The theater industry may never be the same
The way things are going with scheduled movies for the fall of 2021 already, I genuinely believe we are going to see another theater shakeup later this year. It may not come in the form of government mandates like in 2020, but with full authorization of the Pfizer vaccine already and the others not far behind, we have already seen a wave of individual corporate requirements.
This being America, companies can do mostly what they want. And whatever the industry, what they want to do is make money. Throw away all of the other politics or culture, that is the bottom line. So if companies think they will make more money requiring their customers to prove their vaccination (and in the process potentially making it more comfortable for already vaccinated people to patronize them), then that is what they will end up doing.
If they think that kind of requirement won’t end up making any difference to the bottom line then they won’t. But at the end of all things, every single business decision comes from somebody looking at a spreadsheet. And right now the theater numbers are bad. Really bad. Not 2020 bad, but definitely not what the movie production companies or theaters want to see. As I’ve stated on the show already, not a single movie this year has survived the “second week crash”. Even the most popular movie out right now, Free Guy, dropped 39% week 1 to week 2. A movie with effectively no current competition.
Under normal circumstances, a fun, Ryan Reynolds lead spectacle with no other blockbusters within 3 weeks of it, after nearly a year of theater release drought would be packed at every single showing. They could be putting it on every single screen and sell out every one. But here is what it looks like for seating at my local AMC as I’m writing this, on a Friday afternoon:
The movie has only been out for 2 weeks, and it’s a wasteland. Is that good for someone like me, who isn’t ready to sit next to a stranger again in a closed up space for 2 hours? I guess, I’m still not going. But this is a catastrophic view for both AMC and Disney (who owns 20th Century Films now). This movie has been out for only 2 weeks, and it’s effectively dead at the box office. Remember when theaters were packed to the gills for Endgame for nearly 3 months straight?
Disney, Sony, AMC, Regal and every other movie-adjacent company needs to adapt or die. Even when everything is “back to normal” I don’t think the average movie-goer will want to go back to the good old days of seeing a movie in theaters or waiting 6 months for BluRay. I don’t think they will want that any more than the people who have been able to work remotely for the last year will (on average) want to go back into the office. And the current trends support me in that thought.
The Internet was always supposed to connect us in ways impossible without it. It should be connecting movie fans to the content they love. Change can be hard, and a lot of “this is how we’ve always done it” type people will resist it tooth and nail. Things are going to change like it or not. Most people don’t even think about TV schedules anymore, like we had to when I was younger. DVRs and streaming exists, why should I have to time my life around a show I want to watch now? It would be crazy to ask that of us at this point, and the same will come for movies eventually. I have a car, a TV and access to the Internet. Give me, and everyone else a choice in how we consume the media we love.
At the end of the day, the consumers will decide with their wallets. And right now we are deciding to stay home.