The biggest problem with movie theaters? Not enough movies. | Jobi Cool


After a resurgence in the summer, with blockbusters like “Top Gun: Maverick” and Jordan Peele’s “Nope” hooking patrons, the industry faced its worst post-9/11 (aside from 2020 at the height of the pandemic). AMC is more than $5 billion in debt, and Cineworld (which operates Regal Cinemas), filed for bankruptcy in September with nearly $5 billion in debt.

What should we take from this boom and bust cycle? That’s what people will see when they really want to see it.

“I mean, a good movie — one that critics and audiences love — always attracts,” said Ian Judge, managing director of the Somerville Theater and Capitol Theater in Arlington. “Give them something to leave the house with, and they will.”

The exterior of the AMC Methuen 20 movie theater building located in the shopping and entertainment destination “The Loop” on Pleasant Valley Street.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

This Hollywood story is not about good and bad, Experts say – It’s about supply and demand. “The biggest problem for the industry is the lack of movies,” said Paul Dergabedian, movie theater analyst at ComScore.

Dergarabedian explained how COVID-related production delays contributed to 30 fewer films being released this year than in 2019.

“That’s a lot of movies, and a lot of them were compressed into the summer months,” Dergarabedian said, adding that in 2019 there were about 100 wide theatrical releases, and in 2022, there will be close to 70.

To make up for this year’s losses, AMC and other multiplexes hosted the first-ever “National Cinema Day” in September, offering $3 tickets to encourage moviegoers. Theaters also invested in mobile food ordering, expanded liquor sales, and new projectors and roomier recliners.

“I think movie theaters have had to reevaluate their marketing plans because of the pandemic,” Dergabedian said, noting that it has forced them to “be innovative and nimble and introduce different types of programming.”

Michael Leibman, 67, of Brookline, has had to adjust his movie-watching habits over the past two years. He used to go for ‘date night’ with his wife every Friday night. “We were wary of going back,” Leibman said, adding that they still go, just less often, and choose cinemas with wider recliners. “I’m old, and seat comfort makes a difference,” Leibman said. “I appreciate the separation you got. It makes a big difference to us right now.”

People lined up to buy concessions at the Coolidge Corner Theater.Carlin Stiehl for the Boston Globe

There’s another thing that makes a big difference, he added: “I love popcorn — movie popcorn. I know every movie theater in the area and how good their popcorn is. Best popcorn in Boston? Dedham Community Theater.” They have real There’s butter,” Leibman said. “Popcorn is different. . . It’s probably 30 to 40 percent of the reason we go.”

New Cinema can check off Leibman’s movie-going boxes. Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas is opening its first-ever New England location on Boston’s waterfront in early 2023. It will be a 10-screen theater with luxury recliners in each auditorium and a mix of first-run movies and repertory shows. The new theater will also offer a made-from-scratch food and beverage menu. Showcase Cinemas recently announced the opening of a new eight-screen theater on Boston’s South Shore: Cinema de Luxe Showcase at Hanover Crossing.

Still, many multiplexes failed to float in the last two years. Boston lost some of its largest theaters, including the showplace ICON Theater on the harbor, the Arclight Cinemas at North Station, and the Showcase Cinema de Luxe on the Revere.

Meanwhile, the region’s independent exhibitors have different business models that have kept them strong in uncertain times.

Catherine Tallman, CEO and executive director of Coolidge’s Corner Theater in Cambridge, explained how her four-screen theater doesn’t have to rely on new releases the way the big chains do. Instead, indies like Coolidge can lean on a robust schedule of repertory programming and educational offerings, which puts them in a better position when there aren’t many new releases.

“We can make more money on a sold-out screening of a classic film than a first-week release,” Tallman said.

Charlie Nash scans tickets for moviegoers at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston in October.Carlin Stiehl for the Boston Globe

The judge found this to be true at the Somerville and Arlington theaters as well.

“Right now, our repertory and classic film calendar can earn more than commercial films,” Judge said.In mid-October, Somerville’s double feature of “Psycho” and “Frenzy” topped “Halloween Ends” by more than $2,800. same weekend.

“The problem is the lack of production that people want to see,” Judge said.

Local indies and national chains are using special screenings to help balance the declining number of new releases that traditionally draw patrons to theaters. But this summer’s box office boom, especially the success of the “Top Gun” sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” presented a bright spot for exhibitors everywhere.

“It was probably the most important movie of the pandemic,” Dergabedian said. “All the spectators came out for it.”

“Maverick” has grossed $1.4 billion at the worldwide box office and is the fifth-highest-grossing film in North American history behind “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Spider-Man: The Force Awakens.” No Way,” and “Avatar.” Another historic moment for “Top Gun: Maverick”: The film dominated domestic box office sales over the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. This has never happened before, Dergarabedian said. He added that “Maverick” has earned at least $1 million in 75 consecutive days.

“If ‘Top Gun’ didn’t do so well, if something wasn’t working, it would mean people wouldn’t need the movie theater experience. But that’s not what we’re seeing,” Dergabedian said.

Judge of the Somerville and Arlington theaters also pointed to the success of “Maverick”: “I mean Tom Cruise is a literal savior for cinemas that show mainstream movies.”

Judge and Taller believe the current landscape gives indies like theirs a slight advantage over multiplexes because they are able to more carefully tailor special programming to their communities.

“It’s different with us,” Taller said. “We’re a community center, and we do a lot with film.”

People line up to buy tickets at the Coolidge Corner Theater in October.Carlin Stiehl for the Boston Globe

Across the industry, there was A summer boom and then a fall slump, but industry leaders seem optimistic that box-office sales will eventually return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I think we’re going to see a more manageable release schedule and release pattern,” Dergarabedian said of the 2023 film schedule, adding that the industry plans to free up high-profile release times. “We’re finding our feet.”

He added that theaters are counting on movies like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and the upcoming “Avatar: The Way of Water” to boost numbers before the end of the year.

He believes that quality ultimately trumps quantity when it comes to the livelihood and longevity of cinema. “The future is anyone’s guess, but it is likely that there will be fewer but better movie theaters,” he said. “People will pay for a good movie and often pass over a poorly reviewed movie. That hasn’t changed in 100 years, and I don’t think it ever will.”


Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker And on Instagram @brittbowker.





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