2020 is just a few weeks before finally coming to an end. Good riddance.
I’m not saying this year was a total wash. But, honestly, I don’t think people will remember 2020 as the year we got Final Fantasy VII Remake, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X or whatever good thing that happened within these twelve months. No, history will remember 2020 as one of the most suckiest years ever as everyone were forced into our homes and not allowed to venture outside.
Probably one of the worst things to happen this year is the virtual collapse of the movie and movie theater industry. With no one allowed to even leave their homes, it was only a matter of time for movie theaters to also shut down. Even with the easing of restrictions and some theaters opening, it just seems like it’s not enough to fully reinvigorate the film industry. In fact, some studios like Walt Disney and Warner Bros. are completely skipping releasing their films in movie theaters but on their proprietary streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max. Disney did it first with Mulan and will do the same with Soul. Warner Bros. followed suit as they announced Wonder Woman 84, while it will get a theatrical release, will also be available on HBO Max.
This trend does seem like it’s heralding a new age for streaming services but it also does foreshadow the possibility that movie theaters and the movie theater experience is going to die out. And, in all honesty, I would be loathe to live in a world where I can’t go to the cinema anymore.
Now, I can sort of understand the reasoning as to why companies like Disney and Warner Bros. are making this move to streaming sites. They have these films all ready to be released but don’t want to release them in theaters because not many people are willing to go out and watch them in a crowded area. And they do have this new streaming service out there and they would rather get people to subscribe to them. So why not put content that they want on their new service?
But on the flip side this does mean that there’s going to be less of a reason to go to the cinema. I mean, if most blockbuster films are just going to be moving directly to the streaming services, why go to the movie theater at all anymore? Sure, you can still shell out a chunk of change to go see Wonder Woman 84 in the cinema. But the more budget conscious geek will probably get the HBO Max subscription and watch it from the comfort of their own home.
While I do see the logic in that, there’s just something that feels… off. There’s just something about actually going to a dimly lit movie theater and watching something on a huge screen with total strangers surrounding you. There’s an excitement and magical feeling that you just can’t get when your sitting on the couch with your friends. There are just some reactions you can’t duplicate at home.
The most resent example come from the iconic moments from the Marvel films. Disney did hit it big with the Marvel Cinematic Universe but I can’t help but feel the experience of watching those scenes was elevated because of everyone, including yourself, was excited. We were all emotionally invested and we were hyped up because of that shared feeling. I mean, when Captain America takes control of Mjolnir and the resurrected heroes finally assemble in Avengers: Endgame, how can you say that wasn’t a magical experience?
Of course, it does certainly help that all of you are in a dark room so you are forced to focus at the only light source, the screen that’s projecting all the pretty moving pictures. That certainly helps you to just watch what’s happening. There’s also the unwritten rule that your fellow audience members can’t be jerks by talking throughout the movie in the attempt to be a wise guy or be more entertaining than the actual movie. Okay, not everyone in the movie cinema follows this unwritten rule. But then again, jerk are going to be jerks.
In fact, one of the most memorable moments from my childhood and it was from watching Robocop 2 at the cinema. I was at school but all classes were cancelled because of a heavy storm. I should’ve went home like a smart little boy but I didn’t. Instead, I took that as a sign that I should go to the nearest movie theater and watch Robocop 2, which was just released that day! It seemed like I wasn’t the only one with the same line of thinking as the theater was packed. And, more importantly, everyone was enjoying the movie.
The climax of Robocop 2 is the thing that really sticks out. Robocop has a long drawn out fight with Cain in the Robocop 2 body. The original Robocop manages to win the day and, just after Cain fades away and his body goes limp, the entire audience erupts in spontaneous applause!
While that was already a magical moment, that’s not what rings through when I think of Robocop 2. What I truly remember is what happened afterwards. The rhythm of the clapping became faster and faster but one guy, I couldn’t see who, started slapping his legs to produce the fastest claps. The rest of the audience, realizing what was happening, started to boo that person and afterwards, everyone bursted out laughing! Somehow, everyone got on the same page and we all knew what to do collectively!
Can this kind of thing happen if you’re watching a movie with your friends? It’s possible but highly unlikely nor would it be all that memorable because, well, you’re all friends and you would expect the outcome. You’d know which one of your friends is the loud one, the guy who complains about the sound, the girl who can’t seem to understand what’s going on so she has to ask you what happened and so on. That magic of spontaneity just isn’t there. The thrill of something unexpected and the energy of a live crowd of strangers experiencing and feeling the same emotions won’t be there if you’re watching at home.
I really want movie theaters to survive. 2020 might seem like the prelude to the movie theater experience’s death. It certainly feels like it’s on life support now. I certainly do hope that, in the next year, movie theaters will miraculously rise from its deathbed and start thriving again, though.
Do you think there’s still room for movie theaters in the future? Or do you think streaming services is the way of the future? Let me know in the comments section below!
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