From the Theater to Home

Rohia Chaudhary, Staff Writer

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public places either closed completely or have restricted the number of people allowed into an establishment at once. Movie theaters were mainly shut down all throughout the summer of 2020, with only a few being open. During this time, people watched movies at home from streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Hulu, and others. But during this long period of forced shutdown, many theater companies — even the big ones like AMC — are going out of business, and it’s only expected to get worse as people predict full re-openings to happen in mid-2021 or later.

So what’s going to happen to all the movie releases that have been anticipated since late 2019? AT&T’s Warner Bros have a short-term plan to release all their 2021 movies on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time, giving people the option to watch from their homes, or take the trip to the theater — while remaining socially distanced. The CEO emphasized the fact that this measure is being taken solely because of the pandemic and is not a long-term decision.

For now, these streaming services are helping keep people safe while also bringing them entertainment in the comfort of their own home. But there is still cause for worry: going to theaters has usually been to see exclusive content. Movies would last only a few weeks in theaters and would appear on streaming services months after their release. But now theaters don’t provide the same level of exclusive viewing, so why go at all? 

It’s unlikely that people will go into theaters anytime soon — some people will remain reluctant until the majority of the population has received the vaccine. How long are places like AMC expected to hold on? And if life goes back to relatively normal, will people choose to go to the theater and spend money on tickets and snacks, or will they stay home and watch from a service that they already pay for? 

But there’s something that movie theaters provide that streaming services cannot — at least not directly. In theaters, you’re watching with a group of people, whether small or large, and you experience those cinematic classics and masterpieces with that audience. Yes, sometimes it can be annoying, like when someone’s talking to their friends a bit too loud or they didn’t turn off their phone, but you can never replace the feeling of collective excitement. You could get a group of friends together, but it’s still not the same.

Take, for example, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, released in 2019: nothing matches up to the enthusiasm of a large group of people cheering at a screen — characters that everyone knows and loves — so loud that you can barely hear what’s going on, but you know that the heroes did it.

The end of the pandemic is going to redefine “normal” in more ways than people will realize, but there’s no doubt that movie theaters will always be a way to connect with others and provide a unique tradition for people of all ages.