And what happens to theaters then? Already they’re feeling the squeeze; in Seattle, one of several of the country’s hardest-hit areas, SIFF theaters have furloughed their staff. In New York City, listings newsletter Screen Slate and film venue Light Industry have set up a “fund that can be accessed by cinema workers whose hours have been curtailed because of this crisis and who are not being otherwise compensated.” Now, studios could be about to deliver the death blow.
The major theater chains like Regal and AMC can in all likelihood survive a few weeks without revenue, but smaller independent and arthouse theaters cannot. It goes without saying that such institutions are part of the lifeblood of a community, and losing them in the numbers we’re poised to would be an irreversible wound to American culture.
Going out to the movies will never totally die; a huge screen and great sound system still beat whatever you have at home, and diehard cinephiles will always seek out the textures of real film when given the opportunity. But when the dust settles, the question is not just who will be left. It’s for how long. Because if studios keep truncating their theatrical windows, it might not take a government-mandated quarantine to convince you to spend the night in.