Local Movie Theaters Reopen to Mixed Reviews

The reopening of local movie theaters poses new questions, concerns, and an array of reactions from Jordan students

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Caleb Stine, Chief Editor

After a nearly six-month hiatus, a select group of movie theaters in Durham have finally reopened. Due to harsh COVID lockdowns and people’s rational, yet cautious view towards the virus, the movie theater industry has suffered a crushing blow to business. The industry reported a revenue loss in excess of $10 billion as of May 2020, with AMC alone losing $2.7 billion in June. AMC Southpoint 17, AMC Classic 15, and Silverspot Cinema in Chapel Hill have recently reopened in the past month with mask requirements for all customers, a 40 percent capacity limit for all screens, and blocked-off seats to necessitate social distancing. Many theaters have also added special perks in their reopenings. Silverspot Cinema is offering private screenings in their theaters for $99 on weekdays and $149 on weekends. Both AMC Classic and AMC Southpoint are offering a 30 percent discount on tickets for all showings before 5:00 pm and presenting classic films such as Poltergeist, Monsters, Inc., and Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back in the coming weeks to convince wary would-be customers to return to theaters.

COVID has brought up many relevant questions regarding movie theaters: Are they necessary in today’s uncertain and increasingly digital and individualized world? Are they safe, even considering their safety precautions?

Film club member Augusta Rose is skeptical of how movie theaters will enforce mask-wearing and thinks it is “very so stupid” that movie theaters would open amidst a pandemic. Will Newton, Film club president, believes that theaters should not open for a few months, despite his love of movies. “They shouldn’t open. That’s an L, especially as we get closer to flu season.” Bo Nuernberger agrees with Newton, “I love movie theaters…but they shouldn’t open.” Freshman Eli Crowley cautions that the economic risk in keeping theaters closed is not sustainable. “A lot of people’s jobs depend on [theaters opening].” According to Reuters, nearly 100,000 jobs have been impacted by theater closures. Noah Pelo concurs with Crowley, “I have no problem with theaters opening, it will bring back 100,000 jobs, there will be precautions to keep customers safe.”

Grace Miller is cautious towards attending film screenings again but figures if customer safety is being prioritized by theaters, the benefits of reopening largely outweigh the costs. “If [theaters are] really maintaining six feet distance both in and out of theaters and keeping their masks then it could be fine.” Miller is also impressed by the creativity of theaters to adapt to the current pandemic, “I think what Silverspot is doing is a good idea, where you can rent out the theater and it’s just your party.” Pelo asserts that theaters are safe and their reopening is long overdue. “After being locked up for months the American people deserve a simple and safe way to have fun.”

While some question the safety of theaters in the time of COVID, many challenge that theaters themselves will become obsolete in an age of streaming services, a discussion materializing before the pandemic. Both Rose and fellow film club member Nick Mountain suggest that theaters aren’t necessary for the future of movie consumption. Rose offers that “the necessity of theaters themselves is questionable”. Nick agrees and claims that “theaters are outdated. We have 123 movies.” However, freshman Matt Fish disagrees, “I think it is very cool [theaters] are opening because pirating movies is just not the same.” Noah Pelo believes that there is an inherent “simple joy of watching a new movie in-theater” as a communal and stimulating experience.

As more and more theaters throughout the Triangle reopen and attempt to adapt to the COVID-era business climate, only time will tell how bright the future of movie theaters truly is.