Dec 5, 2021 - Economy

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration of a bag of popcorn wearing a medical mask

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

What's happening: At first, movie theaters were closed, and then when they opened, many people were still concerned about the risk of gathering indoors with strangers.

  • Production companies responded to this trend by making new films available online at the same time as in theaters. Warner Bros. committed to releasing all of its 2021 movies on HBO Max on the same day they debuted in theatres.
  • And now the studio says it will produce 10 films exclusively for HBO Max in 2022.

So now former moviegoers can watch new movies at home, maskless and with free snacks.

What's next: David Herrin, the head of The Quorum, told the Times that people listed some changes that would encourage them to head back to theaters — like newer seats and cheaper popcorn.

  • If theaters want to stay afloat, they'll have to remind people there's something magical about going to the movies that you can't recreate in your own living room.
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