With the underperformance of every Summer and Winter blockbuster this year (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Strange World, Avatar: The Way of Water), it’s clear the movie theater is dying. You will never see another blockbuster box-office banger like Avatar or Avengers: Endgame or Titanic or The Dark Knight, even though most of those are recent movies (which might just be because of inflation, giving you an idea of how big 1997’s Titanic was). And that’s because of two reasons.
1. People are crowd shy since the pandemic. It’s baked into us now — six feet, superspreader events, wash your hands. Any event with crowds comes with an implicit warning sticker like on packs of cigarettes. Warning: Gathering with people you don’t know personally (and can blame) may be hazardous to your health. I still remember the Rose Garden event after Amy Coney Barett was confirmed where those stupid Republicans still denying us pandemic countermeasures all caught it. Of course, they could afford expensive anti-virals.
True, we still go to school and work (I got Covid this November from my kids who got it from school) but we have little choice in that regard. You go to a theater, you’re volunteering for a risk. This also includes events like stand-up comedy, plays, sporting events, and other things I wish I could go to, but am now paranoid about. But then you get to my second point.
2. Why should I bother going to the theater when I can watch the movie streaming a month later? (especially if it does really bad). Strange World, Lightyear, Eternals, Encanto all came on Disney+ within a month of their release. And that’s if they don’t just premiere on Disney+ like Soul, Luca, and Turning Red. I saw The Batman in the theater, but I could have watched it on HBOMax the next month. Same with Barbarian, Knives Out: Glass Onion, Prey, Black Adam, and Dune.
The only movie I really wanted to see, but had trouble finding was Nope, but I got that on DVD Netflix. You just need to have patience. Plus there’s always some new series coming out: The Boys, The Rings of Power, Peacemaker, Squid Game, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Mandalorian. There’s no shortage of stuff to watch.
There’s an argument to be made that they are two different experiences–big screen, big sound system, etc. But we all practically have that in our homes anyway. Everything’s in HD so screen size isn’t as important anymore. And you can put any sound system up against a good pair of headphones (the volume of which I can control). They not only provide a superior experience but also block out extraneous noise.
Speaking of extraneous noise, by watching at home we avoid an even bigger risk than Covid–obnoxious audiences. Whispering couples, squirmy kids, grandmas constantly asking questions, the old man who gets up to pee in the middle of the action sequence. Not to mention expensive concessions and reserving tickets ahead of time.
So why should I bother going to the theater? I’ve got a more pleasant experience waiting for me at home. And all I need to do is wait for the studios to ship the film to
the video rental store any streaming service. Thanks, AMC and Nicole Kidman. Thanks, but no thanks.