Cinemas and COVID

Theater chains are reopening, but will films still play in them?


AMC Theatres are beginning to reopen even with a lack of films being released.

By Patrick Sheesley, Staff Writer

There has been no shortage of changes to society since the pandemic’s start, and movie theaters, which were shut down in March, are now slowly beginning to reopen with new safety protocols. 

In early October, I went to the AMC Theatres at Phipps Plaza to view Christopher Nolan’s espionage film “Tenet.” To no surprise, masks were mandated in the theater, as well as during the film unless eating or drinking. Popcorn, candy, and other favorite movie snacks were still available, but because only one person was retrieving them, the wait was longer than expected. The most significant change, however, was the seating capacity of the theatres. AMC only sold tickets for 40% of the seats, but groups of friends could still sit next to each other without any trouble. 

Despite these enhanced safety measures, the theater was still relatively empty, which was likely the result of how few movies the film studios are releasing during this time. The producers of “Tenet” took a risk with its release, and as of this writing, has not broken even with production and advertising costs. Film companies such as Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros. released some movies on streaming services during the pandemic, but due to “Tenet”’s unsuccessful run and the weak responses to the movies released to streaming, many large companies are withholding their potential blockbusters until the indefinite end of the pandemic.

“A lack of attendance could mean the end of movie theaters as film companies refocus their efforts to streaming service releases.”

According to Rotten Tomatoes, some of the major releases that have been delayed include “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die,” “Dune,” “F9,” and “A Quiet Place Part II.” Without these films bringing in revenue, theater chains may have no option but to shut down, so what will happen to the future of movies?

In this modern era of technology, streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV+, and HBO have surged in popularity during this pandemic, and films such as “Trolls: World Tour,” “Bill & Ted Face the Music, “Mulan, and “Greyhound” have all been released on streaming platforms. If the theater industry fails, streaming services would likely take their place as evidenced by their popularity and frequent use.

In mid-October, Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney, announced that the company would refocus and prioritize their release schedule to streaming according to the New York Times. Disney-Pixar’s Soul, originally set to release in theaters in June, has now been moved to a Dec. 2020 release on Disney+. According to a Variety article, A Disney investor has also recently encouraged Disney to release expected blockbusters such as Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow” to streaming services instead of holding out for the reopening of theaters. 

Following Disney’s shift from theaters to streaming services, will other film companies do the same? Only time will tell. The future, as it has been for several months, is uncertain in these unpredictable times. Movie theaters are attempting to reopen domestically in the middle of this pandemic, but a lack of attendance could mean the end of movie theaters as film companies refocus their efforts to streaming service releases.