By Anthony Paradiso & Roger Paradiso

The pandemic has not been kind. Over 800,000 Americans have died as of mid-December. Many businesses have died too. About 800,000 have been lost in America. “There is a normal loss of about 600,000 per any year, but the pandemic has added another 200,000 (lost) small businesses” (businessinsider.com).

Some of our favorite movie theaters have left us in the last two years. These are mostly the small chain and single owner theaters across the country. They were loved by those who grew up with them.

According to Gower Street Analytics’ Thomas Beranek, “23 percent of movie theaters in the United States have been closed since March 2020.” Some have gone to extinction, while others are still hoping to return. They are waiting to see what the future holds regarding the pandemic and other factors.

“[Movie] industry analysts had commented this trend was already beginning [before the COVID-19 pandemic],” Forbes’ Brad Adgate said. To date, many of the big chains are hanging in despite the losses due to government mandates over safety and technologies like streaming.

EVEN WITH CONSTRUCTION SCAFFOLDING AROUND IT, we must support this gem of a theater. The Cinema Village is the oldest continuously running art theater in Manhattan. Spiderman on the marquee with ticket prices $8 for students, children and seniors! Photo by Alexandros Sokratous.

“I think (the industry) has changed forever,” said Michael Burns, an Arizona State University alumnus and vice chairman of Lionsgate, a leading film studio. “I think we’re not going to go backwards from here. But the question is: how quickly we can go forward? I never understood why people didn’t recognize this earlier.”

Many new streaming companies are looking to cash in on what they see as the home theaters of the future. Right now, Netflix, and Amazon are being challenged by these upstart streamers. If movie theaters start closing there will be a huge market for new and old streamers to flourish. The questions are: how long will the pandemic last, and will audiences come back to the movie theaters?

Fortunately, we have not lost any theaters in the West Village due to the pandemic. But without the financial power of the major chains to withstand COVID closings, how long can that last?

According to BoxOfficePro.com, “The domestic box office has tallied $3.1 billion through the first 10 months of the year 2021, which is 45 percent higher than 2020’s haul through the same period.”

“The industry circled this October on the calendar as an important marker for movie audiences’ pandemic rebound, and it delivered in a big way,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOficePro.com.

Shawn said that box office intake for 2020 was about 55 percent less than non-pandemic 2019.

“It’s the biggest test so far in a wave of mini tests for theater owners. We’ve had several tests this year, which really started with Godzilla vs. Kong back in the springtime. Then it was Fast & Furious 9, Shang-Chi and James Bond. We’re getting closer to a cycle that resembles a pre-pandemic cycle. This Christmas season will be the closest that we’ve been to that because not only will there be Spiderman, but there will be Sing 2 and The Matrix Resurrections. There’s a lot of appealing content coming out that will be looked to, to kick-start momentum going into the new year,” Robbins said.

I spoke to Nick at Cinema Village, one of the oldest independent theaters in New York. He said, “Since we knew the reviews were really good, we decided to book some commercial films for the holidays, like Spider-Man and House of Gucci, to help our box office. NATO (North American Theater Owners) are at 55 percent because most theaters are commercial ones. Independent movies are OFF by a lot more. In the case of Cinema Village, about 75 percent off from 2019.”

“We’ve been through several of these stress-test periods throughout the year, and there will be more to come during the holidays and winter,” said BoxOfficePro.com’s Robbins. “Vaccines for young children remain crucial in the long term. All in all, though, theater owners and studios should be very encouraged by the string of recent box office hits and what they signal for the new year around the corner.”

I asked Nick, “What, if anything, do you foresee for the future of the smaller movie theaters?” He replied, “Not just movie theaters, if people want the economy to be strong, we should all get vaccinated and use all the tools we have at this time to diminish this virus. At Cinema Village we love NYC, and if you love this city and don’t want its destruction, please GET VACCINATED and follow the science.”  

I grew up with small neighborhood theaters as many of us did. The solution for Nick is the solution for the bigger commercial chains, and that is to defeat COVID. In the meantime, please support your neighborhood movie theater.

Cinema Village has lowered ticket prices to $8.00 for seniors, students, and children. Spiderman opened December 18th and will run for weeks. The Matrix Resurrections and Sing 2 opened December 22nd and will run for weeks.

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