After years of watching movies at home, are audiences ready to return to theaters?
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When you’re getting ready to watch a movie, do you put on shoes or pajama pants? That seems to be the question everyone is asking — including the studios themselves.
There have been only 66 films in wide release so far this year, down more than a third from this point in 2019. That’s according to a count by the global media company Comscore. Some movies have gone straight to streaming. Others have been available in theaters only for a week or so.
When the first “Black Panther” film came out in 2018, Janeé Franklin went to see it with her mom and dad at a theater in central Maryland.
Last month, the sequel was released, so Franklin went with her dad; her mom died last year.
“So the head wrap that I wore was one of hers, so that in a way, she kind of got to see the movie with us,” she said.
Going to the movies is a big family pastime, Franklin said. And blockbusters like “Black Panther” are getting people out — it’s brought in more than $700 million at the box office.
Franklin said she’d be going to the movies more if there were more movies to watch. Take the film “Disenchanted,” which went straight to Disney+.
“So if they had released it in theaters, I more likely would have gone to see it in theaters, but they didn’t, so I didn’t have to go,” she said.
Studios are trying to predict what audiences want, and as a result, are acting sort of unpredictably.
“It used to be consumers knew the movie is going in theaters, they knew the release date, they knew it would only be in theaters for about 90 days,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore.
Most people do know what they want at the movie theater: to sit in silence or have a more communal experience.
“The experience in your head when you think about being in a movie theaters is about an audience,” said Sam Adams, a senior editor in the culture department at Slate. “It’s about people, you know, cheering or laughing or jumping at a horror movie.”
Adams said one way to draw people back is to release a movie in 3D, like the sequel to “Avatar,” which comes out later this month.
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