The biggest problem for movie theaters? There are not enough movies. – Boston Globe

After bouncing back over the summer, with films like Top Gun: Maverick and Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” the industry suffered its worst September since 9/11 (with the exception of 2020 during 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 away from the boom-bust cycle? People will show up when there’s something they really want to see.

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

The exterior of the AMC Methuen 20 Movie Theater Building is located in “The Loop,” a shopping and entertainment destination on Pleasant Valley Street.Jim Davis / Globestaff

This Hollywood story is not about good and bad, Experts say – It relates to supply and demand. “The biggest problem for the industry has been the lack of movies,” said Paul Dergarabedian, cinema analyst at comScore.

Dergarabedian explained how COVID-related production delays contributed to fewer 30 films released this year, compared to 2019.

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

To help fill the shortfall this year, AMC and other multiplexes hosted their first-ever “National Movie Day” in September, offering $3 tickets to motivate moviegoers. Theaters have also introduced mobile food ordering, expanded alcohol sales, and invested in newer projectors and more spacious seating.

“I think cinemas have had to re-evaluate their marketing plans in the aftermath of the pandemic,” said Dergarabedian, noting that this prompted them to “innovate, be smart, and offer different types of programmes.”

Michael Lippman, 67, of Brooklyn has had to adjust his movie-watching habits over the past two years. He used to go every Friday night for a “date” with his wife. “We were wary of going back,” Lippmann said, adding that they still go, less frequently, and opt for wide-chair cinemas. “I’m older, and the comfort of the seats makes a difference,” Lippmann said. “I appreciate the breakup you’re getting. It makes a huge difference for us now.”

People lined up to buy concessions at the College Corner Theatre.Carlin Steil for The Boston Globe

He added that something else makes a big difference: “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 Theatre. “They have real butter,” Lippman said. “Popcorn is varied. . . It could be 30 to 40 percent of why we go. “

New Cinema may check the Lippman Film boxes. Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas opens its first-ever New England location in Boston Harbor in early 2023. It will be a 10-screen theater featuring plush chairs in every auditorium and a mix of first-run movies and reference programmes. The new theater will also offer a made-from-scratch food and beverage menu. Showcase Cinemas also recently announced the opening of a new eight-screen theater on Boston’s South Shore: Showcase Cinema de Lux in Hanover Crossing.

However, many multi-pools have not been able to stay afloat over the past two years. Boston has lost some of its biggest theaters, including ShowPlace ICON Theater in Seaport, ArcLight Cinemas in North Station, and Showcase Cinema de Lux in Revere.

Meanwhile, independent exhibitors in the region have different business models that have sustained them during turbulent times.

Catherine Tallman, director and CEO of the College Corner Playhouse in Cambridge, explained how her four-screen theater doesn’t have to rely on new releases the way the big chains do. Alternatively, indies like Coolidge can count on a solid schedule of reference programming and educational shows, which puts them in a better position when there aren’t many new releases to show.

“We can make more money from one showing of a sold-out classic than from its first-week release,” Tallman said.

Charlie Nash scans moviegoers’ tickets at Boston’s College Corner Theater in October.Carlin Steil for The Boston Globe

The judge found the same to be true of the Somerville and Arlington theatres.

“Right now, our repertoire and calendar of classic films can outpace commercial blockbusters,” Judge said, adding that in mid-October, Somerville double feature “Psycho” and “Frenzy” outsold “Halloween Ends” by more than $2,800 the same weekend. the week.

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

Both local and national chains use specials to help balance the dwindling number of new releases that traditionally attract patrons to the theater. But this summer’s box office boom, and in particular the success of the Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, provided a bright spot for showrunners everywhere.

“This was probably the most important movie in the pandemic,” Dergarabedian said. “All the fans are out for it.”

Maverick 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: End Game, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. “Avatar.” Another historic moment for Top Gun: Maverick: The film dominated domestic box office sales during both Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. This hasn’t been done before, Dergarabedian said. He added that “Maverick” achieves what not Less than $1 million per day for 75 consecutive days.

“If Top Gun doesn’t work well, if nothing works, it means people don’t need to experience cinema. But that’s not what we see,” Dergarabedian said.

The judge at the Somerville and Arlington theaters also noted the success of “Maverick”: “I mean, Tom Cruise is a literal savior for movie theaters that show mainstream movies.”

Judge and Taller believe that the current landscape puts Andeans like themselves at a slight advantage over multiplexes because they are able to design special programming more carefully for their communities.

“That’s the difference with us,” Thaler said. “We are a community center, and we do a lot with movies.”

People line up to buy tickets at the College Corner Theater in October.Carlin Steil for The Boston Globe

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

“I think we’ll see a more structured release schedule and release pattern,” Dergarabedian said of the 2023 film’s schedule, noting that the industry plans to diverge the timing of high-profile releases. “We are in full swing.”

He added that theaters are counting on films such as “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and the upcoming “Avatar: Waterway” to increase their numbers before the end of the year.

Al-Kadhi believes that quality will eventually replace quantity when it comes to the livelihood and longevity of cinemas. “The future is anyone’s guess, but it looks like there will be fewer but better theaters,” he said. “People will pay money for a good movie, and mostly pass on a badly reviewed one; that hasn’t changed in 100 years, and I don’t think it ever will.”


Brittany Booker can be reached at: brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @employee and on Instagram @brittbowker.


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