Film enthusiasts miss movie theaters during COVID

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Photo by Krister Kahl

The photo is audience member(s) back from the movie theater during COVID.

Krister Kahl, Video Editor

When the pandemic hit like wildfire in early 2020, many stores, clubs and restaurants had to close their doors for a little while and maybe even shut them down forever. It was a scary time as many people became unemployed. However, with COVID numbers starting to go down, stores, clubs and restaurants are starting to re-open and get back to business. One of those businesses is movie theaters. 

The timing of exactly when movie theaters will reopen is uncertain. Right now, there have been movie theaters opening up that have had some strict rules, including staying 6 feet apart from fellow movie-goers, wearing a mask and sanitizing when they can. These rules have helped a little bit, but, when people are inside a movie theater for around 2 hours, lowering their masks to eat, maybe not always social distancing, it can be hard to say that people are 100 percent safe from COVID.

One thing that does help is renting out a theater for a small group including family members and friends (who are not experiencing and COVID-19 symptoms) can attend. This can work, but considering the extra amount of money to do that, it leads to the question of whether you should just stay home.

Just the size of the screen, the sound, the activity of going out to get popcorn and soda…you know…just the whole experience of it.  I just love going to movies.”

— Adam Guinee

Right now, streaming services are gaining in popularity. When people can not go to the movie theaters, they can just watch the movie right from home. With new releases, people still have to buy the movie and it can be expensive if for a single use at home. However, streaming is the much more flexible and safe option.

Ed Rankin is an avid movie-goer who lives in Hudson, Wisconsin and frequently visits movie theaters in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

Rankin observes that streaming is on the rise during this time,“streaming services have definitely increased right now. I mean they’re like ‘this is our time’ and they’re getting a grip on the market.”

Rankin also noticed that streaming services have been “putting out some pretty good stuff.”

Peter Katsingris, Audience Insights senior Vice President notes that COVID has also widened the demographic for streaming.

“Streaming is no longer a young person’s game. The behavior has been adopted more widely among those aged 55 and up, garnering a 26 percent share of the streaming audience,” Rankin said.

More and more people are comfortable streaming more now than ever before.  

There’s no doubt that some audience members still want to go back to theaters. People like to immerse themselves in a big theater with a large screen, in comfortable seats and with some theaters, have food and appetizers given to them. Adam Guinee is a senior high school student who watches movies as a hobby. 

“Most of the time I prefer to watch a movie in a theater, especially since that’s an environment specifically created for watching movies,” Guinee said.

Along with the big screen, streaming is unable to duplicate the experience of enjoying a movie with other people.  There is a sense of community and camaraderie that people feel when they watch a movie together. 

“I love seeing other people’s reactions to a movie while I’m watching it,” Guinee added.

For movie theater enthusiasts, it is clear that theaters are making great efforts to convince their customers that theaters are a safe place to visit. AMC Theaters reopened on Aug. 20 and notified their customers ahead of time of the safety measures they planned to take.

“Customers can expect continuous extra cleaning and disinfecting of high traffic areas, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be widely available, and seating will be significantly limited,” AMC stated.

Guinee believes that theaters are something that people will go back to, because the experience cannot be replicated at home.

“There’s kind of an X Factor about seeing a movie in theaters that’s really difficult to place. I can’t really describe it to you. There’s just something special and unique about it.” Rankin agrees.