner’. It knows not what it do.

  2. Maf says:

    Over the long term this will hurt big movie theaters but short-term, people will be flooding theaters to watch terrible movies. It’s one of the few areas where pent-up demand is real based on anecdotal evidence.

    I think we have a long way to go before culturally people are “over” the movie theater experience. I think smaller theaters that are able to structure event experiences are going to do very well post-Covid.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Maf,

      Which movies are they going to see? The ones they already watched at home on their big screens?

      Per capita, movie ticket sales dropped 31% between 2002 and 2019 before the Pandemic. That was with the “theatrical window” of 3 months intact, where people couldn’t watch new releases at home until the three months had passed. The theatrical window creates a monopoly for theaters. During it, you can only see the flick in theaters. If the theatrical window disappears, you can see the flick whenever and wherever you want to. This has already drastically changed where people watch movies.

      • w says:

        Classics,B movies,independent movies,college artmovies,documentaries combined with guest speakers,niche/local movies combined with comedic commentary are all noncorp. Versions of the movie experience like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.Has to be more interactive and interesting than sitting in a seat fortwo hours while superloud corp. Movies are blasted at you.

      • Gandalf says:

        Wolf,

        The more important follow-up question is what this effect of simultaneous digital and theater release is going to do to the profits of the studios making the movies.

        No doubt the movie theaters are going to get killed off by this trend, but will the digital releases command enough revenue that movie studios can continue to spend upwards of $200 million or more on the combined costs of making a big blockbuster movie and the accompanying marketing costs? I doubt it.

        This is a serious question – it cost big big bucks to make epic, immersive movies like “Titanic” (James Cameron built a complete slightly smaller scale version of the Titanic and a gigantic water tank for the ocean scenes – pretty expensive to do, even in Mexico), or the “Lord of the Rings” series.

        I predict that there’s going to be an upheaval with a huge amount of studio bloat that will have to be shed, with layoffs and cutbacks to the salaries of movie stars. No more $75 million paydays for a single movie like Robert Downey Jr. for “Avengers Endgame”.

        It’s entirely possible to make great movies on a budget, but could this also be the end of the grand, sweeping epics that we’ve come to take for granted?

        That was one of the biggest concerns of Denis Villeneuve, the director of the upcoming “Dune” – he was thoroughly angry that his movie was going to be early eleased digitally by Warner-HBO/Max. Because his movie is only the first half of the Dune novel, he’s rightfully afraid that the much lower revenues after a digital release will mean that he won’t have the money to be able to make the second half of the story with the same sort of epic scale and spectacle and budget of the first.

        A major cost downsizing seems to be the future of the movie industry with the onset of early digital releases, in other words.

        I would hate that, because, honestly, after a year of watching Netflix produced movies (generally done at much lower budgets, somewhere above Hallmark/LMN Channel movies and theater releases), I have to say that the vast majority are at best B- or C- quality compared to the best of what had been release in the theaters before. There were a few rare gems – I finally did watch “Roma”, and although I made fun of the movie here on this forum for winning an Oscar, I have to say it was a pretty decent movie.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          There is the issue of volume. If a studio reduces the costs of watching a movie, and makes it easy to watch at home, more people are likely to pay to watch it. So volume goes up. We have seen some of this during the Pandemic. There are no physical limitations to volume in streaming, but there are in movie theaters, including the theaters themselves, the hassles and time of getting there at the time they run, etc.

          And a studio only get part of the ticket price. The theater keeps something like 45%. In streaming, the studio gets the whole revenue stream.

          Like so many things on the internet, margins might get squeezed. This has been the case in retail. And it’s likely the case for movie theaters. But ultimately, customers do what they want to do, and if the theatrical window goes away, many more customers are going to watch the movie at home.

        • Seneca's cliff says:

          Disney has pioneered a model to create movies cheap enough to stream to homes and still make economic sense. The Mandalorian series used a full surround video screen setup to eliminate the need for sets or location work. Then they very effectively used a cast of B list actors ( Carl Weathers, etc.) to hold costs down even more. Weather you like this or not it is probably the future as opposed to grand location based movies like James Bond, or Mission Impossible,

        • Right and do you want to watch the Rolling Stones live, or streaming? The marketing geniuses at Disney know how to keep the two experiences separate and in business terms symbiotic. So on Monday the kids at school are talking about streaming the new Disney movie, but the elite kids are saying yeah, I was there (in the theater). Of course it’s going to cost more, but think about when you were a kid. I had a RS album I played on my mono player, and somebody said, yeah I was at the Stones concert. That didn’t mean anything until I had actually been to a concert and I had some possibility of going.

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          Future theatres could end up being much smaller, but because of how easy to build theaters of any size (very scalable), I don’t expect them to disappear.

          Likely most of Disney plus subscribers are still getting it for free. As more and more streaming services come out, it will be more difficult to expect everyone to simply subscribe to many of them long term. Many people that are paying, might subscribe to Disney plus for months, maybe even a year or 2, but exhaust it’s back catalog and stop paying or only pay intermittently. There are some people who pay for services like Netflix a couple months a year. Some people might even start jumping through services. Right now, Disney plus mainly has kids stuff and marvel (and the mandalorian). Marvel is very popular right now, but franchise fatigue is growing and without going to theatres, people will feel less invested in it.

          It’s very unclear if the big companies can actually come out ahead by switching to streaming and it’s also possible that a couple could win like Netflix and HBO Max and the other big players become smaller.

          We also have to include cable, internet cable (sling), and satellite subscriptions into the mix. Right now, Disney is still getting alot of money from cable subscribers who don’t even watch any of the Disney Channels.

          If Disney helps push people away from cable subscriptions, the actual number of kids exposed to Disney could drop quite a lot, that means less toys/merchandise sales and less trips to Disney land.

          Overall, Disney plus seems like a dangerous and desperate move. As it stands, the current CEO of Disney, has been trying to greatly raise the prices at Disney world and cut down on attractions, all in the name of that short term quarterly profit.

          Shrinking the size of movies could work for awhile, but it leaves the current big names vulnerable to new bigger and better competitors.

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          Also, switching to streaming could greatly increase movie and TV show piracy.

        • Kent says:

          Re Thomas Robers list of reasons:

          You forgot password sharing. We’ve been watching Netflix using a friend’s login for years.
          We subscribe to Criterion, which is wonderful and has hundreds of great classical foreign movies, along with a bit of gyno-pandering and obscure African directors. We share our log in with all our friends.

          Amazon Prime is awkward, if you share your log in and password, they can order stuff on your credit card. So, only for trusted friends.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Wolf-so well-said. What are movie theaters other than retail-distribution outlets for movies? As you note, customers ‘…do what they want to do…’ – or don’t want to do (who would have ever thought shopping malls would become so unpopular? Though certainly not the only reason, the comments here, illustrate the similarities of youthful behavior in malls vs. movie theaters…). As has already happened in many Main Street markets, the manufacturers/distributors won’t seriously hesitate to stick a knife into retail outlets in order to streamline their own revenue intakes.

          may we all find a better day.

        • char says:

          @Kent how do you let your kids watch Amazon?

    • Mark says:

      ” Movies”

      Like these cartoon morons are gonna make a Dr. Zhivago, On The Waterfront, The Hours, Ordinary People, 2001, The Pawnbroker, etc.

      If anyone has ruined the movie experience- it’s nepotistic Hollywood making CGI crap, out of pure greed, and because they’re completely bereft of the intelligence necessary to make a real movie.

      • Sam says:

        Niche mrkt: 70mm venues.

        Incestious mgmt. + nepotistic creativity = weekly conveyance of uninspired trash.

        H L Mencken espoused a few notations of Tinsel town’s energies in his writings.

      • Pavel says:

        CGI crap which literally gives me a headache along with totally unrealistic yet predictable plot lines. Cf any recent comic book or sci-fi movie. A world away from the golden age of Hollywood in the ’70s for example.

        Side note: it amazes me how many people are involved in these productions — the credits go on *forever*. Compare the people involved with a Disney movie with, say, the team involved in making a Nouvelle Vague classic like Godard’s “A bout de Souffle”. Or any of the early Scorcese classics.

        Finally — it is probably my advancing age and eardrums, but last time I saw a blockbuster movie in a NY cinema the sound was absolutely deafening.

        /s/ Grumpy Old Man :)

        • Cold in the Midwest says:

          Truth Pavel. I saw the CGI film “Midway” a while back and could not help to think how cheesy the battle scenes looked compared to Tora! Tora! Tora! Some content just does not “take” with CGI even with the higher resolution graphics used today.

          Which is a shame. Midway is a great true story and could have been an excellent film.

        • MCH says:

          Yep, the last rendition of Midway was horrible. You have zero sense of what actually happened. It’s like someone spliced together a few pivotal scenes and hoped that was enough of a story.

          It was a joke.

        • Gandalf says:

          MCH, CITM,

          The last movie rendition of Midway (2019), while still changing a few things from real history, was WAY, WAY closer to the real history than the first “Midway” movie in 1976, which was pretty much a Hollywood fabrication.

          Most importantly some additional detailed history had entered the mainstream consciousness since 1976 thanks to Parshall and Tully’s magnificent 2007 book “Shattered Sword”, about the Battle of Midway – I would heartily, 100% recommend that both of you guys read this book.

          Parshall and Tully had access to detailed translated Japanese accounts of the battle and correlated then with the official US Navy accounts and did a fabulous technical analysis of how the battle must have actually gone down, and why things happened the way they did. The passage of time also allowed them to unravel many of the false and wishful memories that had been written into previous histories from the accounts of the combatants in the battles – they showed in their book how these memories of the combatants clearly could not have happened in the way they were latered recounted.

          There are numerous scenes and details in the 2019 “Midway” movie which only somebody who had read “Shattered Swords” would have recognized. For instance, for a long long time, dating to back to when I was a kid reading about the history of WWII, Ensign Gay was depicted as the sole survivor of the doomed Torpedo Squadron 8. That bit was only true in that Gay was the only survivor of Torpedo 8 who lived to return to the U.S. The movie depicts some previously little known details about one of the other survivors of Torpedo 8, Bruno Gaido, who had actually survived being shot down, but was then captured by the Japanese. Those details came straight out of “Shattered Swords” from the Japanese and American records, including the bit of heroics that Bruno Gaido had done earlier to get promoted into that rear gunner’s seat (jumping into the rear gunner’s position of a parked airplane on board the carrier Enterprise, and shooting down a Japanese plane which then crashed into his parked plane)

        • The Count says:

          I love how in the credits of some movies you can see someone listed as “Parking Lot Attendant” being mentioned.

          Now that’s an artistic contribution!

        • MCH says:

          @gandalf

          read that book, it was a pretty good perspective. You are right about some of the details, for example, the sub attack that drew off one of the destroyers, which was subsequently followed back by the SBDs.

          But all in all, it was still a rather forgettable movie given how the scenes felt spliced together in a very haphazard manner.

        • Cold in the Midwest says:

          Thanks for that book tip Gandalf. It is on the reading list.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Pavel-not that surprising if given that the real-world combat/piloting experiences of the CGI operators/movie directors, talented as they may be, are probably limited to computer war game and flight simulator interactions.

          may we all find a better day.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Pavel, apologies, meant to address ‘Cold-‘. In agreement with you both about much of the CGI and a bankruptcy of original thought in movie-making (the conundrum being would ‘original thought’ market successfully?). Gandalf-great background and observation on a battle that truly altered the course of WWII.

          may we all find a better day.

    • Robert says:

      “Over the long term this will hurt big movie theaters but short-term, people will be flooding theaters to watch terrible movies. ”

      Just watch what happens to ticket sales in Texas now that COVID is over in that state and the mask mandate in public places is lifted.

      The big question is: Are people really that dumb that they’ll stop wearing masks and run to movie theaters? I guess no one knows anyone who died of COVID in Texas.

      • Anthony A. says:

        I live in Texas in the Houston suburbs and don’t know anyone who died of Covid and I am in my 70’s. People are still wearing masks everywhere I go. We have no plans to change what we have been doing for the last 12 months.

      • Harrold says:

        Strangely, tours of the Governor’s Mansion are not available due to COVID.

        So Texas is really only 99.99% open.

      • w.c.l. says:

        My bet is yes (if they can afford to go). After the stunning success of handling the recent freeze, I’m sure they’ll believe the governor and head on out. I just got another shipment of masks and intend to keep on using them in public till we’re dead sure this thing is under control no matter what Abbott says.

        • Cas127 says:

          You do realize that everyone is still *free* to wear masks…even when gvt isn’t commanding them to, right?

          Ditto visiting any closed/limited venue that is now fully opened…nobody is being frog marched to the multi plex.

  3. John Q Public says:

    I will miss paying $26 for a ticket, $8 for a soda, and $10 for popcorn. Is there a gofundme where I can donate to AMC to give them more money they would have taken from me anyway if they were still open?

    • Cold in the Midwest says:

      Agreed. I’ll also miss the rude behavior of other people in the theater (talking during the movie, etc.), the sticky floors, the very long string of previews and commercials prior to the film starting and the airline-style crammed seating.

      Another factor – the line between the in-home and at-theater experiences continues to blur. HDTVs are less and less costly – they are no longer only a “premium” entertainment product. More and more people will question the need of driving to the theater and tolerating the in-theater experience.

      • Kent says:

        Cold, those TVS burn out after a couple of years, and they spy on your with audio and cameras.
        Far better to go online and learn how to paint a movie screen on a wall, or if you have a big room with a white wall, just use that, then get a video projector and a sound system. That approaches the quality of the micro box cineplexes they attempt to charge ten bucks to get into.

        • Harvey Mushman says:

          Just put on a tin foil hat. You’ll be fine.

        • char says:

          The spying tv is sadly not tin film. They do spy on what you watch. camera’s are still useless but audio spying is getting there.

    • Turtle says:

      My wife asked those teenagers behind the counter for a cup of water once and it was the size of a ping-pong ball.

  4. Jon says:

    There are tons of promotions for free Disney Plus, it’s also bundled with phone plans etc for no “additional” fee at the moment. I would bet a small percentage of no kid subscribers will continue once they actually have to pay a monthly fee. Myself, brother, gf, all had Disney Plus due to a free promotion and recently cancelled because it was up.

  5. Aaron Jones says:

    Movie theatres are not going to die out for the simple fact that watching movies even on a 80″ TV is not even close to as watching them on a large theatre screen. Plus for some movies being in a theatre crowd adds to the experience.

    I watch a lot of movies at home, but I very much look forward to going back to the theatres.

  6. LD says:

    The movie theaters have struggled for a long time, but you can’t replace the movie theater experience. We just took our young kids to see E.T at the drive-in even though we own the movie and have a nice big screen at home. We spent $20 and made great memories— our two year old has talked about it every day since. I wish the drive-in would make a come-back.

    • LD says:

      The movies and the malls have also been safe places for teenagers to go with their friends and meet others of the opposite sex— it will be so sad if these places are gone in the future. More isolation and lack of real social bonds.

      • MarMar says:

        Yes, even for dates and such, it has a valuable function as a “third place”.

        • Anthony A. says:

          I miss going to the drive in movie with my old girlfriend (many years ago). That was a great place to bond.

        • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

          I couldn’t agree more. The theater has a lot of problems (as mentioned earlier): endless ads, overpriced snacks, rude people, etc.

          BUT…it also has a LOT going for it. If you WFH like I have for 2 decades, it’s nice to “Get Out”. The theater, since I was a kid, has been a wonderful escape from reality for 2 hrs.

          Lots of incredible films were made on shoestring budgets (ex. Mad Max, Rocky, Napoleon Dynamites, John Frankenheimer’s Manchurian Candidate and endless foreign/art house films).

          If Hollywood could drop the CG car chase BS and embrace the “old school”: a great script, casting, acting, cinematography, music, etc….they could put out a good product again. It’s not impossible!

          Smaller theaters that show classic films, documentaries, etc. (ex. check out the website for the Tampa Theater) have a chance.

          Drive-ins are making a comeback (Google “The Lighthouse 5″…proposed largest drive-in in the world coming to Central Florida). Hope it gets built…it looks amazing.

          I love the movie theater and don’t want to see it die. Covid and these other factors might kill it off but I hope not. It’s a great art form that enriches human understanding if done right.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Yes, many years ago a lot of bonding went on in the back of the van.

    • raxadian says:

      Drive in theaters are great, the other kinds for movies? They suck.

      Very small seats, overpriced tickets, overpriced junk food. You get to see between twenty minutes to forty minutes of ads beforehand.

      No wonder I stopped going years before lockdown.

      • MiTurn says:

        Maybe there will be a renaissance in drive-in theaters. They’re seasonal though in many parts of the country.

        • Paulo says:

          Reminds me of the old joke, (fill in your ethnic or favourite political jibe), “Did you read about the three ____________ found dead at the drive-in last week? They went to see, “Closed for the Season”.

          Great comments. My last big movie screen experience was when lighted phones became common. How I miss that flickering light when I want to watch the screen. Besides, modern north Americans are too big to fit in the seats, let alone squeeze their asses past our collective faces as they drip pop and popcorn in the aisle. “Excuse me, excuse me”. And who can forget the parents who bring their young children to something that should be X rated or worse?

          Never again.

        • ElbowWilham says:

          In my 20s I was renting a house with a couple friends. We used to pull the projector out and put up a sheet in the back yard. Build a bon-fire and watch a movie on a nice summer night. Invite some friends over. Great times!

    • w says:

      Yep!I thought of reviving the drivein experience last spring.Regionally doable and updatable especially as other biz/malls fail,its a good use of acreage in Some spots.

  7. Brad Tifman says:

    A monthly fee plus $30 more of their grift-dollars for the opportunity to be exposed to their agitprop?! Next thing you know, they’ll be telling us to wear a mask while they cover up our collapsing economy that began its precipitous fall in the REPO markets in September of 2019?!

    I think, therefore I am…to be caged.

  8. Miatadon says:

    I remember that when television in every home first became a big deal the death of movie theaters was forecast to be inevitable. It didn’t happen then. But will it happen now? My guess is yes because of many factors- hassle to get to a theater, too high cost of admission, general crappy theater quality where you can hear the noise of the movie next door, sound way too loud. I miss the smaller local theaters where the seats were comfortable, the admission price was not a rip-off, and you would actually meet neighbors there and chat a bit.

    • raxadian says:

      If we went back to big theaters with comfy seats, only a few ads before the movie and reasonable prices plus a day a week that’s cheaper? Then yes I would go back to a movie theater again.

      As they are before the.pandemic and today? No.

      A bigger screen and maybe better sound is not worth the torture.

    • Boomer says:

      Not a good comparison with the intro of TV. TV’s were a major purchase after the house and automobile for a black and white grainy interleaved 4:3 picture. If you were well to do Dad could afford a big piece of TV furniture with a huge 25” screen you had to sit across the room from to make sense of the image. You had to get up walk across the room to change the channel. Now for the price of 2-3 family outings to the theater you can buy a UHD TV, stay home, skip sitting in a room with a bunch of strangers and all of the annoyances that go along with that experience

      • raxadian says:

        Actually to pay both internet and a video streaming service is not cheap for many people if low income. zit may not be a big purchase but is simply you have to pay every month. As soon as stimulus money dries up a many people will have to cut costs.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Or you could spend $40/month on DVDs of classic and fondly remembered films. After a few years you have a library of 100’s. Most folks seem to lack foresight. I’ve bought DVDs of a few recent films and they just don’t stack up against older film production. Plus I can lend to my friends.

  9. MonkeyBusiness says:

    In America no. Does not seem to be a problem in Japan and China.

    • roddy6667 says:

      Going to the movies is huge in China. We have a mall within walking distance from us that has two movie theaters.

      • joe2 says:

        I liked Asia where people lived outside their immediate home. Invigorating. I hope it is not changing like in the US.

        • roddy6667 says:

          Yes. In Asia people live more in the community instead of in individual cubicles.

  10. Barry Fay says:

    The movie theaters will only be getting what they deserve! Mistreating the customer for profit should only work for a little while – unless there is a monopoly – which now there isn´t. If only there were an alternative to the airlines!!!

    • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

      You’re right but mistreating the customer is the American way, my friend!

      Look at any industry in the US. I work in Telecom and if you compare service/prices worldwide…the US customer is being ripped off badly.

      Our service sucks compared to Europe and Asia and we pay a lot more for it. Why? Because those SOBs can get away with it.

      There’s a scene in the amazing (based on a true story) film “The Train” w/Burt Lancaster about the Nazis trying to steal the great paintings of France at the end of WWII.

      The woman who runs the museum tries to explain to the Resistance Fighters why they should risk their lives to save the artwork. One fighter says “Don’t you have copies? Why should a man risk his life for this?”

      She says: “No, you don’t understand…these painting are our legacy, our heritage….these paintings ARE France.” They saved the paintings through their ingenuity/bravery and it did costs lives.

      So for all of the horrors committed by the film industry/movie theaters, I still think the movie theater is something worth saving. It has a value to our culture beyond dollars and cents.

      • Mary says:

        Great comment. If you are a serious film fan, this is sad news. Seeing a great film in a theatre versus watching it on tv really is like seeing an important art work in the flesh versus looking at reproductions in art books.

        Granted, for a lot of Hollywood product it doesn’t really matter. But we just watched Chloe Zhao’s extraordinary film Nomadland on our very big screen tv. I couldn’t help thinking with real sadness how much that experience made me miss our local arthouse–part of the Laemmle theatre chain in LA.

      • Shiloh1 says:

        Great movie!

  11. Lawefa says:

    While I dont think they are completely going away…at least not in larger urban areas, it is obvious they will be significantly reduced.

    I have always hated the movie theater experience. I prefer the at home streaming in the comfort of my own home.

    • MiTurn says:

      ” I prefer the at home streaming in the comfort of my own home.”

      And the pause button.

      • polecat says:

        Who doesn’t enjoy raiding the fridge between episodes, right? If I’m to partake in a hotdogs .. let it be with all My trimmings, and not Big Theater’s lack of ‘food noshing imagination’ …

        And to hell with overpriced sugar water, when a fine beer or martini .. or a big phat one, if that’s one’s preference .. better enhances my celluloid experiance!

        • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

          There’s a chain called Cine-Bistro where you can enjoy a nice meal while you watch the film, with delicious wine/beer/etc.

          In Maitland, FL (Orlando), the Enzian Theater has been the gold standard for decades: Independent, classic, foreign films shown on a multi-level floor with great food and a wide selection of alcohol. They also host The FL Film Festival

          The “big phat one”…well, for now, you have to smoke that in the parking lot, but it never stopped me! :)

  12. RightNYer says:

    Darn, I was looking forward to being able to go back to paying $12 for 2,000 calorie tub of popcorn. But hey, at least it came with a free refill, so I could get a second tub to make that 4,000 calories!

    • roddy6667 says:

      I especially like the artificial butter, which seems to be a mix of Slick 50 and yellow chalk.

  13. Xavier Caveat says:

    Vaudeville was still viable against silent films, and then technology mated sound to the silver screen, combined with the Great Depression coming soon to a venue near you and that’s all she wrote, finished.

    Like many who used to go to the movies around once every couple weeks back in the day, I doubt i’ve been more 10 times since the turn of the century.

    I could wait the 3 or 6 months to see a film @ home instead as the movies lost one really big thing to the internet, and that was the common bond you shared with others in discussing recently viewed films with friends & family, a talking point rendered moot.

    • joe2 says:

      Yes. I tapered off theatre movies. Because the movies are lousy. The last movie I saw in a theatre that affected the whole audience was Pan’s Labyrinth.

  14. 2banana says:

    Had a great time at a theater right before Covid.

    A date night.

    Theater had beautiful, large, reclining and comfy chairs.

    Waiter brings drinks and food.

    Good times

  15. Swamp Creature says:

    I’m going to miss the sight of some big fat slob with a super size box of buttered popcorn on a cell phone talking and slouching in a reclining seat, ordering an overpriced meal.

    • Xavier Caveat says:

      Please, lets not raise ‘golden flavoring’ to the level of butter.

    • Joe2 says:

      Stay at home. Avoid real life. Demand a fairy tale life. No one cares.

      • Thomas Roberts says:

        At the current rate, it seems most people in America, want to paint their windows black, work from home and never leave the couch. Food will be ordered in and everything else can be ordered online. The main missing piece is a garbage can that takes itself out. The sun, it burns. Can’t go into public there are fat people out there, let’s not even get started on those dastardly teenagers. I imagine many of these people will get rid of their own mirrors.

        There are plenty of western countries not like this and some Asian countries are already going down this path.

        • joe2 says:

          Where I live when I go out to walk the dogs it is amazing how many people wear masks walking alone on the street or in the woods. I carry a mask and put it on occasionally just to be polite to frightened people. Same mask used for months but that seems to be OK to everyone.

          I’m still not certain who is the brains behind the destruction of western civilization – it is being done so well with amazing international coordination – but they are very smart, unlike the posers, suckups, and useful idiots in the front ranks.

          Using an epi-center approach it appears to be directed from China, Washington, Germany, or England.

          I am also beginning to think maybe it is just simply evolution to a more stable hive social structure. With social media communications replacing pheromones. That might explain the sexual, power, and herd aspects of the activity.

    • polecat says:

      That’s not butter he’s gobbing. It’s pseudogrease, strewn over a GMO matrix ..

      just sayin

  16. BaritoneWoman says:

    IMO, the only movie theaters that will survive and thrive after the pandemic will be the “art-theater” houses, where they mostly show movies that are outside the mainstream plus documentaries. Sometimes they also show classics. In many cases there is often a panel discussion with the producers plus refreshments in the lobby afterwards.

    Alamo Drafthouse will also thrive as before the pandemic because it is more intimate and is both restaurant and movie theater.

  17. joe2 says:

    Another case of an MBA looking at the short-term without understanding human nature and technology and placing all his faith in crony capitalism rules enforcement. An illusion of power.

    Sure, go ahead and push your political trash out at $30 a pop vice $15. I’ve been following the Gina Carano cancel story and it will not stand.

    I’ve been to street theaters with tables and a bar. Easy to set up and lots of fun.
    These will come back because they are fun and you meet real people. Not like online lying hysterical crap being pushed now.

    BTW Wolf I am drinking my breakfast (a nice French blond ale) from your mug. It’s kind of small. If you have a bigger one, let me know. Required for these interesting times.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, a 16oz mug seems a little tight these days. But it’s the only size I have :-]

      • VintageVNvet says:

        I absolutely second the motion for a larger version of the “heck in a straight line” mugs Wolf, as I hope I made clear as soon as I got the others…
        24 oz at least,,, as that allows the full head on the brewski that I really prefer, especially with summer approaching rapidly in FL,,,
        And that size also allows the full version of the vodka drink that starts with 6 or 8 oz, and continues with the ice and whatever one pleases,, and does the job without refilling for us lazy folks,,,
        I will buy 1 or 2 asap, of at least 24 ounces of liquidity measure…
        Thank you,,,

      • Swamp Creature says:

        Wolf,

        I believe you should stick with the 16oz mug. I use it every night with a Bug light with my meal. I don’t want to become an alcoholic. A bigger mug will just temp people to consume more. This pandemic has the AAA already overflowing with new members.

        I may even get another one for Ms Swamp or guests.

        • joe2 says:

          With all due respect, i don’t see why, at my advanced age, I should be worried about becoming an alcoholic when by all MSM accounts, I am about to die from the CCP virus or roving bands of right wing insurrectionists or a police shooting or global warming or starvation because Bill Gates is hording all the edible bugs in the kitchen at Davos.

  18. SpencerG says:

    I think the last movie I watched in an actual theater was the James Bond flick Skyfall… about ten years ago if memory serves.

    The simple truth is that large screen TVs are so cheap (and so good) that there just isn’t much need to go to a cinema. I have some projectors from my local college that I cannot even PAWN because the pawn shops can’t sell them.

    It will be curious what this does to the dating scene. Both for adults and teenagers.

    • joe2 says:

      It does seem that mingling crowds are discouraged. We should plan another Woodstock.

  19. Artem says:

    Movie chains are in for A LOT of pain in the US long term. There’s a huge dissincentive in terms of content, as mentioned in the article. Cheap or even FREE movie tickets and expensive junk food would be an interesting business model to consider.

    Internationally, it’s not so clear. In many emerging markets the home experience is not quite up to the western standards, and movie going is still “an event” as entertainment options at home are much more limited. Movie chains may continue to do well in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and possibly China for many decades.

  20. Alberta says:

    My first job was at the lux theater — aur conditioned (for AZ a huge draw), art deco gilt painted walls, velvet seats the size of a small sofa, and our projectionist played Debussy as he set up the machine.

    Did I mention I earned $1.50 an hour? The owner would dole out my weekly pay asking “Where are you going to spend ALL your money?”

    Good memory, thanks Wolf.

  21. gorbachev says:

    I don’t know if the movie theatre business is viable. But, I do enjoy a movie out a couple of times a year. Those big blockbusters are always fun.

  22. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    There is another reason for the “Theatre Window” besides theatre revenues. The whole period before a movie reached its eventual home in the standard lineup for some cable channel had revenue streams for both the the studio and residual payment generation for directors and other folks who are paid that way. From theatre release, to foreign theatre release, to second run, to airlines, to dvd sales the to dvd rentals and at home sales, followed by foreign dvd and streaming. An increasingly small part of this is the US audience. The direct to video route is problematic because much of the worldwide streaming market is hard to monetize. My son is in the industry and he says the general consensus is that movies will have to be smaller and cheaper to be profitable in this new model. The U.S made big budget blockbuster may be a thing of the past. We were discussing the other day how during the pandemic many invested in big screens and huge multi-+channel sound systems to watch the next “ Mission Impossible” type movie. But instead they may be watching the equivalent of Woodie Allen Movies on these systems. I would guess that the big budget action movie will become the property of Chinese, Korean and Indian studios who can leverage a big enough “ live” audience to make these things pay. So if you have not seen “Wolf Warrior II “or “Last train to Busan” you might want to so you know what is in store for you on the flat screen.

  23. Paulo says:

    What is a pretty good experience are those local repurposed theatres made into play houses, or used for concerts. The prices are affordable, and the offerings range from comedy acts to musical talent. Tribute bands are affordable and the music is as good as the original. People usually dress up a bit, there is an intermission for a stretch and a bathroom visit, with wine and beer for sale. The profits go to maintenance and for booking acts. The ushers and vendors are volunteer ‘society members’, and they enjoy just being there. You can buy your tickets online and reserve a seat. These theatres are also used for local acting groups, and they occasionally show films. The vast lobby is for mingling and the walls display local artists. All good.

    Sure beats a cineplex with shoot em ups….and I like shoot em ups.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      My home village had a beautiful Spanish-style theater built in 1927. One of the ones with illuminated pinpoint “stars” in a midnight blue domed ceiling. Very ornate. Was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The village board couldn’t get it’s act together, nor could anyone else. So it was completely demolished in 2007. The bare lot is vacant to this day.

  24. boikin says:

    A few comments:

    1) movie theatres can survive even if they can keep the rights for as little as 2 or 3 weeks off of TV, because of FOMO and social media. I was just part group text about how they were annoyed that they would have to get up at 3am to watch Wanda Vision when it was released on Disney + or they would have to avoid tik tok because it would ruin what happened. The point is there is still a window but it getting time compressed and this was happening before the pandemic.

    2) In the short and mid term this will be money maker for companies like Disney, but in the long term it could end up hurting there long term revenue by devaluing any new IP they create. IP created for TV has yet show the value IP created for big screen. For example when was last time you heard someone excited about the new ER themed amusement park? Disney especially has built their business on nostalgia, can they duplicate that on TV?

    3) This will lead to ever growing arms race between streaming services of product production, because of both 1 and 2. Long term things actually look pretty dim for these companies. Asia will probably save some, because of people actually going to the movies.

    I hope theatres make it, I love going to the movies and I have no FOMO, so for me going to second run theatres for $5 or so is much cheaper then buying the equivalent home theatre.

    • polecat says:

      I wish for theaters to make a comeback … you know, those venues where an actor or actress performed LIVE! (Oh, the Horror!) amongst an audience, rather than in pursuit of the waste stream we refer to as the ‘Film Industry’!

      Might cut all those self-aggrandizing Egos down to a manageable size …

  25. Jdog says:

    In reality, Hollywood is just a propaganda factory engaged in social engineering for the corporate agenda.
    I would be thrilled to see it drop into the sea.

    • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

      Yeah man, that what’s Sean Hannity told me too!

      Dood…..The Big Lebowski totally brainwashed me.

      But you know what?

      That rug……it really did the tie the room together!

      I can’t wait for the Cohen Bros. to do their take on the red hat personality cult. I’m guessing the public will be ready for that in about a decade.

  26. Drunk Gambler says:

    Why go to restaurants, when you can have your food delivered to you?
    Why go to Casino, when yoy can gamble online?
    Experience. Wolf, perhaps not a big fan of the movie theater, but some of us are.
    I prefer to watch Dunkirk on IMAX rather then home. Totally different EXPERIENCE !
    We are not going to the movies because it’s cheaper, we go there because we like it.
    Hollywood will follow Demand. If people will return to Big Screen, Disney will serve their movies in Theater.
    So it’s up for us. Customers. We will decide the future. Not some CEOs.
    And I have huge reason to believe that Movie Theater will survive…

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Drunk Gambler,

      “Wolf, perhaps not a big fan of the movie theater, but some of us are.”

      Ha, trying to conclude from my articles what I personally like to do, or thinking that my personal preferences influenced an article about an industry, will get you mired in BS right away. This is an analysis, based on numbers and changes in the industry, and it’s not a list of what I like to do in my spare time.

      We personally don’t have a TV at home, we don’t have a big screen either. If we want to see something, we go have a drink and a bite to eat somewhere, then mosey over to the theater and watch the movie, followed by a drink afterwards.

      But the thing is, we’re a total minority. We don’t count. Not many households do NOT have a TV. But even we don’t go to the movies often enough to keep them alive because almost none of the stuff produced is interesting to us. We might go once or twice a year. And some years, we don’t go at all. For us, there are a lot of other things to do in life than watch a movie.

      For the multiplexes to stay alive, they need lots of people going to the movies — every day. Not just some stragglers on Friday and Saturday night. And that has been on the decline since 2002 – before the Pandemic. Now everything has changed. Sure, some people will go to the movies, but the numbers won’t bounce back to where they had been in 2019, which was already a multi-decade low.

      And multiplexes will shut down, one after the other, just like department stores. It’s a long process and doesn’t happen overnight.

      And I agree with you on this: “So it’s up for us. Customers. We will decide the future. Not some CEOs.” Because customers have ALREADY decided where they want to watch their movies. That’s why theater attendance is been dropping since 2002 and collapsed in 2020. And that’s why streaming channels and big-screen sales have skyrocketed.

      • polecat says:

        I try to snap up (when I can find them..) dvds of film worth seeing, again and again. Not recently, as much of it is crap, and .. as someone up thread has noted, CGI seems to be the crutch of directors far and wide, (yes, That includes Chinese as well as Western filmmakers .. to the bain of those who like a good story .. without the digitalTech gimmickry!

        More and more, it’s Criterion/JANUS for me, above the dumbed-down ‘norm’.

      • Dan Romig says:

        One thing to watch that definitely deserved a high-def big screen was yesterday’s Women’s 10k Individual Freestyle World Championship cross country ski race in Oberstdorf, Germany.

        Alas, Jessie Digging missed the podium and finished 4th.

        • Dan Romig says:

          Diggins, darn it.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Biathlon. If you can’t prove you can shoot straight after skiing, what’s the point.

          I’m waiting for cross country snowboarders. Then I quit and move to Bali.

        • Dan Romig says:

          Lisa_H,

          Growing up in Minnesota, my dentist and Orthodonist were identical twin brothers from Norway. Yeah their daughter/niece represented the USA in two Olympiads as a biathlete. The trick is to settle your heart and pull the trigger between beats.

          Jessie brought home the final leg in the 4 x 5K relay this morning, but got taken out of a podium finish at the end by a strong and solidly built Finlander who’d drafted her the last few kilos as they were alone battling for third vs fourth.

          Movies have suspense, but watching these two was breathtaking drama played out live from across the globe.

          1)Norway
          2)Russia
          3)Finland
          4)USA

  27. Island Teal says:

    Interesting article and good comments mostly focused on the movie theater experience. Having worked in the distribution side of the business and watching the move in the delivery side to streaming, one of the biggest gates is that connection to the net to get the content. Even today you have to deal with the 2021 version of “the cable guy”. After decades it’s still a clown show for the consumer 🤡🤡

  28. lenert says:

    Was just wondering if something as simple as more living space makes a difference and it’s a little hard to find (quickly anyway) stats on per-capita living space across countries and over time but a piece from last year in Fast Company cites a worldwide trend in increasing living space and says:

    “This trend is linked to something called the ‘second demographic transition.’ Put simply, as countries develop and individual incomes rise, people prioritize higher order needs, such as privacy, autonomy, and the fulfillment of personal ambitions.”

  29. MarkinSF says:

    Anxiously awaiting the reopening of the Castro here in good old San Francisco where you get to see great older films. Nothing like watching Taxi Driver or 2001 in 70mm as originally intended.
    There used to be great buzz around going to see a movie and before HBO etc. you’d go to see a film 2, 3 or 4 times (the cost was not ridiculous).
    When the Castro shows a film like 2001 the old theater is packed (and it holds a lot of seats). Across the Bay in Oakland they’ve tried presenting classics on the big screen but nobody goes. I’m guessing it’s that way in most of the country.
    The shared experience of watching a great film on a big screen has kind of been lost as we slip deeper and deeper into our individual and family oriented worlds.

  30. Mike says:

    I see all the streaming services as an expansion phase life-cycle. How many streaming platforms are there? For just the studios. And then the Netflix’s, Amazon Prime’s, Hulu’s, etc. Many dozens. Who is going to pay for all of them at $5-$10/month? And, more importantly, for how long? Playing the switch service every month game gets old, and fast.

    Then paying $29.99 on top of the recurring streaming fees for one movie? At some point the paying public is either going to wise up, or run out of money.

    A contraction phase is coming. It’s only a matter of time.

    • lenert says:

      Not until you trade your bitcoin for the Streaming SPACs. /s

    • LD says:

      It seems people of my generation are doing exactly what we did- got rid of cable television, got an Apple TV box and subscribed to several streaming services (Disney, HBO, Netflix, and Hulu). We save a lot of money each month and we don’t miss cable/satellite tv AT ALL- such a waste of time and money. We have had solicitors from AT&T and other providers knocking on our door this past year and when I tell them we have Apple TV, they leave. I can’t understand why anyone still has cable television. What I worry about are these streaming services jacking up their prices once cable/theaters decline more.

  31. Stephen C. says:

    I haven’t watched a Disney film ever since I was a young teenager, when one day I was listening to Beethoven and found that I was picturing Bambi in my mind’s eye. Still happens, which to me is alarming. In one way I am grateful for the experience; clued me in at an early age about cultural co-optation and American cultural crapification. I don’t think I’ve missed anything important by boycotting Disney or other cartoonish “blockbusters.” I used to enjoy art house theatres for independent films, but the mass market theatre experience? No thanks. I’ll skip the opportunity to be shot up by a teenager on too many antidepressants, thank you very much.

  32. Swamp Creature says:

    Movie theaters are canabolizing their own business by running ads for TV shows in their previews. What a stupid move. Promoting your competition on your own platform.

  33. EJ says:

    Tech is, yet again, a huge factor here.

    The classic producer’s argument of “seeing a movie the way it was meant to be seen” is questionable. Mid-grade modern TVs look VERY good. They will look better than most theatures in a few years, when MicroLED is more of a thing. And home sound setups have been great for decades.

    The social aspect, too, can be replicated. There are already “watch party” apps that can synchronize streams remotely, and its only a matter of time before this becomes a de facto streaming service feature.

  34. Russell says:

    My family subscribes to the Disney Experience for a month about twice a year. Makes it more special that way. We binge-watch all the new movies that have been released during the past six months and then move back over to Netflix or other services. Doesn’t make sense to subscribe full time. They don’t have enough new content.

  35. upnorth says:

    The economics of home theatre are striking. If you buy a 80″ TV, sound system etc. up here in Canada you budget about $4000 CAD pesos including tax. Assume 5 year life for TV, Blue ray and receiver; longer for the rest and a budget of $325 per year for streaming services and rentals. At $20 for a trip to the movies per person, the break even point for an individual is 39 movies. For a family of 5 it is 8. Never mind that your budget lets you watch TV shows and the regular stuff….and you can drink a beer and eat popcorn for 1/10th the cost of the theater. They’re going to have to get super specialized to continue to justify their existence.

    • MaryLou says:

      Upnorth, How about a 144″ screen with surround sound?

      The standard room ceiling height is 8′, meaning you can paint a high quality movie screen directly on the wall, which will never wear or burn out.

      Buy a 5. surround sound system with speakers, purchase a used computer with enough bandwith to stream through, for next to nothing, hard wire it with an ethernet cable to your router, obtain a new 4K, or cheap used 1080P video projector and you have a home theater.

      The most expensive thing will be the projector bulb replacement every 1500 to 2000 hours.

  36. Petunia says:

    A small chain called Alamo Drafthouse Cinema just declared bankruptcy.

    I used to love going to the movies when I lived in NYC, went every week. Since we left the city, we rarely go. NYC ran movies not usually released everywhere, so you always had something interesting to go see. Now the major releases are not worth the trip. And the atrocious behavior of people in general is another reason to stay away. In the last 5 years, I know I’ve gone less than 10 times.

  37. MonkeyBusiness says:

    I am not sure why we can’t watch movies using our VR goggles yet.

  38. Truth Ministry Insider says:

    Disney+ got cancelled in my house. Oh well.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      Same. Pretty disappointing. I signed up for The Mandalorian and it turned out to be a most overhyped show.

  39. Rowen says:

    In related news, Amazon will be streaming more NFL games exclusively on Prime.

    Content is king

  40. sunny129 says:

    Long before this pandemic, even a decade before, Millennials and Gen X generations who tech savy enough made the ‘going to the movie’ option less appealling when Bit torrent technology came into existence. None of my sons’ friends want shellout $$ for these movies with or without CGI. But only for 3D/IMAX experience. Paying $29.99 for Mulana? They just laughed at me!

    If it is ONLINE (streaming or otherwise) it can be downloaded (either legally or otherwise) Any thing in ‘digital’ can be downloaded. For the last 2 decades I went to the theaters with 3D/IMAX for viewing certain movies. otherwise one can download virtually any of them if tech-savy enough, of course, not for the majority.

  41. polistra says:

    The movie business, like newspapers, survived everything but its own idiocy. Both were decimated by their insistence on pushing arrogant aristocratic nonsense, instead of satisfying the desires of normal humans.

  42. John says:

    Wolf,
    Yea man theatres are finished just based on your article. I remember when Disney stock was around 27 in single 2000’s. 192 bucks now. 1.5 billion share count with projections of 300-350 world subscribers by 2024. Netflix, by comparison has almost half a billion shares out with 195 million subscribers and a share price in the five hundreds. Less than five years ago Netflix was 100. One to hold along with Roku. Roku was around 40 back then too. That’s growth these days, I’ not seeing much growth these days.

  43. MonkeyBusiness says:

    The only remaining question is whether AMC will go to 400 dollars from this point.

  44. BuySome says:

    To be honest, I’m less worried over theater closures than the shutdown of our old indoor swap meet. Beginning to feel like Logan 7 caught in an eternal struggle with Box who is trying to techno-freeze me into cold storage. On the other hand, I do get time to explore other finds like the so far un-I-dentified 8×10 glossy of White Fleet heavy crusier USS San Francisco sitting docked in China Basin with the Ferry Tower peeking out in the distance. Or the time I just spent on a 1925 snapshot of baseball player Nick Dumovich who turned out to be a Cubs pitcher for 1923 and has just released a ball in a Seattle Stadium that would later go down in an infamous arsonist’s spree….all the while being able to run a movie of choice from the DVD library with no recurrent monthly fees on top. So let the cinema houses go..there’s better things to do than worry if Disney et al think they can run the planet better.

  45. ru82 says:

    A few things I find interesting.

    The wilshire 5000 indexwas created in the 1970 that represented every company in every U.S. exchange. It grew to 7400 in 1999. It is now down to aroud 3500. A 54% drop. Did that many companies go bankrupt. Nope, it is mostly consolidation and M&A.

    The government does not care that much about competition anymore. Not sure if people are aware but cable TV companies were restricted to only 30 million subscribers for a long time prevent monopolies. Now they are letting these industries consolidate into just a few companies which will probably be Disney, Netflix, Amazon. Maybe also some smaller players who own some good content like HBO, NBC and CBS?

    Content is king though.

    I am guessing they will eventually have to raise prices a lot to make a good profit.

    ESPN used to make $9 per each of its 90 million cable subscribers plus several billion in advertising.

    Disney used to make about $2 per subscriber I think plus advertising.

    That comes to $11 between Disney and ESPN per sub.

    Now you get a bundled Disney, ESPN, and HULU for $13. So that only leaves you about $2 to create HULU content. So the streaming is not making that much more money for Disney when people cut the cord.

    I am guessing the hope for all the smaller content guys is to be bought out or get together and create their own aggregated service like Hulu did to compete against Netflix?

  46. CreditGB says:

    What is produced are cookie cutter plots acted out by so called “actors” with significant Narcissistic personality disorders.

    Sorry, this disorder shines through these horrible wastes of film like a super nova in ink black space.

    Who cares if the theater has them or they sell this garbage direct via downloads, neither is worth money, or worse, the time wasted watching this junk.

  47. Tom20 says:

    Hmmm…prime rib and adult drinks on a Saturday night ……or a watch someone who spends their free time bashing how I live? Tough decision.

  48. Lisa_Hooker says:

    Buying a theater ticket without a credit card creates no demographics. Watching over the air television creates no demographics. A video stream creates who, what, where, when, how long and how much. Data sales are the growth industry. Remember – you are the product.

  49. MBGA says:

    And while the theaters contemplate whether people are going to come back and the studios decide whether to release their tired content to the the theater or home first, I am watching short youtube videos made by real people. This evening I watched

    – how to play harmonica blues riffs on a synthesizer
    – a british supreme court justice discussing lockdowns
    – officer tatum
    – a review of a high end vacuum cleaner
    – expat life in Portugal
    – brazilian piano technique
    – tornada asian omelette technique
    – ric grennel speech
    – aquaphalt instructions
    – ……..

    An evening of that is so much more entertaining and satisfying for me than 99% of the movies I used to watch. I am so done with Hollywood.

  50. DanS86 says:

    Wait…Disney is pricing the movie as if 3 person family is going to a physical stadium style theater.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I just priced a ticket for one adult, tonight, for “Raya and the last Dragon,” at the AMC Metreon 16 here in San Francisco, and it is $17.49. So Disney’s streaming deal would be for a 1.7 person family here.

      Not including all the other costs associated with a trip to the theater, including transportation, parking, snacks and sodas at the theater, etc.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        For $17.49 I expect to be transported to my seat in a sedan chair carried by two 20-something female porters in bikinis.

      • MonkeyBusiness says:

        Well, the thing with AMC is you need to sign up for their membership (20 + tax a month) where you get to watch up to 3 movies a week.

        Then going to the theater becomes a very reasonable proposition. I used to work downtown and sometimes I would go to the theater after work with friends to watch movies and have dinner afterwards.

        • sunny129 says:

          Except for special screening of 3d/Imax versions. I quit going to the movies almost over a decade ago.

          Choices are plenty and almost cheap for moderately ‘tech savy’ consumers, as I described in detail above. $29.99 for a disney movie in the digital/online era. Good Heavens!

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