Are the Credits Rolling on Movie Theaters?

Of all of the things that are going to be irreversibly changed as a result of the COVID- 19 pandemic, it is unfortunate that the traditional movie theaters experience will likely be one of them. Just earlier this year, The Blue and White wrote an article about how the theaters had been struggling, and it seems that things are going worse. The movies that were meant to draw people in did not end up having the intended effect and, on top of that, streaming services like HBO Max and Disney+ are making it even easier to watch movies from home. Even here in Apopka, the local Wekiva Riverwalk closed recently closed with no real end in sight. Could COVID-19 actually bring about an end to movie theaters? It’s a question that we may see an answer to all too soon.

As was previously mentioned, local theaters like the Wekiva Riverwalk have recently closed down. In fact, all Regal theaters have closed nationwide. Theaters, of course, aren’t the first business to be so negatively impacted by COVID-19, but this is quite clearly a bad omen for the future of the moviegoing experience as we know it. Senior Austin Comacho shared similar sentiments, referring to this situation as “a grim indicator of things to come.” He went on to say that if “such a trend continues, we might soon pass the point of no return.”

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While it may have once been easier to have a more optimistic outlook on the fate of the cinema earlier last year, the lack of overall improvement of the global situation has made it more difficult. Even though the number of new COVID cases in Florida has recently been trending downward, it’s still in the thousands, which is obviously quite high. As a result of the pandemic in general, the film industry has lost billions of dollars since March of 2020. It would be hard to look at such statistics and stay hopeful, but some people don’t think this is the end. Mr. Peters, our local SGA sponsor and APUSH teacher, says that theaters will be able to make a recovery, “but many will be owned by new companies. The movie experience isn’t going anywhere any time soon.” Austin had a slightly less cheery outlook, saying that it’s less about whether or not theaters will be able to recover and more about if they can even survive this pandemic. “While the rolling out of a vaccine might mark the end of the tunnel for COVID, there’s still a long time before we actually reach that end. If theaters can survive to that day, they might be able to recover, but just hoping they can hold out that much longer is a nice sentiment.”  This, of course, is entirely possible, but we’re going to have to wait until after this whole pandemic has passed before any true judgments can be made.

With streaming services allowing for the convenience and safety of viewing the latest movies from the comfort of home, it’s no wonder that theaters are struggling more and more. Recently, TV shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision have shown that productions with the budget of blockbuster movies can be quite successful. There’s an argument to be made that such TV shows have the potential to compete with and maybe even replace the traditional moviegoing experience, but it is likely too early to make such a claim. In any case, Mr. Peters feels “there is more enough room for both venues to thrive financially. I also believe it will raise the bar in quality in both industries, which is a positive for all of us.” He went on to add that he is “currently hooked on a show called The Expanse on Amazon Prime.” It has what can only be described as “The Peters Endorsement,” so feel free to watch the show if you have access to that particular platform.

The fate of theaters is much darker now than it was towards the beginning of the school year. For the most part, it is still largely uncertain. Since we don’t know how long it will take for the global situation to improve, it’s hard to tell how much longer theaters will be able to hold out. Will they bounce back or will they become a relic of the past? If any substantial news surfaces, The Blue and White will be sure to report on it. Until then, we’re just going to have to roll with the changes. It’ll be important to remember the good, carefree moviegoing times of the past while also looking to the future.