It’s the latest danger sign for the theater business in North America, which was under pressure even before the pandemic. It has gotten a boost by raising ticket prices and revamping theater-going into a more luxurious experience with drinks and meals, but admissions have been gradually declining since 2005. The box office has become home mostly to blockbuster films: Sequels, remakes and superhero movies dominate. Meanwhile, the rise of streaming services — Netflix and a growing stable of rivals — is providing new competition.
The coronavirus pandemic threw in more challenges. U.S. cinemas shut down in March, so their owners haven’t been taking in money. Hollywood halted film production, which is likely to delay movies once theaters reopen and may limit consumer eagerness to spend money at the multiplex. The pandemic has prompted entertainment companies to release some movies directly to consumers, raising concerns that more will bypass theaters in the future. And when theaters do reopen, it’s not clear how many customers will want to be in enclosed, crowded spaces for hours at a time.
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June 6, 2020