Movie theaters slow to rebound from pandemic

Abelina J. Nuñez
LV Life Editor 

Going to the movies, at the movie theater, has for generations been an easy and relatively inexpensive way to escape and be entertained. 

But the ease and affordability of streaming, and of course the pandemic, has changed our collective movie-going habits across the nation – and among University of La Verne students. 

A recent informal survey on campus found that 12 out of 22 ULV students prefer going to the movie theaters over streaming on their small screens at home, with seven out of 22 saying they like to watch movies at home better, and three said they have no preference between the two. 

Last year, data collected through CivicScience, a platform that analyzes and collects real-time consumer data, found that 71% of people would rather watch movies at home and 23% of people would rather go out to watch movies. It also found that among people from the ages of 18 to 24, 60% said they watch movies from home while 33% would rather go out to watch a movie and 7% do not do either. 

The Numbers, a film industry data website that tracks box office revenue, found that the decline in movie ticket sales brought by the pandemic has not fully rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019 there were over 1 billion movie tickets sold, but in 2020 the first year of COVID, just over 221 million tickets were sold. In 2021 ticket sales increased to just over 498 million tickets sold. For 2022 the industry is on track to reach roughly 848 million tickets sold, The Numbers tracking found.

“I love going to the movie theaters,” Jair Moreira, junior music major, said. “I feel like it’s always fun enjoying a good or even a bad movie with loved ones and being able to talk about it afterward. I always love seeing fresh ideas and crazy twists and I think that’s what makes it fun.” 

Moreira said he prefers to rewatch a movie at home because he does not get the full experience through a streaming service and loves watching something for the first time with surround sound and good snacks. 

“Going to the movie theaters … gives me that sense of being able to be in the movie, just surrounded by other people trying to enjoy yourself, kind of just enjoy just like the atmosphere that we just provide,” Peter Trinh, junior business administration, said. 

Trinh added that he likes going to the movies with a group of friends because it’s a way to bring everyone together and share a fun experience.

Kaylee Licona, junior criminology major, said she has been going to the movie theater with her family since she was young, and now going to the theater gives her a sense of nostalgia.

“I feel like watching movies at home, you just don’t get the full experience,” Licona said. “My dad has gotten a projector screen just because we love going to the movies so much (but it’s) still not the same,” Licona said. 

Licona said she understands that a lot of people enjoy the comfort of being at home and like being able to pause the movie, but going out to the theater for dates or family time is a different experience.

Lizzy De La Cruz, sophomore psychology major, said she prefers to wait for movies to come out on streaming services to watch at home.

“It’s just a little more convenient and cheaper,” De La Cruz said. “You can be cozy at home, and you can pause it (to) go to the bathroom or grab something, and then also put subtitles on.” 

She pointed out how much cheaper it is for one person to buy a movie and have anyone watch it with them.

“You’re not spending money on snacks unless you know you go to Dollar Tree – that’s cheaper,” added Ana Overman, junior studio art major. “It’s also pretty nice just having a gathering, or even doing it by yourself at home because you get to be comfortable in your safe space (and) you don’t have to worry about anyone else.” 

According to Statista, a website specializing in collecting consumer data to provide accurate statistics, movie theater ticket prices have increased nearly 11% in the past five years, and in the U.S. the average ticket price in 2021 was $9.57.

Overman said she believes a lot of people tend to stay home to watch movies because the prices at movie theaters have gone up. She believes that COVID played a huge role since a lot of people might be hesitant on going due to catching COVID, like her mother who is still hesitant to go to the theater due to COVID still occurring. 

“Marvel movies have been a tradition with my dad and I, and so for movies like that, I definitely would rather see it for the first time in the theater,” Mackay MorganArmstrong, senior kinesiology major, said. “But like today, ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ came out and that movie, I’m totally fine with watching at home because I can watch it with friends.

MorganArmstrong, who has younger brothers, said it is much easier for families like hers to watch a new movie at home, rather than packing up the kids.

“You don’t have to worry about getting them popcorn, so people with younger kids think it’s a lot easier to be at home,” MorganArmstrong said. 

Abelina J. Nuñez can be reached at 

Abelina J. Nuñez, senior journalism major, is a photography editor for Campus Times and staff photographer for La Verne Magazine. She previously served as LV Life editor, arts editor social media editor and staff writer. In Fall 2023, Nuñez was La Verne Magazine's editor-in-chief and was previously a staff writer as well. Her work can be found on Instagram @abelinajnunezphoto.

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