Growing up, going to the movie theater was an all-out event.
Where should we eat beforehand? Are we going pajama casual or fancy? Should we buy a large popcorn or splurge on a bucket? (Tip: Large buckets hold just as much, and they often are also refillable and cheaper).
However, movie ticket sales have decreased almost 70% since 2002, according to movie data provider The Numbers.
In 2020, AMC Theatres alone lost $4.6 billion and Regal Cinemas lost $3 billion. ArcLight announced on April 13, 2021, that it would be closing down its cinemas for good, including the beloved Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles.
If movie theater ticket sales have been on the decline, there must be somewhere else people are getting their movies.
A common alternative to the theater used to be rentals such as Blockbuster and Red Box. Unfortunately, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2014, and Red Box reported a 34% decline in revenue in 2020.
The next answer would be streaming services. Currently, the largest streaming service is Netflix, with a net worth of almost $180 billion in 2022, according to Market Cap statistics.
But, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stated in a CNN interview that viewing statistics confirm television content is viewed far more than movies on streaming services. Annual reports from Viacom and Time Warner display that their TV shows drive more than 80% of their profits.
As film consumption decreases, the film production business runs into trouble, as studios begin to close, too.
In 2021, Blue Sky Studios, the 20th Century Fox animation division, closed its doors due to “economic realities.” Even the Oscars, an award ceremony for the film industry, had a 51% viewer drop between 2020 and 2021.
The real question isn’t “Where are people watching movies?” but, “Are people watching movies anymore?”
Streaming services have helped TV shows blossom, giving audiences the ability to marathon entire seasons in days. Reality shows like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “The Hype House” give viewers a peek into the lives of influencers. Game and reality shows make for great get-togethers, such as “Bachelor” nights.
Yet, I would argue, TV shows’ purpose is to entertain. In contrast, films aim to be artistic.
TV shows depend on you to click the ‘Next Episode’ button. They depend on you to tune in next week. More often than not, the plot that will win the audience over is the plot many TV producers choose to go with. Shocking and scandalous are the key words.
In contrast, many films are art pieces, even masterpieces.
Historically, films have been used as ways to inspire citizens, send political messages, and advocate for change. For example, in the 1940s, France used film as a way to rebel against Nazi occupation during WWII and maintain their cultural pride through film symbolism, such as in “Children of Paradise” by Marcel Carne.
Films can also be controversial and can focus on the message that needs to be told, because, unlike TV shows, usually the end of one film is the end of the viewing experience. With no airing deadline, more time can be invested into production. Directors can spend their lives on a singular script, making sure every part is perfected. Small things can be carefully curated every step of the way (the script, lighting, acting, sound, tone, etc.) In contrast, TV show scripts run through weekly, or even sometimes daily.
Plus, going to the movie theater offers an experience that our couches often don’t live up to. Gasps by the audience when a huge plot twist occurs, staying until after the credits to see ‘extra scenes’ and even just showing up early to see ‘Trivia’ questions are theater experience exclusives.
I remember when the Twilight franchise had ‘midnight premieres,’ (2008-2012), and I did indeed dress up in my Twilight merch and debated with fans in line over why Team Edward is better than Team Jacob. Those premieres are core memories of mine.
Though it can be tempting to jump on the couch and reopen “Grey’s Anatomy,” perhaps switch it up by checking out your local theater or putting on a new indie film. It’s up to us to save this dying art form.