Movie Theaters Faced with Threat of Extinction

A harsh reality currently exists for movie theaters: online streaming is taking over, and brick-and-mortar cinemas are fading fast. Netflix offers all nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother and its own award-winning shows like House of Cards, as well as numerous movie choices and a selection that grows everyday. HBO Go airs Game of Thrones online only a few minutes after it starts on television, and finding bootleg movies online, although admittedly illegal, isn’t so hard either.

With all these possible options, it's no wonder people have been choosing to stream movies online rather than go to the theater. Online streaming is preferred because, let’s face it--it means you get to stay in your bed. You don’t have to pay $15 to see a movie you might not even like, and eat popcorn that you could have made at home. You don’t have to take the T to the Fenway stop, or an Uber to the overly posh Showcase Cinemas in the Chestnut Hill Mall, where the closest mainstream movie theaters in relation to the Boston College campus are located. After all, everyone knows how reluctant  students are to break the BC bubble.

The future isn’t looking so bright for movie theaters, and they aren’t doing much to change it. Certain cinema chains have acknowledged the lower numbers of attendees and have adjusted their auditoriums to seat less people, while offering comfier reclining sofa chairs you can reserve online. Others have tried to make it a more adult venture by selling alcohol and making certain showtimes 21+. Yet, all of these efforts come with a price increase, which is counterproductive in the effort to increase attendance at movie theaters--especially when it comes to drawing in college students.

Courtesy of Facebook / Showcase Superlux

Courtesy of Showcase Superlux / Facebook

For the monthly price of Netflix, you can’t even see one movie in theaters. Some, including the Regal Cinemas near Fenway, offer a student discount at $8.75; still, that price would buy about four rides on the T, a five-pack of Easy Mac, a few cents less than a Chipotle burrito or a little more than half a handle of Rubinoff. IMAX and 3-D movies are pushing $18.

While Netflix can’t offer you the big screen or big sound experience, nor play the midnight showing of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, how much do students really care? Aside from major fandoms over the Twilight series or the latest John Green novel-turned-major-motion picture, we seem willing to wait for movies to come out on Netflix. When was the last time you made the effort to see a movie in theaters, even if you knew you would really enjoy it? During the summer it might be a more popular way to spend time, but then again, so are bonfires on the beach and lounging outside when the weather is nice.

Netflix, in partnership with The Weinstein Company, plans to release the sequel to the film Crouching Tiger, entitled Hidden Dragon, at the same time that it hits movie theaters. The question is: what is next? Movie production budgets are only growing, and movie prices are going to continue to rise with them. The Wall Street Journal reported that fewer Americans are attending movies, but that the theaters are still making profits due to their raised prices--for now. In the long term, movie theaters must consider the declining number of attendees if they want to stay afloat considering the great and growing competition that online TV and movie streaming services, such as Netflix, pose to them.

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Julia Ho