Movie Theaters Will Struggle with Low Attendance Once They Reopen

As the sky begins to clear, and the opportunity for movie theaters to reopen in the coming few months, things may not return to normal. A recent survey shows that a large group of people will still be avoiding public gatherings once this crisis is over, with movie theaters being hit particularly hard. This, coupled with some changes that are already happening in the industry as all of this is unfolding, could alter the cinema landscape as we know it. That may sound dramatic, but it’s a distinct possibility.

According to the survey, 44 percent said they would go to less large public events after this period of social distancing is over, with 38 percent saying they would attend the same number, 18 percent said they would attend more, but 47 percent said going to a large public event “will scare me for a long time.” Specifically talking about going to the movies, 49 percent of those surveyed said it would take a few months, or possibly never, to return. 28 said they will go to movie theaters less often and 15 percent said they intend to go to the movies more often, while 58 percent said their attendance won’t be affected.


These numbers should be concerning for virtually anyone involved in the movie business at any level, as well as those who enjoy the theatrical experience. Movie theaters are already struggling financially with the shutdown. If audiences don’t turn up when they are allowed to open again, the outlook isn’t great. From the studio perspective, this could seriously harm many of the projects already completed or in the works. Without a certain level of performance at the box office, movies become a financial loss. Plain and simple.

The other issue is that change is already starting in some ways. An increasing number of recent theatrical releases, as well as some that never made it to theaters but were intended to, are being released early to premium digitally rental or purchase. Movies like The Invisible Man have performed well, which could encourage studios to maintain a premium digital model for certain releases even after movie theaters are back up and running. This is something major chains such as AMC have argued against for years, but now that the floodgates have opened, it may be too little too late.

If theater attendance does see a major dip, as these numbers suggest, it could ultimately impact the way movies are produced, what types of movies are made and certain studios could even fold if the money isn’t there. With declining physical media sales, the secondary market hasn’t been as impactful as it used to be. The box office is where most movies made the majority of their money. This situation is evolving rapidly and is impossible to predict, but a general fear of public gatherings coupled with modern convenience with streaming media could be a near-fatal blow to the theatrical exhibition business as we know it.

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Author: Lawrence Lease

Lawrence Lease is a freelance writer and screenwriter. His work can be seen on Blasting News, Cinema Gold and The Washington Ledger.

One thought

  1. Have you seen how some theaters are already moving to buying tickets for “virtual screening rooms” !?



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