It’s a monumental moment for theaters and the film industry at large. The next few weeks and months will give Hollywood an idea of whether the movie theater industry can bounce back after being ravaged by coronavirus.
It’s not going to be easy.
Few fresh blockbusters
Other films like “Unhinged” and “The New Mutants” are opening sooner, but aren’t exactly well-known titles moviegoers are itching to see.
Until then, theaters are offering old movies like “Inception” and “Black Panther” to get people in the door.
Is it safe?
Getting people back to the movies during a pandemic is more than just having films that people want to see. Theater chains have to win over consumers who have gotten used to watching movies at home and who aren’t sure about the safety of sitting indoors with strangers for hours at a time.
Theaters have to convey a sense of safety and cleanliness.
AMC is requiring all guests to wear masks under its “Safe & Clean” initiative. It’s also capping theater capacity and upgrading ventilation systems. It’s yet to be seen whether those protocols will give moviegoers a strong sense of security.
Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN Business that “it’s up to the theaters to ensure that they are so well prepared in creating the safest and most appealing environment possible.”
Degarabedian noted that “the sentiment of the moviegoers who go over the next few weeks needs to be positive.” That’s what will “give the theaters the best shot at drawing in, and more importantly, keeping patrons coming back,” he said.
Canadian theaters have already reopened and are showing some of the movies hitting the United States soon — such as “Unhinged” — but attendance has been tepid.
Competition is fierce and money is tight
The pandemic has put millions of people out of work, so disposable income is limited for many.
“Wallets are tight right now, and most people have to do a cost-benefit analysis for nearly everything in their lives,” Dergarabedian said. “While movies have traditionally been a bargain compared to other outside the home activities, price matters.”
The big question: Is it worth it?
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that gyms would reopen in the state later this month, but movie theaters would stay closed.
“I am sure there is a whole group of people who say, ‘I cannot live without going to the movies.’ But on a relative scale, a movie theater is less essential and poses a high risk,” Cuomo said. “Movie theaters are not that high on the list of essentials.”