By Mason Poepperling
Staff writer

The lights are turned down low, the popcorn is warm, you’re with friends, and a feeling of excitement washes over as a brand-new cinematic experience begins to unfold before your very eyes … but then the buffering screen appears and you suddenly realize your Internet service is going through a lag spike.

It’s unfortunate, but the previous scene is most likely similar to what was experienced while movie theaters across the nation closed down a couple years back. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed that the movie theater industry was more in danger than ever before That is saying something, as this is an industry that has endured a multitude of threats, including the rise of television, VHS tapes, DVD’s, and the age of streaming.

It was none of those, but the Covid-19 pandemic, that would bring the movie theater business in the United States to a new low, generating just $2.3 billion in 2020, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which may not sound bad on the surface, but that number is the lowest the U.S. Box Office has generated in the last 40 years.

On top of that, 2020 was the first year since 2008 to not have any individual film gross $1 billion,  since 2005 to not gross $900 million, and since 2000 to not gross even $600 million in the US.

“A big effect of our low numbers comes from how production companies are releasing movies to the public,” said Blake Luman, a Hutchinson freshman and Fox Theater employee. “Because of the pandemic, those companies began to release new movies on streaming services instead of straight to theater.”

The 2021 saw the end of low numbers for the U.S. theater industry, with a 100% increase in U.S. box office revenue compared to the previous year, and, with the release of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, the first film to gross over $1 billion since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Deadline Hollywood and Box Office Pro.

It appears that since theaters have started to reopen across the country, many are starting to become re-hypnotized by the magic of the movies.

“Me and my friends love to go to the movies more than just occasionally,” said Kayden Polk, a Hutchinson freshman. “It’s good quality time that I get to spend with them and we can share laughs together.”

While movie theater attendance is reaching the levels it did in the past again, the industry isn’t quite there yet. While the box-office total in the U.S. is 100% higher than last year, it’s still 60% less than it was in 2019, which is still a massive drop off. This leaves some to question what it would take to bring in the box office numbers from pre-pandemic times.

“I’d say nayve a big announcement on the radio about some special deals that are going on, ensuring cleanliness after each sitting, and letting people know that theaters are a safe and good environment to be in,” Kayden said.

Even though there’s definitely a positive change occurring in the Movie Theater industry, change still takes time, and it may still be a few years before box-office numbers return to the way they were a few years before.

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