In the United States, fewer and fewer citizens have been going out to the movies in recent years, but that part of the entertainment industry still brought in millions each week and was a beloved activity for many Americans. Now, with the lockdowns and stay at home orders imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, movie theaters across the country have been closed for over a month, and some of them are at risk of getting shut down for good.
Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at LightShed partners, said that the theater business was already set to see its worst year ever, and this was even before the coronavirus hit. Greenfield said that the pandemic is like “pouring lighter fluid on the fire.”
According to the New York Times, movie theater owners in the United States are now hoping for a bailout, but they are just one of many businesses that are depending on public funds for survival. As of right now, there is no indication as to whether or not there will be any help for movie theaters in future relief packages. However, many critics have argued that the movie theater format was already failing and would have already been on its way out in the next few years, even if the pandemic never happened.
In the midst of this disruption, the classic drive-in movie theater is starting to make a comeback, because the format allows moviegoers to socially distance from the safety and privacy of their vehicles.
There are currently about 320 drive-in theaters across the United States with only 25 open for business, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s a great turn out for the 5:00 PM drive-in movie at Northern Cass tonight. pic.twitter.com/DuY2ucTqJA
— Cory Steiner (@CorySteiner10) April 15, 2020
In other countries, drive-in theaters have become even more popular in the past few months, but going out to the movies is much more popular overseas as well. In Germany, where the fatality rate for the virus is incredibly low, drive-ins have become very popular, and in some cases, new makeshift drive-in theaters have been quickly built as well. For example, Loe Studios, an independent cinema in the German town of Marl, found an open lot behind a biker bar and put up a 640 square foot LED screen. In other parts of Germany, drive-in theaters have also been established in public parks and parking lots. Meanwhile, drive-in theaters have also caught on in South Korea, where free theaters were established in public to help the population manage the stress of the lockdown.
With lockdowns around the world stretching into their second and third months, there are many people with cabin fever who are just looking to get out, and drive through theaters are giving people a safe option for a social outing.
Still, even in these settings, people should be careful to keep their windows up, otherwise, they could risk contracting the virus through particles in the air. Overall, most people, especially in the United States, have chosen to stay home and binge-watch shows and movies on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which have seen record months during the pandemic.