3 Possible Solutions to the Death of Traditional Movie Theaters

Movie theaters impacted by streaming

There’s been plenty of discussion surrounding the traditional movie theater and whether or not it’s on its way out. The concept of the “dying movie theater” is one that far predates COVID-19, but for many, it’s seemed like the last nail in the coffin. However, movie theaters are still trying to thrive, even with the issues surrounding theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are three potential ways that traditional movie theaters could thrive.

Traditional Movie Theaters: A Dying Breed?

First of all, is it true that traditional movie theaters are dying? Regardless of the case before COVID-19, it’s true that during a pandemic, traditional movie theaters are struggling. In October 2020, AMC Theaters, the largest theater chain in the United States, noted that attendance was down 85% from pre-COVID-19 attendance. They were even concerned about completely running out of money.

While AMC Theaters is currently doing okay, there’s no denying that the movie industry is struggling right now. In 2020, the 2021 box office was forecast to be depressed at 35%. How can movie theaters come back? There are a few things that movie theater chains across the United States can consider doing to bounce back.

1. Release Movies In-Theater, Then on Streaming Platforms More Quickly

Some companies are already doing this. While certain movie theaters aren’t happy about it, it’s becoming even more common to release a movie in physical theaters, then on streaming services as quickly as possible. However, while many theaters and streaming platforms are at odds over this procedure, it could be beneficial for both.

By striking deals with streaming services, theaters can sometimes share in the profits that movies are making without ever having to open their doors to the actual movies. The theater will reduce the length of time that a movie is “theater-exclusive”, with an AMC-NBCU deal cutting that length down to just 17 days, in exchange for a cut from the streaming royalties.

2. Collaborate With Streaming Platforms That Release Their Own Movies

Many streaming platforms, like Netflix, are creating and releasing their own movies. While these movies can be just as high-quality as many of the movies that go straight to theaters, they never actually go to the theaters, depriving those companies of a cut of profits. However, some people are asking: What if there was a way to do both?

If Netflix or another streaming platform was interested, it could collaborate with theater companies to put on limited-time showings at the movie theaters. Not only would a streaming company be able to put on a completely different experience with a theater option, but theaters would also benefit from the additional traffic. It could be an incredibly helpful option.

3. Lend Out Parts of Theater Lobbies to Other Brands That Might Want To Sell

Theater lobbies are often large and expansive, and some brands are wondering whether this might be a great place to add shopping experiences. The theaters can take a cut of the profits, while brands can customize the products they provide at different theaters to capture specific markets. It could be profitable for both groups.

In some ways, this could be almost a return to the mall experience—many theaters are connected to existing malls, and adding a gift shop-like experience could be a great way to maximize the appeal to different groups of people. For example, theaters are a common first-date experience. What better way to cap off an online dating meetup than to buy something sweet to remember it on the way out?


Many people believe that theaters can survive this sudden downturn, but in order to do so, they need to adapt to the new world of theatergoing. To some extent, they’ve already done it—the boom in premium food and treats that most theaters offer was an attempt at surviving previous downturns in theatergoing, and they seem to have been helpful to some extent. From working together with streaming platforms to offering pieces of lobbies as storefronts, the death of traditional movie theaters is something that these theaters can likely survive, but only if they actively attempt to adapt.

Image Attribution: Patcharapon – stock.adobe.com

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