The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted disastrous damage on numerous businesses, but for one industry that harm may prove permanent. Many movie theaters have shut down temporarily, others limit ticket sales to ensure that empty seats separate the customers.
Many blockbuster releases—like the new James Bond film or Disney’s live-action Mulan—have been postponed for months. This comes when theaters already face sharp declines in attendance—with the number of tickets sold dropping 25% since 2002, despite a national population gain of 15%. Many movie lovers prefer staying home and using streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus, so the current virus panic only encourages the existing tendency to watch online, rather than waiting in line for tickets—and popcorn.
If movie-going continues to decline as the basis for a date or a “night out” it will only add to the cocooning and internet addiction that increase isolation and undermine communal contact.