Will Disney Kill Movie Theaters?

Movie theaters may have opened back up, but they aren’t back for good. Cineworld recently suspended operations of their theaters, which includes Regal Cinemas. Cineworld comes in second only to AMC when it comes to being a global exhibitor. With them making that big of a move, I imagine AMC will close back up before the end of 2020, as well. The biggest announcement as of late though was when Disney announced that they were restructuring to account for a greater focus on streaming. Will this move help kill movie theaters even faster than they’ve already been dying?

In the official press release from Walt Disney:

“We are strategically positioning our businesses for the future, creating a more effective, global framework to serve consumers worldwide, increase growth, and maximize shareholder value,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “With our unparalleled Studio and Media Networks serving as content engines for the Company, we are combining the management of our direct-to-consumer distribution platforms, technology and international operations to deliver the entertainment and sports content consumers around the world want most, with more choice, personalization and convenience than ever before.”

The key here is direct-to-consumer distribution. Disney+ allows for Disney to keep all of the money they make from new subscriptions. They don’t have nowhere near as many subscribers as Netflix does, which means that there’s room for growth. I recently released a video where I talk about how Marvel is screwing up by not releasing Black Widow on the service.

Look, I understand that saying Marvel is screwing up is a stretch. We’re simply in unprecedented times. As someone who actually started going to the movies more over the last few years, I completely understand wanting to see movies that way. However, I also noticed that the movie-goin experience at a big chain like AMC wasn’t always all that great. You’ll always have the annoying people who talk loudly during movies or the person who doesn’t turn their phone off.

As someone who was fortunate to be able to go in the off-hours, I didn’t necessarily experience those. If you arrive a little too early though, you’ll often find yourself sitting through commercials. Not previews, but actual commercials. And then you have to sit through another 20-25 minutes of previews on top of it before the movie even starts. There are plenty of people who will just arrive after the movie’s start time, but you shouldn’t have to. I have this pet peeve about sporting event start times as well. Just tell me when the thing I paid for is actually going to start, please.

I don’t know what exactly the future holds for movie theaters, but here’s my best prediction. Movie theaters will become a more premium experience (think: Alamo Drafthouse) and the big chains will wind up either closing many theaters or will have to step up the experience that they offer (which will cost them even more money). I don’t want to see Disney completely kill the theaters, but they’ve been in a downward trend for a while now. Making the window from theater to VOD shorter, will help the studios, but not the theaters themselves. It’s a big predicament all around because I think the studios still love the theaters, too. They offer an experience that so few people can get at home, which is exactly why I don’t think Disney will kill theaters completely.