The following is my opinion, and does not represent the views of every contributor here at GeekyKool…..in other words take it as a grain of salt.
2020 has been a long strange trip for the movie industry, Covid-19 has changed the way movies are made(Covid compliance coordinators), and distributed. The question is now turning towards “is this the new business model”, or do theater chains such as Cinemark and AMC still “matter”?
It was surprising when Warner Bros. announced that Wonder Woman 1984(WW84) would be streamed on HBO Max starting on Xmas Day, but considering how much money Warner Bros. has invested in HBO Max(it is ATT/Warner Media’s streaming service) it could be “expected”. However now that Warner Bros. has announced that all their MAJOR 2021 releases will be released simultaneously both in theater and on HBO Max(at no extra charge), you have to wonder “what does this mean for theaters moving forward”?
You can read about the Warner announcement here on Geekykool at https://www.geekykool.com/warner-bros-plans-all-major-release-for-hbo-max/
One would expect the theater chains to have something to say about this and AMC CEO Adam Aron came out swinging in an article on Collider.com https://collider.com/hbo-max-amc-response-dune-the-suicide-squad-the-matrix-4/
I get that this took theater chains by surprise, and I have no issue with their “dissapointment” in hearing that Warner Bros. is banking on streaming subscription increases to make up for the “artificial limits” being placed on theaters, Vis a Vie “#of patrons per screen” etc. The fact of the matter is going to a theater has become increasingly expensive, some places like NYC charge upwards of $15 per ticket to see a movie, and that doesn’t even begin to add in the cost of $9 buckets of popcorn, and $7 soda’s. Yes AMC’s CEO is correct that “theaters have big screens, and big sound”, but most modern households have at least a 55 inch TV with a surround sound system(full disclosure, I have a new 32 inch tv, sound bar and subwoofer in my living room, I have a small apartment). Also if you stream a movie, you don”t deal with traffic, or sticky carpets, smelly seats, people on their cellphones etc.
One trend that has been moving more towards “first run” movies has been places like “Cinebistro” and Cinema Cafe, where you have “dinner and a movie” at the same time, with a smaller number of people in each “theater”. While food prices tend to be slightly higher at these types of locations, tickets to movies generally run about $6(or the cost of a matinee showing at a “big chain”). A ticket at an AMC theater(AMC Lynnhaven mall, Virginia beach) runs $11.54 for the 7pm showing of the new Liam Neeson film “Honest Thief”.
Why would I want to pay twice as much for a first run movie(along with twice as many people, and 30 minutes of commercials), when I can get a nicer seat, better food options, sight lines and no more than 50 – 75 people to watch a movie(if i choose to go out).
Streaming is the wave of the future and as more studios take advantage of it, they realize that this allows them to control the process all the way through. Studios used to own their theater chains, now they are owning streaming services. I myself use multiple streaming services, and it equals out to what I paid for Cable TV AND going to theaters every month. I see a future where studios, aren’t so fragmented into different divisions(movie, tv, streaming, merchandising).
If chains such as AMC and Cinemark want to survive, they are going to have to evolve, that means less seating, better food options, cheaper ticket prices. If they can’t, that Dolby surround sound theater system for $1599, hooked up to a 70 inch 4k TV for $699 is going to be the new normal.