Central Texas movie theaters convinced industry will bounce back

Business

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The surge in COVID-19 cases during the course of the pandemic brought an increased uneasiness from audiences, shorter theatre windows and a stronger focus on streaming services more than ever before.

This begs the question: Will Central Texas theaters go back to normal?

Mitch Roberts, CEO of Evo Entertainment, is convinced the climb to get back to the fresh-smelling popcorn has been long but steady.

“Texas in general is outpacing the rest of the industry, because we’ve been open for longer,” said Roberts. “It is important to note in our industry that reopening has taken place on a different scale. It has not been geographically consistent.”

Roberts said he isn’t worried about the effects streaming services will have on the industry after COVID-19.

“For Warner Bros. and HBO Max, I think that was a temporary strategy for an unprecedented time,” said Roberts.

Up until 2020, blockbuster films had to be shown in theaters for at least 90 days before they could be launched anywhere else.

And last year, people traded in the leather recliners for a couch in their living room when Warner Bros. decided to launch box office hits on HBO Max.

Warner Bros. just recently announced a return to exclusive theatre releases in 2022.

“We’re seeing just this wave of people who are returning to the cinemas,” said Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse.

Alamo Drafthouse is opening 15 locations that have been shuttered during the pandemic.

“We’ve going to be opening up Mueller here in Austin, and then we’re going to open up Village shortly thereafter,” said League.

The Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin, which hosts live performances and classical films, is seeing more faces again too.

Though these places are opening and feeling more comfortable, the question is whether or not people will pay to go after a year of paying for streaming services at a reduced rate.

“It’s not a price-sensitive situation. If anything they’re willing to pay a little more to get us back to where we were with our staff, salaries and furloughs. They want to see us be successful,” said Jim Ritts, CEO of Paramount Theatre.

Ritts is also convinced human nature will help them bounce back too.

“I really fundamentally believe that as humans, we are social people. There has been a level of pent-up demand,” said Ritts.

The motion picture association estimates global box office revenues plunged by more than $30 billion last year. That was just a year after box office revenue reached a record $42.3 billion in 2019.

Last year, more than a billion people also signed up for online streaming services, according to Wall Street Journal. In the U.S. the number of streaming subscriptions went up by 32% last year to total more than $308 million.

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