Movie Theaters: We Don’t Need Them and They Know It

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If more mass shootings in movie theaters occur and/or pandemics endure or ensue, they might be in serious trouble, and they know it.

Up until 20 years ago they wouldn’t have had to worry so much, but today, we can do without them and they know it. Large flat panel televisions—up to 110 horizontal inches—are inexpensive, at least the smaller ones; surround sound systems are affordable; and even home theaters are moderately priced. Likewise, DVDs are available for purchase everywhere and available to rent from Café, Netflix, Redbox, and others. There’re streaming movie services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and others which are convenient and cheap. Then of course there’s always cable and satellite television. So, we don’t need movie theaters, at least not anywhere near like we used to. In addition, a Screen Daily article title needs no elaboration: “The Resolution War: Is Cinema Falling Behind Home Entertainment On Innovation?”

When my mother was young, trips to the movie theater—first with her mother then with her girlfriend—in a relatively large nearby city were big events. The Silver Screen was the only screen in their lives. There was some live entertainment—like a pageant at the Grange—and the weekly radio programs during the Golden Age of Radio but nothing else. Nothing.

Movie theaters aren’t obsolete, a good time can still be had at them. But they’re not Aldi, Publix, or Walmart and all the other places we buy food and they’re not Exxon, Mobile, or Sunoco, and all the other places we buy fuel, and they’re not other essentials in our lives. Life can proceed fine without movie theaters and if they do go away the void they leave won’t be big, particularly if drive-in movie theaters, which generally don’t have the vulnerabilities of their indoor counterparts, were to become popular again.

Movie theaters survived the advent of all the devices and services described, and while their overall admissions have declined over the past several decades, they remain somewhat strong. But mass shootings and pandemics aren’t devices and services, so if perpetrators favor movie theaters and viruses go unchecked, they’ll stop being the stomping ground of many of us, and it’s possible that will happen. What’s your “take?”

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