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As COVID continues to hurt theater business, could streaming services put them out of business?

As theaters closed or operated below capacity due to the pandemic, more students have moved to streaming services in lieu of the theater experience. 

Although streaming services are convenient and allow you to view movies from your own home, some students say that they are hoping to get back in theaters soon. Streaming service subscriptions are rising while Malco Theaters’ revenue is down 90% since 2019. 

Journalism student Ambria Thurmond, who is a senior at the University of Memphis, recently streamed “Coming 2 America,” the sequel to Eddie Murphy's cult classic “Coming to America.” However, she said she misses the movie theaters. 

“With streaming, you don’t get the same excitement as you would when you would go to the theater. In a way I feel like it does make them less relevant,” Thurmond said. 

There are many streaming services to choose from, pushing movie theaters to the back-seat for Richard Uluma, a University of Memphis alumnus. 

“Streaming services can fully replace movie theaters because it will minimize how people move around and go to the theater,” he said. “People can access movies easily on their phones.” 

Uluma said he misses the view and watching movies when they first come out, and he is streaming Kingdom and Coyote. He has not been to the movie theaters in nine months. 

Although several theaters have opened at nearly full capacity and implemented safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Uluma said he does not think the economy is healthy enough to return to theaters, and everyone is not comfortable making the transition. 

Malco cinemas are closing early, and their last showings in Memphis are at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays. Film studios are releasing media to streaming services, and over 25 movies have been released to streaming services instead of movie theaters. All Warner Bros. movies will be released on their streaming platform in 2021 on the same day that they are released in U.S theaters. 

“I’m going back soon,” Uluma said. “The movie theaters are picking back up.”

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