REVIEW: COVID-19 and streaming have changed movie theaters

Via Unsplash.

After not seeing a movie in theaters since 2019, the experience at the movies is quite different compared to the once chaotic scene at a blockbuster movie debut.

I went to the movies on a Tuesday afternoon and it was rather empty — even for the 30 percent discount on the tickets since it was before 5 p.m.

Similar to a majority of businesses in the area, the Edwardsville AMC theater is following the current CDC guidelines by requiring unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask during their time spent in the building, but vaccinated individuals aren’t required to wear one. They are also taking the extra precautions of having pre-selected seating, less touch points for customers, air filters and more.

The animated movie “The Boss Baby: Family Business” is a PG rated movie which I was certain would bring out groups of younger children and teenagers. Since it is summer and school is out of session, I assumed there would be a handful of moviegoers — that wasn’t the case.

The 4:30 p.m. movie had four people inside the theater and no one came in after the movie trailers. Even though the movie was released July 2, it seemed as if nobody was coming to see it in theaters.

Other than COVID-19, a possible explanation for this could be the rise in popularity of streaming services, and some TV subscription plans offer streaming of movies and shows before they are released. “The Boss Baby: Family Business” was released in theaters, but was also released for subscribers of Peacock TV before the release. The service, which has a variety of plans going up to $9.99 a month, partners with certain TV providers to allow them to bypass the subscription by logging into their TV subscription service.

Other subscription services, such as Hulu and YouTube TV, have plans which include various live TV channels. For some people, it may seem enticing to indulge in these packages, and get rid of their cable subscriptions and turn to online streaming services instead.

Another explanation could be people don’t want to spend the money on movie tickets, popcorn, candy and more for a couple hour long movie — instead they can just watch it at home. There are a handful of subscription services that will stream the movie at a later date. A Netflix subscription can be as cheap as $8.99 a month, whereas a movie ticket is $8 at a discounted price.

Another potential downside about going to the movies is all the other items you can purchase there. The typical moviegoer will buy a bag of popcorn and a drink, but children may want a box of candy. A newer feature at the Edwardsville AMC is the addition of a bar where adults could get a drink as well. With those highly priced food and drinks, you could potentially end up spending $30-$40 on a movie night, or sit at home and watch a movie or TV show on your couch through a subscription.

The overall experience at the movie theater hasn’t changed much. All the same features are available as pre-pandemic, but you may find yourself watching a movie in an empty theater and this may be a bonus for some. Besides the potential of wearing a mask and the workers cleaning more often, operations are as normal from the customer’s perspective. You can still see the newest movies, eat a bag of buttery popcorn or drink a huge soda.

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