Less fun at MJR: the downfall of movie theaters

Peyton Lewis ‘23, Editor-in-Chief

For many of us, there is a specific comfort found in our local movie theater. The familiar smell of buttery popcorn, the coziness of the dark room and deep leather recliners, and the slight stomach ache that arises from an inevitable overindulging. Whether it is a Sunday afternoon with our parents, or a Friday night spent with our close friends, most people have at least one good, nostalgic memory tied back to movie theaters; however, with their steady decline in popularity and the dramatic increase in streaming service use, that familiar comfort may be on the line. 

When the country was thrown into lockdown in 2020, many aspects of life were forever altered. With the need for isolation and social distancing, visiting movie theaters became nearly impossible. In order to adapt to these changes, many big movie studios had to resort to other methods of release for their films. Streaming services such as HBO Max and Disney+ began releasing new movies directly onto their platforms; this rejects the typical method of releasing a movie in theaters first, and then later adding the films for streaming.

Even though some movies are still seeing large turnouts—Top Gun: Maverick grossed 7.1 million dollars nationally—an article by The New York Times said, “Ticket sales still lag significantly behind pre-pandemic levels. Some studios continue to release films on streaming services and in theaters at the same time, or bypass theaters altogether, and the cost of running a theater keeps climbing.” It appears as if, despite a few high earning movies, the interest in movie theaters as a whole has taken a turn for the worse.

Though the pandemic is partially to blame for this downward trend in movie theater interest, streaming services also play a big role. After all, why pay seven or $8 per movie ticket on top of popcorn and refreshment costs each time you want to see a movie, when you can pay one price per month and have a near limitless amount of movies at your fingertips? The cost of an HBO Max membership runs at $9.99 per month, and the streaming service provides members with hundreds of film options, including new blockbuster hits like Elivs. With such easy access to big name movies, many find that movie tickets are no longer worth the expense.

Despite the decrease in public interest, movie theaters are continually trying to find ways to combat this issue. AMC Stubs is a membership provided by AMC theaters in which members pay $19.95 a month and are able to see up to three movies a week with no added charge. Even though the AMC Stubs program has been around long before the pandemic, it may now be the key to reviving interest in movie theaters. Other theaters may have to offer similar programs to survive.

Movie theaters have been an entertainment staple for decades. Though they may have changed throughout the years, the nostalgic joy and memories they have brought have, and will always, remain. Streaming services certainly have their perks and conveniences. But in a world of HBO Max and Netflix, there is still room for the familiar smells, feelings, and happiness brought about by our local movie theaters.

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