The pandemic impacted so many industries, but it may have completely transformed the movie business.
Between lockdowns, quarantine and the growing popularity of streaming services, movie theaters across the nation have had to adapt to the new normal. That included putting safety precautions in place, requiring masks and social distancing, as well as increased sanitation to their facilities.
That wasn't all, though. Many studios recognized the importance of releasing movies on streaming platforms in tandem with theater releases, making it more accessible and cheaper to watch at home.
So, what does the future of film include? Will movie ticket prices increase to make up for the smaller audiences?
Our Smart Shopper team talked to industry executives and experts about the impact the pandemic had on movie theaters and how they're making up for lost time without charging you more.
"The pandemic has brought many challenges to the movie theater, or exhibition industry, as we call it," said Margot Gerber, vice president of marketing and publicity at Landmark Theatres.
It's an industry that's been changing for years with the introduction of streaming services. So, companies have been making small changes for years. The pandemic, she says, sped up "what was naturally going to happen anyway."
Subscriptions to streaming services increased dramatically during the pandemic as many people were stuck at home. With so many available, all offering their own unique content, it captivated their homebound audience.
"These platforms, these streaming services, now are creating really expensive original content," Arizona State University Professor of Film and Media Studies Kevin Sandler explained. "Movies, big blockbusters with stars that beam directly into your home. First and foremost, that's a big change than what it used to be."
With the easy accessibility to new movies, Sandler thinks that is going to make it difficult to draw movie goers back to theaters. He also doesn't believe we'll ever go back to how things were before the pandemic
"It is the future. Especially new that we're seeing movies premiering on the same day that they premiere in the movie theaters," said Sandler. "How long that will last after COVID? We're not sure. But people are more comfortable now watching big movies at home."
However, the love affair with streaming could end as people long to be together again to see the newest blockbuster in-person. That's something Gerber says will always make theaters special.
"Getting together in a communal way — sharing laughs, sharing your popcorn — just being in an environment with other people where you can hear them laugh or maybe cry."
Those who run the theaters sure hope that is the case with their customers. Even so, they are doing what they can to entice people to return. That includes making it an affordable experience, but also one, they hope, will keep you in perspective.
"So, if you weigh the fact that you may be paying $100 or more for streaming, then maybe going to the movies once a month isn't as expensive as it appears," said Gerber. She also suggests people look at their discount days and take advantage of those deals on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Other Valley theaters also offer discount days and deals:
- AMC Theaters: get 30% off tickets everyday at select theatres for the matinee before 4:00 p.m.
- Cinemark: discounts on tickets all day, every Tuesday
- Harkins Theatres: up to 40% off ticket prices on Discount Tuesdays is you’re a My Harkins Awards Member
- Plus, find deals on Fandango, RetailMeNot.com and Groupon for select theaters, dates, and times.
No one can predict what the future holds for the movies. Not even Sandler, who closely studies the industry.
"How that's going to change, in a way, is still unclear," he said. "Still, people are staying away from the theaters. That may continue."
While that may be true, home systems are not the same as the theater experience and Sandler thinks it will take big franchise pictures, like the Marvel series, to save the theaters. He believes those will be the tickets people will want to buy.
"They're willing to pay a premium, you know, $10, $12 a ticket to see things that they know; that are familiar to them; that are expensive; that are spectacular and have to be experienced on the big screen.
Landmark Theatres is located at the Scottsdale Quarter Theatre, 15257 N. Scottsdale Rd., Suite 230, 85254.
For more money saving tips, visit the ABC15 Smart Shopper home page.
Margot Gerber is the Vice President of Marketing & Publicity for Landmark Theatres, a company based out of Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Sandler, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Film and Media Studies Program at Arizona State University. He specializes in the contemporary U.S. media business, with a particular focus on censorship and animation. He has also published several books on film and television history.