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Opinion
Tara Lachapelle

We Have Learned to Live Without Movie Theaters

Even the ones that make it through the crisis may find that online-streaming apps have stolen away audiences for good.

Planning a trip to the movies soon? Didn’t think so.

Planning a trip to the movies soon? Didn’t think so.

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg

 As the Covid-19 pandemic wears on and drives permanent changes to entertainment culture, Hollywood giants such as Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures appear to be turning their backs somewhat on movie theaters. The largest among the cinema chains, AMC Entertainment Inc., is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy at the same time that it celebrates its 100th anniversary. Just a few short months ago, it seemed inconceivable that the business of filmmaking could carry on without the box office and surrender almost entirely to online streaming apps. But now it’s clear that Hollywood and audiences can get along without cinemas.

Disney has since pushed back a number of its upcoming releases, including delaying Marvel’s “Black Widow” to May 2021, a full year from when it was originally scheduled. The same goes for MGM’s “No Time to Die,” which is now set to arrive in April, although the studio reportedly held talks about selling the film to Apple Inc. or Netflix for their streaming services. Even as key New York and California theaters reopen, all signs point to weak demand until the U.S. gets a handle on the coronavirus. Only 26% of millennials — and far fewer baby boomers — say they’re comfortable returning to movie theaters right now, according to a weekly Morning Consult poll. Attitudes toward concerts, gyms, theme parks and overseas travel are much the same.