FACEOFF; Opinion: Movie theaters, although nostalgic, are on the verge of extinction


Photo by Gracie Watt / Hilltop Views

Nearly a quarter (23%) of all US movie theaters have stayed closed since March 2020. These locations generated a combined yearly box office of $1.8 billion on average in 2018 and 2019.

When was the last time you went to a movie theatre? I haven’t been since pre-pandemic times, and even then I can’t remember when I went before that. I would estimate it’s been two years, which is really crazy to think about because I used to love going to the movies.

In high school, the movie theatre was a place I would go to with friends on a Saturday night; somewhere my mom and I would go to pass the time, and even the ideal place for a first date. Movie theaters bring back so many memories, but now that the world has changed so much, it’s become an ominous place.

About a month ago, I got the strange urge to go see a movie at a theatre. I went online to buy a ticket, but there weren’t any movies that really looked interesting. Also, a ticket for a movie on Friday at  Violet Crown Cinema was $15. If you’re thinking about getting concessions, that would be at least another $10. A $25 commitment is a tall order for a college student, so I passed and found a movie to watch at home for a much lower price. 

I personally couldn’t have gotten through the pandemic without the plethora of my subscribed streaming services. HBO Max easily takes the prize for the best streaming service. Not only do they have nostalgic, classic shows like “Gossip Girl,” “Sex and the City” and “Friends,” but they also have new movies that just hit the theaters.

HBO Max has a partnership with Warner Bros., so movies premiere the same day as theaters. This has been a game-changer for watching new movies in the comfort, convenience and safety of your own home. As if it weren’t hard enough for movie theaters to get people to go back to watching movies in person, same-day streaming might be the final nail in the coffin.

There is an indescribable and nostalgic feeling about movie theaters that my couch can’t quite match. Somehow, I don’t miss sitting on the movie theatre chairs that haven’t been cleaned since who knows when, and I don’t look forward to dropping my phone down the chair crevice and having to fish it out along with stray pieces of old popcorn and candy. Just thinking about the general stickiness of the movies keeps me happily wrapped up in a blanket on my couch. 

Will movie theaters be able to make a comeback against all odds? Can a hot new lineup of movies like “No Time to Die,” “House of Gucci,” “Spencer,” “Eternals,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “West Side Story” and “The French Dispatch” allow theaters to hold on a little longer? I would argue that new movies will provide a temporary spike in attendance, but it won’t be a long-lasting commitment to people coming back to theaters.