What Should Movie Theaters Look Like After The Pandemic?

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There is one thing I can promise you that is going to happen after this pandemic, and you don’t even need to trust me to know its true, just trust history; industries that were struggling before this situation will have businesses die, or have businesses thrive like never before. Americans want to go out and do things again, they will want to travel by train and by air, there will be cruises to schedule, and if you’re like me- you’re looking forward to getting to go back to your local movie theater.

Now the movie theater industry is facing times worse than any other point in modern history. Worries of theater chains crashing go back all the way to the 2008 financial crisis, but now things are far worse. Chains like AMC are burning through cash on hand and considering selling off assets in order to ensure they can come back after this. Chains such as Regal and Cinemark started competing for subscription memberships to entice people with discounted tickets and concessions. Now they will have to remind many people, who are now more accustomed to services that stream films, why they should go visit theaters again.

Here are some concepts that the movie theater industry needs to pay attention to in order to survive in post-pandemic America.

You have to give people a reason not to stream from home

Chains such as the Alamo Drafthouse promise patrons an experience, whether through interactive films or the unique pre-shows before the featured presentation even starts. Films are going to have to offer not just the films themselves, but moments for people to feel they are getting their money’s worth by creating experiences and memories they’ll remember. Whether its throwing toast at the screen at a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or costume contents on the eve of the next great Marvel flick, theaters can’t just be about movies anymore, they have to be about all-out entertainment from when you walk in until you leave.

The Snack Counter Must Always Be Making Money

Some chains were getting onto this years ago but now there is no excuse to only offer popcorn and candy. Whether its burgers, beer, or even Starbucks, theaters need to take the “dinner” portion out of the regular dinner and a movie date by becoming the sole site for “dinner and a movie.” Theaters have almost always relied on concession sales to keep a profit, so this should be a no brainer.

Club Memberships and Pricing Adjustments

Journalist Remso W. Martinez from RedTea.com pointed this out several years back; “Cinemark in 2017 launched the Movie Club where for $8.99 a month you can see any film of your choice (and tickets rollover), a second ticket purchase is only $9.99 and you can also receive a 20% discount for concessions and waived online transaction fees. Is that the single solution though? Ask around and most movie-goers don’t even know about that program. What about a Netflix-type model for theater-goers? Even that model has been floated and tested.” This model is perhaps the only way theaters will be able to predict a reliable cash flow going forward, and the ability to receive discounts and rewards for items such as merchandise and concessions will only increase spending on items that are already being sold for an egregious markup.

Moviepass has a subscription service as well that gained some traction when it was first introduced.