COVID-19 changes the movie industry

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Graphic by Benji Thernstrom

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, movies are being released exclusively on streaming services instead of in theaters more than ever. Disney, the most successful film studio at the moment, has already released blockbuster “Mulan” on their service Disney+ and the Pixar film “Soul” in time for Christmas. Outside of sci-fi blockbuster “Tenet,” which will likely lose money due to a lack of moviegoers in the pandemic, no big-budget film has been released in United States theaters since March. The pandemic has reshaped movie-watching as we know it. 

For the school’s film teacher, Ms. Rosa Reyes, the cinematic experience was a foundation for her film fandom. 

“The first movie I saw in the movie theaters was at my cousin Gladys’ birthday party, and we went to go see “Star Wars” when it was released, so I was hooked ever since,” Ms. Reyes said.

However, movie theaters are now one of many places that people don’t feel safe in due to the pandemic.

“I have not [gone to the theater] since the pandemic started,” senior Leanne Bartoc said

The pandemic, however, has stopped many from having the same experiences, whether for new moviegoers or dedicated viewers. 

“Ever since we went into quarantine I have not [seen any movies in theaters], and it’s been really sad because I missed that experience tremendously,” Ms. Reyes said. “There’s nothing like the huge screen and the surround sound, and also the live audience around to react to things together.”

Compared to that, streaming cannot measure up for some, although there are some benefits. 

“There is not one streaming service that I am not a contributing member of,” Ms. Reyes said. “I can just be in my pajamas and sit down and watch it anywhere at any time. I’m certainly able to access a lot more material quickly and have the time to do it here and there but I will never exchange real people’s engagement for anything in the world.”

The accessibility and comfort of watching films at home is a point in favor of streaming, enough to make it preferable to the theatrical experience for some.

“I prefer it inside just because it’s comfortable, but I also like the movie theaters as well because it’s a big screen, there’s a lot of sounds coming at you,” junior Gabrielle Bartoc said.

The creation of streaming can even lead to some new opportunities for some people.

“A pandemic started and we went into lockdown in March,” Gabrielle Bartoc said. “That was when I started watching a lot more movies. I watched “Parasite”, “1917” and a lot [more] movies.” 

The majority of cinema chains, including AMC, Regal and Cinemark, have closed their doors indefinitely for now. Some have speculated that the theater industry will be permanently damaged by the pandemic and streaming will become the main venue for films.

“When a new movie comes out, and then you’re all excited to go see it and you go out to go with your friends or family, and you’re in the theater with them and watching it … I think that’s what’s gonna be sad about it [movie theaters closing], if it happens,” Gabrielle said. 

Currently, streaming is the only option for most film fans, and could continue to be.

 “For a long time the movie theater was like my comfort place,” Leanne said. “I don’t like streaming as much as the movie theaters, but it’s the best option for now.” 

The future of theaters may be uncertain, but many who go to them have their opinions set.

“I don’t know if they’ll bounce back,” Ms. Reyes said. “It’s sad that the anticipation of the releases, standing in line, getting your tickets or getting there early to be with a group of people that want to share their thoughts and feelings on a film [could be lost]… that can never be replaced, and if that’s ever lost for good, that will be such a sad, sad part of our history of film.”