Grasping onto movie theater magic

SPU students ponder whether theaters are worth saving

Clarissa Minton, Staff Writer

The AMC Seattle 10 movie theater in the University District was near empty on January 14th, 2023. (Finn Scott)

As streaming services have become more popular, it is getting harder for people to find a reason to make the journey to movie theaters. Many people would rather stay in than go out, especially since services like HBO Max and Disney+ have started releasing movies straight to the platforms. Even when movies aren’t released exclusively to streaming services, viewers know that they will eventually be available. 

For Seattle Pacific University students, the desire to travel to the movie theater may be diminishing as well. For them, opening their laptop to watch a movie or TV show may be easier to balance alongside their homework, but the love for the theater experience is not gone. 

First year linguistics and social justice double major and honors student Erin Hallquist, believes that streaming platforms should wait to air movies on their platforms to promote more theater attendance. 

“I know that HBO Max was doing a simultaneous release, but you had to pay more money if you wanted to watch the movie right away. I definitely think that’s diverting AMC and the other theater companies, so I think that delayed releases or very specific releases would be more beneficial,” Hallquist said. 

With similar prices between box office tickets, streaming services and rentals, it may be hard for some people to justify buying a one-time experience when renting a movie could mean watching it multiple times. 

First year sports psychology major Ixchel Watson has witnessed many of their friends reaping the benefits of purchasing movies online rather than attending them in person.

“Most people I know say, ‘Oh, I’ll just wait until I can just stream it or buy it online,’ because movie tickets are sold for a similar price. It is easier for them to just watch the movie on their devices than to leave the house,” Watson said. 

Exclusive movie releases on platforms, such as “Turning Red” on Disney+, began mainly as a reason to encourage people to watch movies during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it quickly became problematic not only for theaters but also for production companies that have lost millions of dollars at the box office. 

Now, only truly popular movies appear to draw big crowds out of their homes and into the theater seats. 

“Only really popular movies get packed on opening day, but so many other movies get thrown under the rug because no one cares about them. I think the new Avatar movie brought more people back to the theater. The first movie came out long enough ago and was really popular in theaters, so more people wanted to experience the second one the same way,” Watson said. 

Despite the increasing popularity of watching movies at home, Watson claims there are specific situations that call for watching movies outside the confines of a person’s home. 

“If I want to go out and do something with my friends, we’ll usually go to the movies, but we’ll also do something else too, like get dinner or go to the beach. I think movies from home are usually a family thing or for sleepovers with your friends,” Watson said. 

Regardless of the social aspect of attending movies at theaters and the unmatched experience that comes with it, Hallquist attests that streaming platforms have affected her willingness to go to theaters. 

“I do think that I did watch more movies in the theater before streaming services came out. I have many memories before Netflix became super popular, but my family also used RedBox a lot or Blockbuster before they went out of business. I definitely went more before streaming services,” Hallquist said. 

Regardless of many people’s preference for streaming services, there are several reasons to leave the comfort of a person’s home, and go out to see movies in person.

 “I know it’s awful for you, but the popcorn at movie theaters is always so good. It’s also just an experience that’s hard to recreate at home, with the large screen, the surround sound, unhealthy popcorn and the experience itself would keep me coming back to a theater no matter what,” Hallquist said. 

The almost unlimited access to movies within the comforts of a person’s home eliminates the need to ever step into a movie theater. However, the magic of watching a movie in a theater may not be lost among all. Hopefully, the excitement and joy of theaters can be recaptured and elevated in the future to entice viewers to the seats so the experience is not lost forever. 

“I don’t know if that movie magic could be brought back. Going to see movies was more of a big deal back in the day, but now it’s nothing super special. I don’t think anyone’s really going back to the theater anymore,” Watson said.