The Regal theater at Westbury Long Island, New York, was filled on New Year’s Day and most of the days after that, thanks to the popularity of the new release of “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Other theaters around Long Island and the country must have seen a jump in ticket sales, as evidenced by the $2.1 billion in sales at the worldwide box office last weekend.
For years, movie theaters’ popularity with movie-goers has seen a secular decline due to the rise of home theaters and video-streaming services from Netflix and the like.
Still, home theaters and streaming services cannot offer the thrill of the big screen and 3D technology of regular theaters that can enhance the viewing experience of special effects movies like “Avatar.” However, they can be the catalysts for bringing movie theaters back to life.
“I believe that ‘Avatar’s’ blockbuster success will bring long-term success to movie theaters,” Matt Benton, the CEO of Trenchless Information Center, told International Business Times. “I think this because the movie is so unique and creative that it has captured the attention of many people who are not normally interested in going to the theater. In addition, 3D technology makes this movie even more interesting and unique than others, so it is no wonder that people are excited about it.”
Moreover, Benton thinks “Avatar’s” success could fuel a positive buzz for the industry.
“If ‘Avatar’ continues to do well at the box office, then I believe more people will be interested in going to see other movies in theaters as well,” he added. “This can only help their business grow over time!”
Dan Goman, CEO & Founder of Ateliere, agrees.
“‘Avatar’s’ blockbuster success demonstrates that big-name directors with established franchises still have the power to draw large audiences to the theaters,” he told IBT. “James Cameron is one of the highest-grossing directors, with films like ‘Titanic,’ the third highest-grossing film, which is also returning to theaters for a limited release on February 10.”
Nonetheless, Goman doesn’t necessarily mean that the good times for cinemas are back.
“Last year ended with approximately $7.35 billion in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada, down 35% from the pre-pandemic year of 2019,” he explained. “Theatrical windows have gone from an average of 72 days to 45. Data shows audiences gravitated to premium experiences when they went to the movies.”
According to industry experts, during the opening weekend of “The Way of Water,” 3D accounted for 57% of sales, and premium formats and motion seat auditoriums fueled more than 60% of the business.
“The theater industry will never go back to how it was and needs to adapt to offer more value and premium experiences to draw audiences,” he added.
Rikki Lee Travolta, General Television Producer at “The Polish Cooking Show,” sees Movie theaters already face an uphill battle.
“It’s simply easier and more convenient to watch a film from the comfort of your home,” he told IBT. “When you stream a movie, you do it on your schedule. You start it when you want. You can pause it to go to the bathroom. You can rewind to see parts you missed or are unclear on. Plus, you have complete control over your viewing environment. You can set the temperature the way you want it. You can set the lights at the brightness you want. Depending on the amount of effort you put in, you can make it the ideal viewing situation.”
Travolta believes movie fans will continue reaching out for actual big-screen movie theaters, but only for certain types of films – such as big-budget sci-fi.
“However, we have to ask, are there enough such films coming out to financially justify keeping the lights on for movie theater proprietors across the nation? That’s the big question. It all comes down to profit margins. After all, the entertainment business is still business.”
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