FACEOFF; Opinion: Movie theaters are suffering momentarily as they figure out how to compete with streaming services


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.

“The Devil Made Me Do It” is the last movie I remember watching in a movie theatre. My boyfriend and I went to a late showing in July 2021. It was warm outside, like Texas summers usually are, but I brought a jacket because the theatre is always cold. We both got candy and walked down the dimly lit hall. 

I don’t go to the movie theatre often, but that’s what makes it feel so special when I do. I love going because almost every theatre has the same feeling: The same chill that gives me goosebumps when I walk in, and the same lighting in the lobby that feels so mysterious for some reason. 

Movie theatre attendance started to decline in 2019, which caused people to wonder if seeing movies at the theatre was a thing of the past. There have been even larger dips in movie theatre attendance before, and even then, the industry bounced back. The pandemic and the convenience of streaming services have  further solidified views that there’s no need for movie theaters anymore.

I think it all comes down to preference. In December 2020, Warner Bros. released “The Devil Made Me Do It,” both in theaters and on HBO Max, allowing  viewers decide where they would rather watch the movie.

Even though the movie was released on a streaming service that I subscribe to, I chose to see it in the theatre because I wanted to experience the thrill of watching it there. Warner Bros. also released “The Suicide Squad” in theaters and on HBO Max simultaniously. I wasn’t as adamant about seeing that movie in the theatre, so I chose to watch that movie from the comfort of my bed.

I don’t think that movie theaters are dying, but I do think they are adjusting to compete with streaming services. A movie ticket at an average theatre costs about the same amount as a monthly subscription to HBO Max with ads. It seems like theaters are trying to figure out a way to compete with streaming services.

Streaming services have tons of movie options for an affordable price, but are they good movies? I comb through tons of movies on different streaming services, and when I finally find something I want to watch it usually has an extra cost attached to it. 

Maybe I’m holding onto the hope that movie theaters aren’t dying, but I think it’s too soon to say for sure. Theaters had huge competition with the rise of streaming services and the pandemic in the same year.

I will always want to watch new horror releases in the movie theatre because it’s exhilarating. I’m willing to pay $10 for the experience of seeing a new movie on the big screen. I hope that I always have the option to see movies at the theatre.