Movie theaters face an uncertain future as studios move towards streaming releases
Warner Brothers recently announced that it will post its 2021 film list on its streaming service, HBO Max, the same day the movies hit theaters.
Already closed by the coronavirus, large chains such as small cinemas are struggling to adapt. In Baltimore, two theaters – Charles Theater and The Senator’s Theater – have so far stood the test of time but face an uncertain future.
Co-owner Kathleen Lyon has said Warner Brothers’ streaming decision could hurt theaters, but she is happy the studio continues to make the films available to theaters.
“I believe a lot of these great images are meant to be seen on the big screen and with other people,” she says. “And there’s a cinematic experience here that a streaming service just can’t deliver.”
Theaters were unable to show films at all during much of the pandemic. Shortly after theaters closed on March 16 in Maryland, films slated for release in the spring were not made available to theaters, Lyon said.
Small theaters aren’t the only ones feeling the impact: AMC, one of the country’s largest theater chains, says it will run out of money by mid-January without $ 750 million investors.
Theaters received help from the Paycheck Protection Program in the spring, but nothing since then, Lyons says. His theaters can last a few months, but depending on the cost of the bills, the money will run out.
“We hope we can get to the other side of the issue, and if we can, I believe people will come. And there will be a renaissance for movie theaters, ”she said. “Fair enough, can they do it?” “
As of March, The Charles and The Senator have been open for a total of six weeks. Theaters reopened in September for the theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” but audiences poured in, she said. The theater screened covers and smaller films to attract moviegoers, but was then voluntarily closed when coronavirus cases began to increase after Halloween.
James “Buzz” Cusack, co-owner and father of Lyon, has a more optimistic view of the evolution of the industry than his daughter. The situation does not seem so bad to him, he says, because he is convinced that audiences will return to theaters.
“A movie theater is a social experience,” he says, “and I think that will always be of value. “
Small theaters have smaller bills than big chains, he says. Support from the residents, the owner reducing the slack a little and the cancellation of the city and state loan helped their theaters stay afloat.
For Cusack, Warner Brothers’ announcement reflects the “obvious direction” the industry is heading in with streaming services as major players.
The Charles and Senator were built in 1939 and help form the “cultural fabric of the city” of Baltimore, Lyons says. But theaters are suffering during the pandemic alongside countless other small businesses, from long-standing institutions to trendy new restaurants.
“For those who can’t get by, it really changes the cityscape in so many very sad ways,” she says. “It’s character. This is what makes it interesting. And that’s what makes it a great place to live.