Movie Theaters in the age of COVID-19


Lucy Kamlewechi, Staff Reporter

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has significantly affected cinemas worldwide.  Gone are the days families and loved ones will gather at the theatre to watch movies — communicating and  making physical contact due to the intense feeling of suspense or sentiment (from the movie they are watching).  With the outbreak of this deadly virus, COVID-19, going to the theater — or the movies — have taken a complete turnaround, one that is not pleasing to us at all.

According to Eli Glasner and Jessica Wong of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News Network, what going to the movies looks like in the age of COVID-19 is “staggered seating and popcorn served behind Plexiglas” — which is now part of the “new normal”.  CBC News Network also noted that with cases of covid-19 spiking in parts of the U.S. and much discussion about subsequent waves of the pandemic, going to the movies has changed in the following ways:

  • Moviegoers will see physical distancing markers and Plexiglas dividers when they are picking up their popcorn at the concession stand.
  • Assigned seats purchased in advance means patrons will be spaced out from other moviegoers in the theatre.
  • Movies will have staggered showtimes to avoid crowded lobby areas.
  • Staff, in masks or face shields, will serve patrons and encourage safe distancing, though movie chains Cineplex Entertainment and Landmark Cinemas Canada are not mandating masks for customers.

According to Wikipedia, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the film industry in 2020, mirroring its impacts across all arts sectors.  Across the world and to varying degrees, cinemas and movie theatres have been closed, festivals have been canceled or postponed, and film releases have been moved to future dates or delayed indefinitely.  Due to cinemas and movie theatres closing, the global box office has dropped by billions of dollars, and streaming has become more popular, while the stock of film exhibitors has also dropped dramatically.  Many blockbusters originally scheduled to be released between March and November have been postponed or canceled around the world, with film productions also being postponed.

Finally, according to WebMD (an American corporation known primarily as an online publisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being), the impact of COVID-19 on theatre and entertainment can be seen below:

  • COVID-19 completely shut down all aspects of the entertainment industry from Broadway to school theatre productions.
  • Arts organizations now host online classes and camps to replicate the live experience and allow for social interaction.
  • Live theatre events may not completely resume until 2021.
  • Seating arrangements that follow social distance guidelines have vastly different financial impacts for movie theatres versus live stage productions.

Right now, the greatest influence that COVID-19 has had on the film industry can be related to its economy.  According to a report published by Amy Watson (in June 2020), a researcher at Statista (a German company specializing in market and consumer data), recent available data shows that the global film industry has suffered a revenue loss of seven billion U.S. dollars as of the middle of March 2020 due to the coronavirus and its impact on industries around the world.  According to Watson, with theatres closing, movie premieres being postponed, screenings canceled and box offices closed, the movie industry could also lose another ten billion dollars in revenue if the economic effects of the pandemic continue throughout April and May (of next year).

An important point to note here is that the more the virus spreads rapidly, the greater its impact on the film industry — theatre as a whole.  The impact of COVID-19 on theatres has greatly affected the U.S. economy..  The truth is that if the virus continues to spread rapidly, and cannot be contained in any way, then there will continue to be a rapid decrease in the economy of the film industry worldwide — in the future.  So, we should not just ask ourselves what theatre is now like in the age of COVID-19, we should also ask ourselves what is ahead for the entertainment or film industry if this pandemic still persists?