Movies: Will Audiences Return Without A Vaccine?

(L-r) ROBERT PATTINSON and JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action epic "TENET," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

While some states are starting to reopen businesses, the question remains whether people will be going back to the movies when theaters reopen.

All eyes are on July 17th as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is still scheduled to open.  While Warner Bros. hasn’t moved the film, the best bet is they will.  A decision needs to be made and soon.  Without a vaccine, movie theaters won’t be running at a capacity studios need to make their money back.

It’s not just a question of whether it’s safe to go back to the movies.  Without a vaccine, large gatherings over 50 will not be allowed.  What happens with a theater than can seat well over that number?  Do they space out accordingly or not?  With a limit on seating capacity, it’s going to mean fewer films being released into theaters.  A major release that would typically require no more than 5 screens would need to take up more.  Of course, this is if the audience comes back.  Listen, I haven’t studied up on the 1918 flu epidemic but it came at a time when the film industry was still being born.  Without a vaccine, I just can’t envision audiences coming back in droves.  Yes, parents will want to get out of the house…

Another thing to think about is masks.  If you’re going into a public place, you’ll need to cover your face.  This means that people will be unlikely to eat food from the concessions.  It’s an important thing to consider because this is where movie theaters truly make their money after giving studios their share of the box office.  But enough about the money factor, some people might take their masks off after the lights go dark.  And then you take glasses into account.  I haven’t quite figured out the secret to prevent my glasses from fogging up.

The other thing to take into account here is that it will be hard to release new films without New York, Los Angeles and the global economy.  New York and LA have two of the largest markets so the studios won’t be releasing anything without those markets being completely operational.  Social distancing isn’t going to be enough especially when there’s no vaccine in place.

Movies will be reopening but it’s a question of not if but when audiences will be back at the old numbers.  I expect it’ll be 2021 or 2022 before going to the movies will be the same.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.