Are movie theaters dying?

ABANDONED Krikorian Theater four years after its initial closure. Robert Schumacher

Robert Schumacher | Writer

October 13, 2021

Movie theaters are dying. There is no question that the age of digital media is taking its toll on the box office. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have exploded in popularity in the last decade and it’s apparent that they have pulled consumers away from theaters. Before 2020, movies would normally be released into movie theaters before being available for people could buy, rent, or stream the movie a few months later. COVID-19 has flipped this system on its head. Movies are now being immediately released onto on-demand and streaming services, often on only one service exclusively to encourage users to switch over. 

For the past year, every one of Disney’s latest movies has been released straight onto their platform Disney Plus (for an added fee of 30 dollars), and Warner Bros. is releasing all 17 of their 2021 films to HBO max and theaters simultaneously, including the films Dune, In The Heights, Suicide Squad, and Matrix 4

For a period of 2020, streaming was the only way people could watch new movies. But even after most theaters have re-opened, turnout has remained extremely low. “I went to see the new Marvel movie that came out a few weeks ago, and I danced in the front of the theater,” senior Lucas Purzycki said. “The place was completely empty.” 

Many consumers are choosing to forgo the theater altogether. And why wouldn’t they? When you can watch a movie in the comfort of your own home, for a fraction of the cost, what’s the point of going out of your way to buy tickets, dinner, snacks, and drinks all for a single movie you may not even enjoy? It seems pointless. But some would argue the death of theaters is the death of the true cinema experience.

First off, it’s undeniably the best or “right” way to watch a movie. Movie-makers don’t envision their blockbuster film that hundreds of people spent years devoting their efforts towards to be viewed on a five-inch iPhone with questionable audio quality. They want their work to be displayed on the big screen. 

CLOSED Krikorian Theater last movie listing still reads “THANK YOU” four years after closure. Robert Schumacher

Going to the movies is an experience you just can’t get at home: the huge high fidelity screen, surround sound speakers molded into each wall, and reactive audience laughing at the jokes and gasping at the plot twists. Yet, if ticket sales continue to fall, many theaters have no choice but to close.

Krikorian Cinema 6 located in San Clemente closed down in November of 2017, and since then no theater in the city has taken its place. At its shut down, the owner of the San Clemente Outlet Mall, Steve Craig, was asked about the Metropolitan theater still in construction. “We are down to the final stages of design,” Craig stated. “It could open in late 2018 or 2019” and “we’ll have the name of an operator in the next 30 to 45 days,” Craig said in 2017. 

Currently, the only information on the theater is a listing for a managerial position and a snippet from the Outlet Mall’s website stating that the theater is scheduled to open in late 2021. With all the delays up to this point, it is a question whether the theater will ever really open.

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