How Coronavirus Will Change How We Watch Movies

Currently, the United States is in the grips of the Coronavirus pandemic, bringing our daily lives to a screeching halt. While I’m sure the economy will bounce back once we have gotten past “social distancing”, the one industry that will be dramatically – possibly ultimately – affected will be movies and entertainment.

The recent announcements by AMC and Cinemark theaters closing their doors for the next 6-12 weeks while doing their part to combat coronavirus has a massive effect on their business but also the movie studios. Many major studios such as Disney and Universal have pushed back movies that were scheduled to come out between March and May to dates unknown. The 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die, has been pushed to later this year in November while a big summer film such as F9 has jumped the canyon to May 2021. Meanwhile, other studios have begun to make moves to ensure that movie lovers and viewers can still see the movies that were currently in those brick theaters before their doors closed.

Universal overrode its usual three-month release window by making recent releases Emma, The Invisible Man, and The Hunt available as a premium VOD rental as early as today. They have also made the upcoming Trolls: World Tour also available for VOD rental on the same day as its theatrical release. While I’m sure this has been an idea floating around in the mind of studio executives, now there is a real-world emergency that allows them the cover to make this move. Because theaters cannot show movies right now, this situation presents a paradigm shift in the movie business.

The comfortable business model where theaters show a movie in a theater for weeks on end and new ones come in to take their place, the theater continues to make a profit in addition to what they earned as a primary source of income, concessions and ticket sales. However, this didn’t work as studios looked to capitalize on the revenue that could be generated from video on demand and the rise of streaming services like Netflix. Netflix and Hulu have begun to make their own feature-length films and films that major chains did not want to show titles.

AMC recliners

While I admit to enjoying the updated theater experience with recliner seats, I pick and choose what movie I want to spend money on, tickets averaging between $9.74 to $12.54. Most times, I choose to go to a matinee time with their $5 ticket prices and less crowded theaters. With coronavirus keeping everyone inside, it creates a set of circumstances where audiences become more used to watching major new releases in the comfort of their own home. Depending on how long this lasts and how big the blockbuster, those delayed movies might be coming to streaming services and Video on Demand sooner than whenever theaters will reopen. Personally, I’m not against watching movies like The Photograph from my couch rather than the money I paid to see it. 

What I could see happening now is that whenever AMC, Regal, and Cinemark reopens, some of their locations might be closed permanently. That leaves major studios such as Disney, Universal, etc to scoop these properties up and make them hubs for their own blockbusters (which could be beneficial to Disney with all the properties under their umbrella).

This move of having midrange films like The Invisible Man and Emma provides the opportunity for studios to compete with Netflix and just release these titles either as a premium rental or as content on services such as Disney+. Therefore, studios will continue to earn money and keep making blockbusters. Audiences are starting to stay home and be patient to wait for these releases to come onto a streaming site or On Demand.

We should all be prepared for moviegoing to look very different at least a year from now. Change was going to come to the movie business and coronavirus is the catalyst for that change, whether we want it or not.

Thanks for reading, everyone! 

What do you think about the changing movie landscape? Are you still a theater goer like me or prefer to stay at home? Or like me, maybe you are in the middle?

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