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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.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

Box office sales bounce back in 2021, but trail 2019 numbers

Photo: Noam Galai/WireImage

Box offices in the U.S. earned $4.5 billion during 2021, a 101% increase from 2020 sales but still nearly 60% less than what they made in 2019, CNN reports citing Comscore.

The big picture: Analysts don't expect the box office to recover meaningfully until 2022 despite blockbuster hits like "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Updated 22 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.