As an end to the COVID-19 pandemic seems to come closer with vaccine rollout, people are getting excited about what they’ll be doing once everything is said and done. Some people are excited about concerts. Other people can’t wait to travel. Many are just looking forward to hugging their family. But very few people seem to be excited about going to movie theaters. Not without good reason, either. Even before everything changed, theaters were expensive, uncomfortable and losing their appeal. If things don’t change, movie theaters will be facing a hard uphill battle when the conditions in other industries return to normal.
One of the problems movie theaters had before the pandemic, and one of the issues they will most certainly have after the pandemic, is their pricing. In the latter half of 2019, on a national average a movie ticket alone cost $9.25. A large popcorn and a large soda were an additional $15, give or take. For one person to go to the movies for a “full experience,” it could be nearly $25. One can only remember how expensive it might be to go on a date with a significant other or go to the movies with family members.
Theaters need to pay their employees and keep the lights on, but there has to be a way to make the experience more affordable. According to a Harris study, 58% of Americans sneak in snacks to the movie theater. One can only assume a factor of this is the price of snacks at the theater. If most people are sneaking in their snacks, perhaps theaters should make some changes to help them in the long run.
Another problem theaters have always been notorious for is how uncomfortable they are. This problem will only become more noticeable post-pandemic. We’re all familiar with the awkward situation where two strangers are sitting next to one another in the theater and someone has to choose who gets the armrest or who awkwardly holds their arm tightly to their side. Now, imagine this situation immediately after a pandemic. People aren’t going to want to sit elbow to elbow to watch a movie. Of course, people will forget about the pandemic and fall back into old habits over time, but the question is if theaters will be able to hold on for that long.
The biggest problem that movie theaters will face after the end of the pandemic is overall interest. People aren’t interested in movie theaters anymore. More and more people would rather watch movies in the comfort of their own homes. According to a Variety survey, only 12% of people would definitely watch a movie in the theater if there was a 90-day wait to watch it at home; this is opposed to 23% of people who would definitely wait to watch a movie at home and 21% who probably would.
People aren’t interested in seeing movies on a bigger screen with louder audio anymore. The problems of comfort and price factor into these statistics mentioned, but even if those problems were solved, many still may not be interested in movie theaters. If theaters want to survive, they need to figure out something new to catch people’s interest and amend the current problems.