It’s the most commonly shared opinion this film critic hears.
“I don’t go the movies as much as I used to.
And that refrain came before the pandemic shut down theaters in 2020.
That’s anecdotal, of course. Now, the evidence is more compelling, and frightening, especially if you make a living in La La Land.
People stopped going to the movies this year in alarming numbers, and it got worse as the holidays approached.
The raw numbers tell the story.
The gross for 2022 domestic now looks like $7.5 billion, perhaps 15 percent lower than the year’s lowball $8.5 billion projection and far off the $11.2 billion of 2019 (which, at today’s ticket prices, would be over $13 billion).
Earlier in 2022, we saw modest-sized hits like “The Lost City,” “Elvis” and “The Woman King” show non-franchise fare could draw a crowd, even if other films stumbled upon arrival (“Bros,” “Devotion,” “Father Stu”).
It’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” and little else.
Studios release their awards-season contenders in the waning weeks of the year, and while they lack the snap of a franchise extension or superhero romp they still can sell some tickets.
- “The King’s Speech” (2010) – $138 million
- “Green Book” (2018) – $85 million
- “A Star Is Born” (2018) – $215 million
- “House of Gucci” (2021) – $53 million
This critic reached out, via Twitter, for some informal reactions to a simple question: Why did you stop going to the movies? The answers suggest a near-perfect storm of causes that go far beyond fears of the waning pandemic.
The rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Hulu means more first-rate content delivered right to our flat-screen TVs. Recent streaming originals like “The Gray Man,” “Prey” and “Hocus Pocus 2” look identical to their big-screen peers.
Same stars. Similar budgets.
So why go to the movies when you can watch first-run content without reaching for the car keys?
The pandemic accelerated this trend, no doubt. Still, films are arriving faster and faster on VOD platforms now, meaning crowds can wait just a few weeks before seeing theatrical releases at home.
The industry has been left-of-center for decades, but today’s stars push their political views in ways we haven’t seen in the past. Social media. Viral videos. Softball interviews. And it’s often brimming with rage against those who don’t align with their worldviews.
You can not reason with a Trump supporter. They believe that a Lying Criminal who doesn’t give a flying fuck about them was sent to them by God. Don’t try to reason. Just Vote. Vote like our Democracy depends on it. Because it does.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) April 29, 2022
That has alienated a small but growing number of film goers who prefer not to support stars who rhetorically spit in their faces. Gracious A-listers like Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson are now the exception, not the rule.
Lack of Quality Product
“Babylon” and “Amsterdam” are two of the year’s biggest flops. The former has some admirers. The latter? Not so much. Even films arriving with plenty of buzz prove less than award worthy. Think “The Whale” as a fine example.
Over and again movie fans lament the sorry state of modern storytelling. It’s one reason “Top Gun: Maverick” popped as it did. Both critics and fans adored it, and its rugged tale of a fallen hero’s final chance at redemption proved impossible to resist.
The Biden Economy
Be careful what you wish for …
Hollywood, Inc. rallied to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. Now, they’re stuck with an 80-year-old leader with no clue how to steer the economy out of the ditch. That’s dramatically impacting Hollywood as a whole, and even streaming services are crunching some serious numbers of late.
It’s also forcing potential movie goers to make some tough choices.
Food … or film tickets?
High-Tech Man Caves
Gen X and Baby Boomers grew up watching a TV set with a 25 inch screen. Today, that’s considered appropriate for your computer monitor.
Flat-screen TVs are more affordable than ever. That means your Man Cave or movie room can boast a 65-inch screen with high-def visuals and a state-of-the-art sound system. That makes home viewing far superior to past living room arrangements.
It’s also a wonderful way to watch movies without being interrupted by noisy patrons. Need a bathroom break? Just hit the “pause” button.
That technological advance, along with the comforts of home, means the theatrical model is less and less appealing.
The people have spoken, and Hollywood should be concerned as we head into 2023.
Let’s wrap by sharing some of the Twitter responses to the question at hand. Please share your own observations below, too.
The box office numbers are shockingly low …
Why did we stop going to the movies?
— Christian Toto (@HollywoodInToto) December 26, 2022
I desperately wanted to take my little to the movies this holiday season, but there is nothing out for families with young children…
People know it’ll just be streaming in a week or so if not immediately…
For me personally, I stopped going because it’s more comfortable to watch at home. I have a good enough TV and sound for me, more comfy chair, plus if I have to go to the loo, I can pause it. There hasn’t ever been a movie I “had” to see at a theater, I just wait and stream it…
The cost of the experience has become prohibitive. It’s cheaper to watch at home…
For me, it’s the product. Since prices have gone up, I’ve become more selective. And a lot of what’s been coming out lately just doesn’t interest me. Thor was the last thing I saw and I didn’t enjoy it, so I’ll be staying home more…
Simple, for our family of 5 to go & watch 1 movie will set us back $120. We still go but only every now & then…
Going to the movies used to mean a lot to me. But I stopped long before the pandemic…
And now? There’s just no reason for me to go anymore. I’ve asked myself, is it the movies, or is it me? It’s both. And I can do something about only one of them…