The experience of going to the movies is an activity in itself: date nights, friend gatherings, or a way for individuals to escape reality for a little bit. You get to enjoy the high-quality visuals and sound, comfy chairs, buttery and overpriced popcorn, and the cinematic atmosphere of everyone else in the room being just as invested in a movie as you are. People who watch movies at home are constantly distracted, whether by their phone, the dishes, chores, or talking (we have short attention spans, we can’t help it!). But at the theatre, you’re paying for that unique and magical experience, and you don’t want to see it go to waste. Then you see that one ‘tommy texter’ that decides the paid movie can wait for his phone response, and the whole illusion is shattered.
Streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Crave, Paramount Plus, and Disney Plus seem to be taking over movies and TV shows. Lately, streaming sites have become the norm, even more so than cable. First, they pushed blockbuster and other DVD stores out of business from the forced removal of late fees and then eventually just from profit. Looking back, it’s clear Blockbuster probably regrets not buying Netflix when they had the chance.
But, just because DVD stores have gone out of business, do movie theatres have to, too?
We saw what the release of “Barbenheimer’ — the back-to-back screenings of Oppenheimer and Barbie — did for theatre revenue. These films ended up selling $86 million worth of tickets in the Cineplex box office, so clearly people still care about seeing new movies on the big screen. Whether that be because they desire the movie theatre environment, or because they refuse to wait until they come out on streaming platforms, “Barbenheimer” brought audiences far and wide to the theatre. Box office tickets are greatly impacted if movies are released at the same time in theatres and streaming platforms, or at least released on dates close to one another. Less consumers are willing to pay for theatre tickets if they can see the film for free on their streaming platform at home. For example, the release of Glass Onion — the sequel to Knives Out —, was released in theatres for just one week before being streamed on Netflix. But, it did much worse in the box office than its predecessor.
Netflix’s stock was up 20 per cent in the first five months of 2023; but, this past month, it has dropped 8 per cent due to the actors strike. Not only are theatres having to compete with streaming sites, but they are also dealing with the shortage of new films because of the U.S. actors strike. Theatres also continue to get a great deal of backlash in regards to their accessibility and lack of choices. These concerns more accurately apply to smaller, unfranchised theatres like the now closed Princess Theatre or Metro Cinema Theatre that have cheaper costs for concession items and similar ticket prices, but fewer movie choices and accessibility options.
Cineplex and Landmark do have more options for movies and more accessibility accommodations for people with disabilities, but they are still critiqued on the high price of concession items. Even so, business for franchised movie theatres remains steady for the most part.
As long as high-budget and highly-anticipated movies continue to be made and first projected in large, franchised theatres, movie theatres will not become obsolete. Yet, the success of smaller, unfranchised theatres may not fare as well in the competition with streaming sites.