COVID-19’s Effect on Theaters and the Moviegoing Industry


UCLA School of Theater Film & Television Lecturer Glenn Williamson joined Voice of B2B Daniel Litwin remotely for this MarketScale interview, taking a look at how the spread of the novel coronavirus and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic might reshape the theater and moviegoing industry as we know it.

With states across the country slowly contemplating – and implementing – re-opening strategies, the United States’ largest theater chains, namely Cinemark and AMC, aren’t following suit.

“I think a lot of the big movies aren’t going to happen in the summer,” Williamson said. “People are cautious. The pandemic only exaggerated and turbo-charged what had been going on, which was people needing a really, really compelling reason to go to the movie theater.”

Some independent chains have found some measure of success with a model that sees consumers rent independent films directly from the theaters, with profits going to helping the theaters stay afloat during this period of uncertainty.

The larger chains, by contrast, have had a tougher time finding that level of support and haven’t offered similar initiatives.

Still, even with some support, Williamson said much uncertainty remains.
“If I were to predict (the post-pandemic state of smaller theaters), there are probably going to be fewer independent distributors, who were already struggling to get these movies in theaters.”

There is hope, however, for long-term recovery as people, particularly once a vaccine is created, strive to re-engage in shared experiences at a potentially higher level than pre-pandemic.

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