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Monday, April 15, 2024

Are movie theaters dying in a post-pandemic world?

UC Davis students defend their love of the big screen


By ZOEY MORTAZAVI — features@theaggie.org


For many, some of their earliest and most cherished memories took place in movie theaters. There is an undisputed magic within them for people all over the world: the smell of popcorn wafting throughout the lobby; the suspense rising as trailers play and the lights begin to dim. The movies have been a tradition of togetherness and celebration for generations, and many students at UC Davis hope that movie theaters will continue to be appreciated and cherished for years to come. 

Despite the fondness that many associate with movie theaters, there is no doubt that their popularity has faded significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic, with box office numbers plummeting every year. 

“Ticket sales are down 21% from four years ago, but that’s not the only thing that’s down. So, too, is the number of wide releases,” Sarah Whitten wrote in an article for CNBC. “From January to June 30 in 2019, 57 films were released in 2,000 theaters or more. In 2023, there have been only 45 releases during that same period.”

Despite this, many UC Davis students are enthusiastic about the chance to see movies on the big screen, especially in downtown Davis theaters.  

“The movies have always been a fun experience that I keep going back to when I want to destress and enjoy a relaxing time with my friends or family,” Dari Gonzales, a first-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major, said. “The enjoyment of watching a movie on a big screen, with buttery popcorn to snack on as you excitedly wait with your friends and family for the movie to start; I believe those experiences are what the movie theaters here in Davis give to many.”

There are numerous circulating theories that modern streaming services have the potential to eradicate the remaining movie theaters. To many, this threat to the film industry is a scary possibility. The question must be asked: Is streaming the newest movies from home the same as seeing them in a theater? The answer to that question is no, according to many students — and therefore, movie theaters in Davis are worth saving. 

“When I watch movies at home, I find myself getting distracted during uneventful parts of the film, missing important moments and generally being less emotionally impacted by what I’m watching,” Emily Essex, a second-year English and psychology double major, said. “The environment that movie theaters create allows for people to get the most out of their movie-watching experience while simultaneously encouraging people to get out of the house and do something fun.”

There is also a huge difference between chain movie theaters and independent ones. In times of financial stress, independent theaters hardly stand a chance against inflation, while many chain theaters can rely on a much larger pool of funds to keep them afloat. Independent cinemas across the country were forced to close their doors in the face of the pandemic.

Right in UC Davis’ backyard is the Varsity Theatre, one of the charms of downtown which has been part of the Davis community since 1921. It was remodeled to look architecturally “futuristic” when it moved locations in 1949. There’s also the Regal Davis Holiday, which is part of the Regal Cinemas national chain system. There was a third theater, the Regal 5, which closed in May of 2023. 

“To me, there is nothing like the experience of live cinema. There is something so intense about being in a theater with so many people, immersed in sounds and visuals and unable to press pause,” Jenna Gage, a first-year communications major, said. 

Gage also works at the Regal Davis Holiday in downtown Davis.

 “Going to a movie theater to see a movie allows yourself to be completely lost in the story that movies tell, which is something that streaming services at home do not provide,” Gage said. 

Movie theaters have been a consistent source of entertainment, togetherness and joy for a long time. Regardless of the power that modern streaming services have in terms of their revenue, UC Davis students will continue celebrating movies the way they were meant to be watched for the first time — in the theaters.


Written by: Zoey Mortazavi — features@theaggie.org


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