Opinion | Cinema is dying—and only you can save it

Movie theaters need to rebound from the pandemic, and part of that will involve us going to see movies.


Ayrton Breckenridge

FilmScene at The Chauncey as seen on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

Samuel O'Connor, Opinions Columnist

Cinema is quickly becoming a relic of our society and only we have the power to save it.

The Box Office market revenues in the U.S. and Canada dropped 80 percent last year, according to the Motion Picture Association, sharply reflecting the pandemic’s impact on  . COVID-19 brought economic devastation to museums, musicians, comedians, and galleries – and movie theaters did not escape.

With the rise of streaming services, cinema’s decline had already begun — COVID-19 simply bolstered the process. The annual number of movie tickets sold has been steadily declining since 2002, by millions every year. Fifteen months of widespread restrictions delivered what might be the killing blow to the movie theater industry.

Walt Disney Co.’s cash-grabbing decision to cease theatrical releases and instead build upon their streaming service certainly didn’t help, and this should be seen as a threat to the industry. Indeed, it is already viewed as an act of treason by many.

Walt Disney had no qualms with making people pay $30 to watch the live action remake of Mulan, and viewers with high hopes didn’t mind paying. $261 million was brought in by U.S markets alone, which almost matches the revenue made in box offices when Marvel’s Avengers Infinity War came out.

After all, lockdown left people with nothing to do but sit and watch movies. But $30 is outrageous, especially for a remake (and don’t get me started on those remakes). What’s terrifying is that this could be the new norm – distributors such as Disney continuing to monopolize and movie theaters eventually dying out.

So, why is this important?

Well, if you have no interest in going to see movies on the big screen anymore, then I guess it isn’t. But those of us who do enjoy the theater – really enjoy the theater – we should seek its preservation. Personal fondness aside, cinema is of the arts, and therefore a mouthpiece of culture. Going to movies allows us to participate actively, collectively, and intimately in that. The production and consumption of movies will never go away, but the luxury of theaters is at risk of being lost.

Much like Myspace, flip phones, or species of marvelous creatures, once it is gone, I fear it will not come back. Fortunately, we need not succumb to nostalgia quite yet. When closures become mainstream, it will allow independent film centers to seep through the cracks. We are at a juncture in which independent and local cinema has an opportunity to thrive, but only if we give it our support.

Independent theaters and cinemas especially deserve our attention, such as FilmScene at The Chauncey, which is currently open, as well as continuing its newfound tradition of biweekly outdoor screenings. I’m particularly looking forward to watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the park at the end of the summer.

FilmScene also allows private screenings of a fine selection of films, which can be rented out by a group of people. On top of that, they serve locally brewed beer at concessions. By drinking a beer and watching a movie, you’re supporting two local businesses at once.

If you enjoy buttered popcorn and Coca-Cola, the low-lighting ambiance, and anticipation of what is to come, and you’d like this sort of thing to continue, you should consider partaking in theater outing this summer.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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