The changed movie landscape

The long and short term impact of COVID on films and theaters

If you’re like me, you like movies and seeing them in theaters. There is not really any way of replicating the experience of anticipating a movie’s release, getting the tickets pre-ordered, waiting outside for hours, buying over priced snacks and the knowledge that you are about to watch something awesome.

Unfortunately, this experience disappeared, as many in-person activities did, when COVID-19 struck. Even worse, this will likely continue to halt these experiences for the years to come, as movie production in general has suffered, and getting theaters to even show films has become a greater challenge. Without the guarantee of safety and profit, it’s no wonder that going to the theater has simply become a fond memory for most people.

Companies, however, are not about to let major sources of revenue just disappear. Since going to theaters was considered nonessential and shut down in many states, big players like Disney and Paramount have released films through their streaming services instead. While this is convenient for many trapped at home, it also comes with its own share of problems.

Profit is important, and established avenues, like movie theaters, being gone means that making money has become a lot more difficult. Movies that have premiered on streaming services, such as Black Widow and Cruella, failed to meet box office expectations, with each only making roughly $100 million more than their budget. Multiply that by roughly two to get the expected amount for marketing and other promotional materials. The films have either barely broken even or were a net loss.

Controversy has also risen as a result of this, with Scarlett Johansson suing Disney over lost profits from Black Widow. These numbers are significant and a growing sign that the movie watching landscape may be forever changed; enough to make actors and employees turn against the companies that employ them.

In addition to streaming bringing in lower profits, the entire experience of going to the theaters has potentially been disrupted forever. No longer is the average person able to gather their friends and go for some popcorn, a drink and watch a movie. Instead, if people want to watch movies together, they either have to risk their health by seeing people, or stay at home and do virtual watch parties. In either case, the entire physical aspect of seeing a film with people close to you has been neutered, if not outright destroyed entirely.

In the end, while movies may be a small part of people’s lives, they are a significant cultural touchstone in the world. COVID-19 has taken a lot from people, but losing that euphoric feeling of finally getting to watch a highly anticipated film seems to be something of a relic. A sad reality to face is that these moments that people used to cherish forever may soon just become another distant memory in the growing sea of “what used to be.”