The summer of 2020 was a particularly dispiriting summer: civil rights riots, pandemic death toll continuously rising, and limitations on social gatherings all made for an unengaging season without positive distractions. Specifically, it’s difficult to have fun when nonessential entertainment activities, such as bowling, are closed and/or harsh restrictions.
Movie theaters are one of the activities which became unavailable during the pandemic. While some theaters remained open to hopefully stay in business, others were completely shut down for months. In its most recent financial quarter, AMC Theaters lost $561 million in potential revenue, according to Los Angeles Times.
Before discussing the near future of theaters, one must understand how theaters even remain profitable. Many theater chains, including AMC, only keep half the profits from ticket sales, according to Business Insider. In this, much of theaters’ revenue comes from concession sales. You ever wonder why a small popcorn still costs around $6? Well, it’s to ensure the cinema remains afloat.
Of course, nobody goes to the theaters just for food. With the limitations of filming for movies, theaters lack new content to gain crowds.
Along with limited new releases, theaters also compete with streaming services releasing their own films and series. Theaters obviously don’t gain concession revenue with viewers staying home.
For some, I understand going to the theater is an experience beyond simply watching a movie. While I understand the appeal, the shutdowns made me appreciate the ability to watch movies I love without dealing with snack prices and distracting patrons. Also, rather than paying for multiple tickets, I can watch movies I love multiple times at a time of my convenience.
Even major film companies seem to share my preference. Disney seemingly figured out a method of regaining lost ticket sale revenue. Along with the $6.99 monthly fee for the “Disney Plus” service, subscribers must also pay $30 for access to “Mulan” (2020), released on Sept. 4, 2020.
“Mulan” has an estimated $20 million budget, according to IMDb. While the additional price may seem excessive, the film likely needed this additional charge to gain profit. In addition, when considering the price of families with children going to the theater, $30 is likely way less than attending a local cinema for those groups.
To respond to the rise of digital-only film releases, theaters are now offering specialty deals to regain audiences. In August, AMC reopened their buildings, promoting 15 cent ticket prices for classic films. If anything, the low price reinstates how little ticket sales matter compared to food. In addition, new films “Tenet” and “New Mutants” were released in theaters on Sept. 4.
The sales of Mulan compared to AMC’s ticket revenue in September will likely act as a preview to the future of cinema. While I do not wish for theaters to go out of business, I would love to continue having new films as accessible as possible. Above all, especially in a still Covid-ridden climate, I cannot imagine theaters surviving with their inconvenient and expensive business models. There’s simply more in paying for a month of a service within the safety of your home than a similar price with one movie and no free snacks.