As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wear on, many businesses are struggling.
Some are getting by with reduced staffing and offerings, hoping to hold on until better days arrive, others are adapting their business models and some are closing.
Earlier this month, several movie theater chains announced their closure. The Regal Theater chain closed its 536 theaters October 7, bringing the total number of theater screens in the nation to “go dark” to 7,000.
Regal had reopened its theaters less than two months ago but made the decision to close after the latest release in the James Bond franchise, “No Time to Die,” was again delayed until 2021.
Regal is the second-largest film exhibitor in the U.S., after AMC Theatres. It is a subsidiary of Cineworld Group, which is based in the U.K. – where the corporation is also closing more than 100 theaters.
Regal says the closure is temporary but has not set a date to reopen.
In addition to the new Bond movie, blockbusters like the superhero movies “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Black Widow” along with “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Candyman” have been delayed. Some releases like Disney’s live action “Mulan” have gone to pay per view and streaming services, bypassing the theater.
In the past, the major movie studios owned the movies theaters and enjoyed a monopoly, controlling the content and the delivery system. An antitrust case resulted in the breakup of this monopoly in 1948.
The loss of this monopoly and rise of television threatened movies as we know them, but, like many other mediums, the movies evolved and grew alongside their smaller screen cousin, television.
There has been some talk of allowing movie studios to once again own and operate theaters, something that may look appealing as the current crisis comes to an end.
I’m a fan of the movies. Always have been, always will be. I enjoyed some Buster Keaton silent movies last week on the 125th anniversary of his birth. If you want to see someone who was a true star, check out Buster Keaton. Wrote, acted, did his own stunts, directed and edited his movies. Once you get past the silent part, they are genius.
But I digress…
Our society has changed in many ways since the heyday of the movie theater. Once it was literally the only show in town, now there are hundreds of choices for viewing entertainment.
As I have aged, I find it easier to stay at home for my entertainment. As television screens grow in size and shrink in price, it is easier to have a “theater like” experience in your home. Heck, you can even stop the movie to go to the bathroom or talk on the phone.
But as much as I love being able to watch many things in the comfort and privacy of my own home, there are many movies that are made to be watched on the big screen. I can still vividly recall watching the first “Star Wars” movie in a dark theater in 1977. That opening shot of the star destroyer that seemed to go on and on as it filled up the screen was mind blowing. Is it impressive on my television? I guess, but nothing like it was in the theater.
I hope theaters can hold on. I would even be in favor of studio ownership, if it helps them through this current crisis.
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