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Did Covid-19 Kill the Movie Theater Industry?

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

by Caroline Renas

2020 was supposed to be a highly anticipated year for new films, but a sudden shut down in the movie theater industry due to COVID-19 has led to an almost barren profit of box office numbers. The French Dispatch, the 10th Wes Anderson film, was postponed for a year, Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune was pushed back a year, and Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film, No Time To Die, was also pushed back a year. Production has also been halted for both the movie and television industry, leading to a slow-down in new shows to stream and no set dates for anticipated seasons. Films still in production have already pushed back their release dates and typical filming schedules are slowed down while production companies wait for movie theaters to become popular and accessible again. For example, Robert Pattinson’s The Batman, which is still in production, has just recently pushed their release date from June 2021 to March 2022.

While all of Hollywood is feeling the consequences of smaller and quieter industries these days, local movie theaters, which rely on an influx of people to pack into one room and enjoy cinema, are feeling the shutdown the most. Theaters, in San Diego and across the country, are extremely close to going out of business, which could threaten the future of Hollywood’s economy. Cineworld, one of the world’s biggest movie theater parent companies, is a 4 billion dollar business but has closed down hundreds of theaters nationwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new live-action Mulan, which was originally supposed to be released in theaters in early 2020, instead debuted on Disney+ last month. Of course, the box office was less than it should’ve been, seeing that theaters, a main source of revenue, were limited. The movie made $35.5 million on opening weekend, which only resulted in net profit for Disney, instead of any of the money going to theaters, who are on the brink of going out of business. While many movie theaters remain closed, some, dependent on the geographical location-COVID case relationship, have opened back up, desperate for profit. These movie theaters can only rely on two more blockbusters, Wonder Woman 1984 and Free Guy, which are still set to release in 2020, to keep them in business.

After many months away from movie theaters, Tenet, the newest Christopher Nolan film, came out due to much anticipation from audiences to see the summer blockbuster, but also as a test-subject to see how films would do in theaters during/after COVID. Unfortunately, this experiment did not go well at all. Tenet, a film with an over 200 million dollar budget, only made $20 million in its first weekend in the United States. Nolan’s other, more recent, successful films made a significant amount more in their first release, with Inception grossing $62 million on the first weekend and Dunkirk grossing $50 million in those first few days.

So, what is the future of movie theaters? Nobody really knows. Will we end up relying strictly on streaming services for movies and ditch theaters all together? Will we be able to return to a normalcy in theaters soon, and save a declining industry? Will these long-awaited films eventually arrive in theaters and pull back into the love of the silver screen? Nobody knows for now. The most we can do is appreciate film for what it is, and do whatever we can (go to open movie theaters, stream movies) before film becomes a dying art.


Wonder Woman 1984 - Postponed 6 months

Daniel Craig in No Time To Die - pushed back a year

The French Dispatch - pushed back a year


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