Movie Theaters… will they ever return as before?

If you’ve read my posts for any length of time, you know I’m a huge movie fan.

I’ve been into movies since I first saw, likely when I was not much older than 5 or 6 years old, the Steven Spielberg directed film Duel when it first aired on TV way, waaaaaaaaay back in/around 1971 (I saw it in Canada, where we were living at the time, and I don’t know if it aired on the same night as it did in the U.S.)…

Anyway, that film -which until many years later I didn’t know was actually directed by Spielberg!- initiated my lifelong love of movies.

The theater experience is a wonderful one. Going to see a movie on a large screen, the sound system and images filling your senses… it’s immersive, beautiful stuff.

But since the rise of COVID-19, that’s been pretty much it for films being shown in theaters.

The movie companies, which had -and still have!- several films they wanted to release, held back, hoping the pandemic would go away so they could resume their business. Time passed. More time passed, and eventually, some films were released.

Tenet, the Christopher Nolan time traveling thematic remake of the Bond film Thunderball was released after a while to theaters but based on some of the things I’ve read, it might have proven to be too soon a release.

There was also Wonder Woman 1984 waiting to be released and pushed back frequently, until Warner Brothers and their HBO Max service decided to show it there for people who subscribe to it. They showed the film there for something like a month before it was yanked for home video purchase/rent. Similarly, the Godzilla vs King Kong film I believe was just released to the streaming service as well and, soon, the James Gunn directed Suicide Squad will follow a similar path.

This is not to mention the Zack Snyder Justice League film, which was essentially “restored/finished” solely for the HBO Max service.

Disney, on the other hand, has several features, perhaps the biggest being the Black Widow film, held back for a hopeful theatrical release. There’s also the latest and perhaps last Daniel Craig James Bond film, No Time To Die, which is also in the can and awaiting its eventual release.

Are people -and especially the movie companies- when the pandemic is over going to resume their previous policy of releasing films to theaters and waiting a few months before releasing them to their streaming services before doing the home video sales/rentals? And if there is at least a comparable amount of money to be made by releasing these films to their streaming services and making money via streaming subscriptions, would they be as interested in the continuing the theater experience?

I recall many years ago when the Tim Burton directed Batman film was released to theaters and did incredible business. Back then, it would take sometimes a year or so before a film eventually was released to home video but Warner Brothers turned around and released the video version of the film in a matter of months following the end of its theatrical run, and they made even more money off the box office hit that it was.

This prompted other companies to release their theatrical films faster and faster to home video, to the point where it takes maybe two or three months following a theatrical run that one has the film available for home video.

But now, with the simultaneous releases of films to theater (though one wonders just how many people risk going to see them then) and streaming, will studios realize they can make more simply streaming the films themselves? After all, this way they have full control over how many people actually see the film upon its initial release and, given the increasingly sophisticated home theater equipment, people may prefer to see it in their home initially anyway.

Now that the proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube, can it be pushed back in?

Could this mean trouble for the theater business?

This is, obviously, all speculation on my part. I have no idea if the movie companies made decent money off their simultaneous streaming/theater presentations of movies. I don’t know but they most certainly do,

If streaming films -and getting the money for their subscription streaming service- proves at least as profitable to movie making companies, why would they keep sending films to theaters?

Understand, I hope the theaters survive, but the reality is that things like book stores, video rental stores, and music stores existed only as long as they made a profit. The moment they didn’t, they began disappearing.

If this is to happen with theaters, then they too are unfortunately gone.