Taking yourself to see a film in a movie theater is entertainment guaranteed. And it’s not because the film turns out to be top notch—oftentimes it’s quite the contrary—but rather because when you get 200 random people staring at a big screen, things can go from funny to hysterically comical in a sec. You see, just because people are not on the comfort of their couch doesn’t mean they don’t have a thing or two to comment.
So when a guy named Mike Ginn tweeted “the thing I miss most about movie theaters is overhearing someone say the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard before the previews start,” it surely rang a bell to many. People started sharing the funny things they overheard in cinema theaters and the Twitter thread soon went viral with 341.4k likes and 33.7k retweets.
Because there are few things more amusing than sitting through ¾ of Benjamin Button only to overhear someone saying “oh, he’s getting younger!”
Since the start of the pandemic, the film industry has been in free fall. The Guardian reported that around 120,000 people are out of work in Hollywood, while in the UK, it is estimated that 50,000 freelancers will lose their jobs. Crowded movie theaters are now viewed as notorious petri dishes for the virus to spread and the entertainment industry has been forced to shut its doors to the public for the unforeseeable future.
As a result, two movie industries have collided. With theaters closing down, streaming services are booming, with more and more people crashing sites for their Netflix fix. And this is not just a metaphor. Netflix, which has been laying the grounds for a direct-to-streaming world since 2015, has added a whopping 10.1 million subscribers since March.
Many movie theater owners are now worrying that studios will be shifting away from the theatrical model to the in-house movie market. This is what happened with Tom Hanks' new film Greyhound, which steered its US$50 million budget directly to port on Apple TV+.
The prognosis for the movie theater business remains gloomy. “This was going to be the worst year in movie theater history before the coronavirus hit,” says Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at LightShed partners. “This is like pouring lighter fluid on the fire.”
TIME reported that movie theaters fared better the weekend after September 11 than they are faring now. As if that wasn’t enough, the box office hit a 20-year low, down 60% from a year ago. Meanwhile, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) has been asking for help from the federal government. It requested a bailout to support the 150,000 people who work at and for movie theaters during the pandemic.