Kate Cox for Ars Technica, on the 2021 Deathwatch for all movie theater companies:
US box office receipts came in around $11.4 billion in 2019, but movie theater attendance—the butts-in-seats metric—has been dropping for more than a decade. Theater admissions peaked in 2002 at 1.6 billion before entering a period of precipitous decline, crashing to 1.24 billion in 2017—the lowest since 1992. Attendance crawled back up slightly in 2018, to about 1.3 billion, but dropped again in 2019, back to 1.24 billion.
That was before the pandemic, which closed movie theaters altogether for months on end. Although many locations are now open at roughly half capacity, AMC, the largest US cinema chain, reported 10 percent attendance in its third-quarter results.
This year will be another difficult year for the cinemas. They’re not all going to survive. It reminds me of Apple in the 90’s: they were on everybody’s deathwatch, then Steve Jobs returned as CEO and ten months later the Bondi Blue iMac was shipping to customers. The theaters need a Steve Jobs — someone who can reinvent what going to the cinema is all about. Because let’s be honest here: most of us now have private mini-theaters in our homes (with a pause button) and leaving the couch is entirely optional (except for pee breaks).