The Fate of Movie Theaters

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How often do you go out to see a movie? Unless you’re an active moviegoer or a dedicated film critic, probably not very often. Over the past years, there has been a slow decline of people going to the movie theaters. Why?

Going to the movies has changed immensely over the years. Theaters want you to have a great experience: IMAX, for example, is a theater option that wants to give viewers a higher-quality image, clearer/louder audio, and much more comfortable seating. However, while this is happening, the one important piece of attending the theater, is the ticket prices. Tickets are becoming increasingly expensive, and could play a big part in why less people are choosing to go out to the cinema.

Ticket sales often fluctuate from year to year. Throughout the last decade, 2017 had its lowest year in ticket sales of $1.24 billion, according to Box Office Mojo. “Avengers: Endgame”, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, and “Toy Story 4” were a few of the top-grossing films last year. Despite these highly anticipated films, 2019’s gross change per year went down 4.8%. Although sales vary throughout the year, ticket sales had not reached a low of $1.4 billion since 2009.


Movie Ticket Sales Statistics

Ticket sales have gradually increased over the decade, inflation being one of the main reason. The average movie ticket in the U.S. costs was $9.16 in 2019, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. It increased about $1.27 from 2010’s average ticket price of $7.89. Moreover, theater concessions or snacks are relatively expensive as well.

While inflation causes many items’ price to increase, the expensive movie ticket prices are changing the way people find access to movies. This is called the substitution effect. When these ticket prices remain high and continue to grow higher, it leads to another way of watching movies. And it’s not buying or renting DVDs — It’s all about streaming services.

Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Go have grown popular for entertainment. With these services come endless amounts of TV shows and movies, for a low monthly subscription price. And whether they’re accessed through your phone, laptop, or tablet, they have become more convenient for everyone.

“It disturbs me very deeply when I see people watch my films on their phone,” director Spike Lee said in an interview for BBC.

When asked about going to the cinema, Lee mentioned the impact of watching a movie with a group of people, and the importance of having that shared experience. Lee also described the difficult choices directors have to make, now that streaming services have become a platform to reach audiences.

“‘The Irishman’ was not going to get made if it didn’t go to Netflix,” Lee said. “My new film, ‘Da 5 Bloods’, had been turned down by all studios. Netflix did it.”

Because of streaming services, filmmakers now question where the best place to reach their audiences is. Perhaps internet streaming has created competition for the cinema and film industry. Do people feel motivated enough to go out to the movies when they have access to view them at home?

“As a person who works at the theaters, I’ve noticed a decline of people going, since we have other outlets to watch movies and shows,” Skyline student Erika Pingul said. “Aside from new movie releases, I’ve also noticed that people around around our age rarely go because of platforms like Netflix or Disney Plus. Movie subscription platforms are very affordable in my opinion.”

Who knows what the future has in store for movie theaters? Movies can be very powerful. Seeing one on your own screen and own time can be great — It’s very personal. But having that shared experience in the theaters is also important in regards to how the film can impact you.

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