Box office battles continue for movie theaters during pandemic

KELOLAND.com Original

FILE – Posters for upcoming movies are displayed in an empty corridor at the currently closed AMC Burbank Town Center 8 movie theaters complex on April 29, 2020, in Burbank, Calif. After several false starts, the film industry is hoping to bring new releases back into movie theaters in late August. But for blockbusters, it may mean rethinking opening weekend and returning to a more gradual rollout through international and U.S. territories. Gone for now are the days of massive global openings. And theater owners say if they don’t get new films soon, they may not make it to 2021. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Nothing is playing at the West Mall 7 Cinema for five weeks starting Friday.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a box office dud since March of 2020 for the movie theater industry.

The West Mall 7 cited pandemic-related negative economic impact at the reason for the temporary closure in a Feb. 18 Facebook post.

The U.S. had 5,477 movie sites in March of 2020, according to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). Until the State Theatre opened in late 2020, Sioux Falls had three of those sites with the West Mall 7, Century 14 and Century at Dawley Farm.

Although NATO cited a key potential financial boost in December when movie theaters were included in a piece of a COVID-19 relief package. The piece earmarked $15 billion for movie theaters, live theater, live entertainment venues and museums. But a full COVID-19 relief package has not yet been passed at the federal level.

AMC received a $100 million investment in January of this year to help fend off the financial downtown, according to multiple media reports.

Many movie theaters across the U.S. closed not long after the pandemic started in January in the U.S. Some were able to operate later under limited capacity.

The West Mall 7 is a discount theater. When it re-opened several months ago it did so with limited capacity and cited its cleaning protocols.

But in Sioux Falls and across the world the return to movie theaters has been slow during the pandemic.

Deloitte, a professional services organization in taxes, analysis and other fields, has published several studies on the trend in the movie industry and movie theaters. Its  “Digital media trends 14th edition” fall pulse survey, revealed that only 18% of US consumers had attended a movie in a theater since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The public has been given different messages about the risks of attending a movie during the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic the Centers for Disease (CDC) has cautioned the public about avoiding indoor gatherings and the need to maintain six feet of social distance between people and to wear a mask.

A story published by Health on Aug. 25 talked about risks posed by watching a movie in a theater. The story cited measures taken by AMC and Cinemark, for example, that included cleaning, requiring patrons to wear masks inside the theater and social distancing.

Natascha Tuznik, a UC Davis Health associate professor of infectious disease, wrote on June 22 for the University of California Davis Health, that six feet of social distancing, facing the same direction and the lack of talking during the movie, make it less risky than some other activities.

As of Feb. 18, the CDC recommended that individuals get a COVID-19 test after they have been with crowds such as those at restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters because those are considered riskier activities.

A report published by Statista said the pandemic reduced box office revenues worldwide by an estimated 44.5 billion U.S. dollars to $16.3 billion for the year 2020.

Although people haven’t ‘gone to the movies’ much during the pandemic they still watched movies while inside their own homes.

Premium video on demand (PVoD) has become even more popular during the pandemic.

A Dec. 10 story on research by Deloitte showed that as of October 2020, 35% of consumers said they’ve watched a PVoD release. The movie industry had increased its direct to PVoD release or options during the pandemic.

Movie studies get a larger share of the revenue with PVoD than with box office revenue, according to Deloitte. Studies get 55% of the revenue in theaters and 80% of the revenue through PVoD.

Warner Brothers announced in December it would stream its 2021 movies the same day they were released in theaters, according to a Dec. 4 CBS story.

But while on demand use has increased and ticket sales are down, there are some encouraging signs.

Deloitte found that in October 68% of consumers want to watch at least some movies in theaters. Successful director Stephen Spielberg was quoted in Collider on Feb. 1, as being confident people would return to movie theaters once the pandemic waned and people felt safer.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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