Even when movie theaters reopen, whenever that may be, things may not return to normal. This, according to a new survey, which suggests that quite a few people will be avoiding public gatherings once this is all over, with movie theaters being hit particularly hard. This, coupled with some changes that are already happening in the industry as all of this is unfolding, could alter the cinema landscape as we know it. That may sound dramatic, but it's a distinct possibility.

According to the survey, 44 responded saying they would go to fewer large public events after this period of social distancing is over, with 38 percent saying they would attend about the same number. 18 percent said they would attend more, but 47 percent, rather importantly, said that the idea of going to a major public event "will scare me for a long time." Specifically talking about going to the movies, 49 percent of those surveyed said it would take a few months, or possibly never, to return. 28 said they will go to movie theaters less often and 15 percent said they intend to go to the movies more often, while 58 percent said their attendance won't be affected.

These numbers should be concerning for virtually anyone involved in the movie business at any level, as well as those who enjoy the theatrical experience. Movie theaters are already struggling financially with the shutdown. If audiences don't turn up when they are allowed to open again, the outlook isn't great. From the studio perspective, this could seriously harm many of the projects already completed or in the works. Without a certain level of performance at the box office, movies become a financial loss. Plain and simple.

The other issue is that change is already starting in some ways. An increasing number of recent theatrical releases, as well as some that never made it to theaters but were intended to, are being released early to premium digitally rental or purchase. Movies like The Invisible Man have performed well, which could encourage studios to maintain a premium digital model for certain releases even after movie theaters are back up and running. This is something major chains such as AMC have argued against for years, but now that the floodgates have opened, it may be too little too late.

If theater attendance does see a major dip, as these numbers suggest, it could ultimately impact the way movies are produced, what types of movies are made and certain studios could even fold if the money isn't there. With declining physical media sales, the secondary market hasn't been as impactful as it used to be. The box office is where most movies made the majority of their money. This situation is evolving rapidly and is impossible to predict, but a general fear of public gatherings coupled with modern convenience with streaming media could be a near-fatal blow to the theatrical exhibition business as we know it. This news comes to us via Variety.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott