When You Complain About Movie Theaters, It Just Sounds Like You Hate People
As the box office has continued to recover with reliable blockbusters like Avatar: The Way of Water and unexpected hits like M3GAN leading the charge, I've seen more and more people praying for the downfall of the theatrical moviegoing experience. One tweet I saw (that irritated me so much I blocked the person on sight), said that theaters dying would be just fine with them, complaining about the "mouthbreathers" they would have to share a space with at a screening. This seems to be an increasingly common position for people who have no understanding of how the film business supports itself.
There are obviously valid reasons to not want to go to a movie theater. If you're immunocompromised and/or love or take care of someone who is, sitting in a crowded room is still a risky proposition at this point in the pandemic. I'm about to reach the year three mark of avoiding catching COVID, and have been going to the movies just about every week since the middle of 2021, so getting sick doesn't necessarily accompany a trip to the cinema. Masks, vaccines, and boosters are a pretty handy tool in that fight. But, I don't blame anyone for wanting to avoid a potentially disabling illness, even as mainstream culture has largely moved on from worrying about the pandemic.
But COVID is far from the only reason I hear people bring up when they offer casual disdain for the moviegoing experience. There's also the common bogeyman that is "loud teenagers." I'm not saying this never happens — I went to movies with large groups of friends when I was in high school and we were occasionally obnoxious —but, in the past year-and-a-half I've encountered a loud teen precisely one (1) time. That was at a rep screening of Tangerine, when a teen behind me talked to their friend throughout much of the movie. Even then, they weren't especially loud. I brought this experience up to my wife while working on this piece, and despite sitting next to me during that screening, she had no memory of this.
I live 90 minutes outside Chicago and go to movies at a variety of different theaters throughout Illinois and near my parents' home in Michigan. Mostly AMCs, because I have an A-List membership, but other chains and repertory theaters, as well. Loud people aren't actually a problem the vast majority of the time.
As for the question of expense, going to the movies is usually cheaper than seeing a new movie at home. If you're a parent and would need to afford tickets for yourself, your spouse, and your children, the price goes up, obviously. But, watching a new movie on VOD routinely costs about $20, and at many theaters, you can afford two tickets for that price. If you get an A-List membership, like I have, you can see three movies per week, which equals 12 movies a month, for $19.99. That means that, if you spend your money wisely, going to the theater is 12 times less expensive than watching the same amount of new movies at home.
If the theatrical experience dies, so too will movies more broadly. You can't support a business exclusively through money-losing streaming services. Companies had no choice but to make their films available through VOD and streaming throughout the pre-vaccine era of the pandemic, but it's an unsustainable proposition. There are only so many subscribers out there.
Though many people love the experience of going to a theater and others would be happy to never go again, there are plenty occupying the middle ground. They'll go if there's something they really want to see, and stay home the rest of the time. It's on studios, filmmakers, and theaters to give those people a reason to leave the house.
And that's what a lot of this comes down to. We lose something when we do everything from the comfort of our home. I feel this acutely because I have worked from home for over four years and my job involves playing a lot of video games and watching a lot of TV. Outside of my day job here at TheGamer, I have other writing projects that keep me tethered to my desk. It sucks to spend this much time in my apartment and the theatrical experience provides an opportunity to be out among other people. It enriches the experience of watching movies to be a part of a crowd as it reacts to something in real-time. That's true for big spectacles like Avatar and Top Gun, but it's also true of horror movies like Barbarian, comedies like Bros, and dramas like The Fabelmans.
Studios would lose money if the theatrical experience went away. Audiences would, arguably, lose more.
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