The magic of movie theaters is fading. Here’s how to bring it back and save cinema culture.

With movie theater demand falling due to streaming services, theaters will have to step it up to get customers back.

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THE MIRROR | VALENTINA ARIAS

The decline in movie theater attendance can be attributed to several factors, including the pandemic and the popularity of streaming services. However, watching a movie on the big screen with other fans is a unique experience that cannot be replicated at home.

When I was a kid, I always loved going to movie theaters. The whole experience felt so magical, the movie was never disappointing, the snacks were always warm and delicious, and even the previews were exciting. But going to the theaters today just doesn’t feel the same anymore.

Maybe it’s because time has passed or maybe I’ve been to the theaters too many times, but I know that it most likely had to do with the pandemic.

After the pandemic, closed theaters and movie studios released their new movies on streaming services instead, and people must have realized that they were fine without movie theaters in their lives. Going to the theater now, it looks as if there are half as many people there as before the pandemic. But going to movie theaters is so much more enjoyable than watching a movie at home, so why are fewer people going to theaters?

After the pandemic, people came to a lot of realizations about movie theaters and how they are incredibly unsanitary. I don’t blame these people, germs are gross, and being stuck inside a room with 50 or so people for about two hours might not be worth it for some. Even in the movie Contagion (2011) which is about a global pandemic, a scene shows how it spreads fast starting with a guy coughing in a movie theater, infecting everyone inside. It’s understandable why people would rather wait to watch a movie when they can stream it for cheaper in the comfort of their homes. 

Streaming of course is a huge contributor to the decline of movie theater demand. With all of the streaming services out there, everyone is bound to have at least one to watch movies and shows on. Netflix has over 3,600 movie titles on it, why go to the theater when you have so many options at home?  Netflix is about 100 dollars a year and going to the theater is about $15 a person. If people want to go with their friends or family more than once a year, they’ll end up spending more than a Netflix subscription, people save a ton of money just by watching a movie at home. But is watching a movie at home anything like going to the theater? No, it’s not even comparable. Spending money at the theaters, even if it’s more expensive, is 100% better than just watching a movie at home.

I have not been to the theaters as much as I used to and it’s for one single reason. I don’t think there are as many movies worth watching at the theater as there used to be. I was never really looking forward to watching a movie at the theater this past year, with the exception of the new Marvel movies. Not that the movies in the theater were bad, they just didn’t sound like something worth watching on the big screen. Choosing to go to the theater this year was because of the ever-growing boredom from staying at home for 3 days straight, not because I was looking forward to watching a specific movie. This will not be the case on May 5 this year though, as I will be first in line for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. 

Going to the movie theater is an experience, some movies simply have to be watched on the big screen. For example: In 2019, I watched Avengers Endgame on the Friday it came out because it was the definition of a must-see. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience because everyone sitting in the theater was a fan who waited a year for the conclusion. Laughing at the funny scenes, gasping in awe at the plot twists, cheering at the fights, crying at the losses, and clapping at the credits. Fans don’t get to experience that kind of movie every day. 

But if people are losing interest in the theaters, then theaters should take a step up to increase the demand and keep guests interested. I know that some people don’t go to the theaters because they are dirty, but most theaters clean and sanitize after every show, so if some people still don’t want to go then they are missing out. But for the people who aren’t skipping out on the movies because of the germs, this is my proposition.

In order to increase demand, theaters need to make their guests feel as safe and comfortable as possible. So, if theaters are already doing everything they can to keep them clean, they have to either focus on the other people, or make the theaters so fun and desirable that they look past the thought of germs.

Not long ago my local theater, Cinemark, was doing a promotion where for the month of October, they showed all the Studio Ghibli movies. I saw Howl’s Moving Castle and enjoyed it more than the first time when I watched it at home. There were a fair amount of people and it was such a refreshing experience. 

If theaters brought back movies from popular fandoms more often, people would be more eager to go to the theaters and see what’s showing in them. Possibly 2 or 3 auditoriums in each theater could be reserved for past movies permanently. Then, these theaters could have the guests vote on which movies get shown. And during holidays and such, they could show movies corresponding to them. During Christmas, they could bring back It’s a Wonderful Life. Not only would this get people to come to the theaters to rewatch this classic, but it would also introduce the film to younger generations. Especially with movies that are as amazing and moving as It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s important to have younger generations watch them. And for popular fandoms like Star Wars and Harry Potter, there could be whole events where fans come in costume or participate in trivia. Things like that could be very successful and the kind of thing to bring past movie theater enjoyers back into the magic. If the movie La La Land was brought back to a movie theater, I would be first in line. I saw it for the first time at home on DVD and it was great but there are so many scenes that would be 100 times more magical on a big screen.

Another thing that could make movie theaters more fun is better food. I’m not saying that movie theater food is bad, but it could be many times better. Instead of just popcorn, nachos, and hot dogs, how about less theme park-type food and more sit-down food like Mac n Cheese, turkey wraps and steak? 

Theaters could also spice it up by offering a ton of different popcorn flavors. At the concession stands, there could be normal popcorn but also chocolate-covered, caramel, and strawberry-flavored popcorn (yes it exists, and it’s amazing). Like a popcorn bar and there could be popcorn flavors of the month that could correlate to the seasons and holidays. I would go to the movies more often if theaters had that.

If people could go back to the theaters and have an amazing experience with a breathtaking movie and wow-factor food, people would be tempted to go again and again.

If people could remember the magical anticipation for the movie, wondering if it’s anything like the trailer. That chill of excitement when the lights go dimmer and the fanfare of a movie studio theme starts playing, signifying that it’s time to pay attention and to stop talking. And even leaving, talking to your friends or family about the movie and thoughts on what will happen in the sequel or what the end credit scene meant, it’s a priceless experience that cannot be substituted with the sad excuse of watching a movie at home. 

It would be truly a tragedy if in the future there weren’t any more theaters. People will be explaining a movie theater to their kids and their kids will never get the opportunity to go for themselves because they won’t exist. There would be no more going to the movie theaters with friends to watch the newest horror movie. There would be no more going to the theaters to watch the last movie of a trilogy that has been anticipated for years.

Going to the theaters is such a surreal experience, and life wouldn’t be worth living without such a magical aspect being a part of it.