Milwaukee, WI – The business of movie theaters is one that has proven to not only be recession proof, but as we have learned recently, one that is also pandemic proof. “It is like waking up from a nightmare that was going on for too long. The experience of going to a theater is nothing like watching a movie at home, which attempted to take the place of the moviegoing experience”, says Greg Marcus, CEO of Marcus theaters in Wisconsin. Throughout the pandemic, streaming services showed that they were willing to help keep people safe by streaming most films that had appeared in the theater at the time. We had learned that this was not really a choice made by theaters or studio executives, rather by directors, producers, and writers. Jordan Peele delayed the release of the Candyman remake because he said he “did not want to encourage people to go out during the pandemic, especially in an enclosed room”.
There is something very true about the theaters possessing something that can’t be beat. It is the action of coordinating with your friends, getting in your car and driving to the brightly lit building, the smell of popcorn and stoned teenagers all around you. There is also the checking of the time and picking the right seat so as to fully embrace your moviegoing experience. This is something that will never go away, for the complete act is almost like a short film itself. Staying home during the pandemic and watching all the films that were in theaters at the time had a certain charm, but lacked the fullness of getting out of your house.
Owners of movie theater franchises know how important this is to everyone, which allows them to overcharge. A daytime movie ticket has gone up from $11.50 to $15 or more since theaters have reopened. Not all theaters were closed during the pandemic, most just encouraged masks or made them mandatory. I asked for a comment on the raising of the prices since the pandemic regulations eased, but I did not get a response. I imagined I might get some excuse about the businesses looking to “recoup expenses” after the pandemic slowed profits down, but I got the standard “prices always go up in a steadily changing market”. This is something that moviegoers will always roll their eyes at, but will make it work if they really want to see a movie bad enough.\
“Theaters will be around forever and no amount of digital technology will ever replace going to one,” says Greg Marcus. “There was a little bit of fear there where we thought we may not be able to keep them open, but once we announced we were opening up again, we got people coming in immediately”, he added. Out of all the businesses that failed during the pandemic, movie theaters were shown to be the ones that suffered the least, and had a bounce back rate of 90%. It is a true testament to the longevity of this institution.
What does the future hold for movie theaters? “There may be VR experiences, which I would love, but as of now, it will be more of the same, continuing to provide a relaxing and comforting experience for folks, where they can take time out of their day to not think of anything except the movie on the screen, even if it is just for an hour or two”, Greg says. “A VR experience may be a bit much. I really just want to settle back and not be stressed out when I go to the theater”, says one moviegoer.