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How COVID-19 is Changing Multiplexes and Movies?

May 1, 2020 9:41 AM 2 min read

Before the coronavirus, it was the online streaming industry that gave multiplexes perennial headaches. Over the past few years, more and more consumers have opted for binge-watching movies and TV shows in the comfort of their own bedrooms rather than spending a lot more money to watch one movie in a cinema hall for one time. Consequently, cinema hall chains and multiplexes suffered in all countries where services like Netflix, Prime, Hotstar etc emerged. This was evident from dwindling ticket sales and box office revenues even as streaming’s cultural and economic clout grew. To make things worse, there is a real war breweing around shortening of theatrical windows. In fact, check out this latest tussle between AMC and Universal


As a response to the streaming industry’s exponential growth, movie halls either embraced their subscription-based business model (remember MoviePass?) or consolidated to put up a better fight. Larger multiplexes expanded further even as single-screen threatres declined in numbers


It wasn’t enough to stop the streaming onslaught. Competition within the over-the-top (OTT) services industry itself jumped, leading to more content than ever before. This was compounded when big names like Disney and HBO forayed into the scene with their own OTT services, validating and diversifying the emerging disruptor.


Disaster Incoming

Then, COVID-19 struck. The virus emptied public spaces and made social distancing the new norm. The lockdowns and restrictions imposed around the world forbade people from visiting theatres, pulling the numbers of a thinning audience to zero.


Even after the pandemic passes away and public spaces become populated again, the memories of the virus will remain. It will take us all some time to visit cinema halls, restaurants, parks and playgrounds again without a second thought. So an end to lockdowns might not translate to packed cinema halls overnight - or maybe even ever.


Streaming for Salvation

Meanwhile, the streaming industry has become one of the few to have purportedly benefited from the lockdowns, even if temporarily. Netflix recently announced its Q1 numbers where it said it had added an imposing 15.77m new subscribers. After all, more people staying at home directly translates to more people streaming online for entertainment.


As is the case with many industries, multiplexes were already in dire straits for a long time. The virus made things a whole lot worse.


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