How Movie Theaters are Staying Afloat Admisdt a Pandemic


Photo by Brookelyn Evans

Photo Illustraiton of the Palms Theater in Waukee

The film industry was hit especially hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, not just because movie theaters shut down or because film production alone came to a halt, but streaming subscriptions continue to pull in customers month after month giving customers access to hundreds of movies right from their homes.

We live in a society extremely used to having millions of shows and movies at our fingertips. Netflix, Hulu, even the ability to record entertainment and watch it on demand whenever we please is increasingly popular. Not only are adults consumed by the opportunity to stream, but children have become hooked and teens are constantly on screens. Throughout the past couple of months, TV shows that we love have been put on hold due to the inability to film during the pandemic. Since March 2020 lots of progress has been made and most shows and movies have resumed filming. Industries have figured out how to complete a film safely and make it available to the public. But still, the question remains, how will movie theaters stay in business with all the available streaming services?

In Iowa, our movie theaters have opened again in a socially distanced manner. Families, couples, and friends can once again enjoy an outing to the movies. Last summer, Palms Theater in Waukee resorted to showing classic favorites on their screens since no new releases were available. This allowed them to earn revenue and continue business as usual. Another solution was giving people the opportunity to order popcorn and sweets online and pick them up curbside.

In addition to Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Peacock (NBC’s streaming platform), there are multiple new subscriptions available including Paramount Plus, and HBO Max. When movies release their new films to be streamed at the same time as when they are in theaters it put theaters in danger because now there is the competition between getting the movie right from the couch and going out and seeing it in person. Nowadays, most lean towards staying put at home. AMC says bankruptcy is off the table–for now, that is subject to change over time.

After speaking with 10 high school students at ADM, 6 of them said they would much rather watch a newly released movie at the theater instead of staying home. “I would go to the theater to watch the movie because it’s more fun to go get popcorn and watch a movie with your friends and family,” said Junior Emma Mellencamp. For some, the decision rests on what type of movie it is. Junior, Clayton Gustafson said, “If it is more of a family type of movie, then I’ll probably watch it at home… If it is more of a movie that I would enjoy with friends then I’ll go to the movie theaters”. For others, staying at home has many added benefits. Sophomore Celia Kreifels said, “I would stay home, I feel comfier at home and I don’t have to pay for food or gas”.

While everyone has their own preference when it comes to theater-going, it can be noted that the movie business will continue to change throughout the coming years.