A Reflection on Movie Theaters and the Pandemic

2 min read With COVID-19 cases on the rise, will movie theaters be a thing of the past or will they remain after this pandemic?

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Photo Credit: (Jake Hills) Duke of York's Picturehouse, Brighton, United Kingdom.

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By Michael Aaron Coopersmith | mcoopersmith@radford.edu 

Before the pandemic, going to the movies used to be a bi-monthly activity for me. It was an experience that I enjoyed; stepping into the theatre to watch the latest film that was getting the most “buzz” from critics, then grabbing something from the concession stand and finding my seat. It was my little tradition.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, theaters were having a tough time competing with the entertainment industry’s ever-growing streaming presence. With the “stay at home” orders enforced in many states, theaters were dangerously dancing their other foot into the grave.I did my tradition last semester, having watched the award-winning Parasite at the Radford Theatre.

Yet, the rampage of the coronavirus pandemic has set back many new movies coming out into the theaters. For example, No Time to Die, The King’s Man, and Tenet were all delayed until further notice.

With the passing of five months, announcements boasted the arrival of Tenet and The New Mutants in theaters. I was a bit shocked to see that the film industry would choose to distribute their films through theater showings with cases in our nation on the rise. 

Yet, with six months of vacant seats, theaters are most likely dying to get people back. So, this is where the controversy lies. 

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, theaters were having a tough time competing with the entertainment industry’s ever-growing streaming presence. With the “stay at home” orders enforced in many states, theaters were dangerously dancing their other foot into the grave.

The “stay at home” order here in Virginia rescinded around June 10. With no new movies coming out, this left theaters in a kind of limbo. 

Thus, theaters had to find creative ways to drum up business. The Radford Theatre began to screen classics such as GremlinsThe Lost Boys, and Nightmare on Elm Street.

It’s a grim, presumptuous conclusion to the question of movie theatres’ abilities to survive and recover from the pandemic. Movies have, and will, always have a place in my heart. Now with their screening of The New Mutants, they have a fresh movie for the starved moviegoer. Yet, we must be cautious as Radford cases have skyrocketed from 26 to 467 since the return of students on campus. With the cases increasing every day, the hope of participating in my small tradition has begun to fade.

COVID-19 is a brutal reminder of how movie theaters are ever creeping to end, to join the many other outmoded mediums of entertainment: i.e., drive-in and VHS. 

It’s a grim, presumptuous conclusion to the question of movie theatres’ abilities to survive and recover from the pandemic. Movies have, and will, always have a place in my heart. 

However, how movies are distributed will change drastically, and I can only hope that movie theaters still have life in them after overcoming this pandemic.