The rise and fall of movie theaters — and how the coronavirus pandemic might change them

amc movie theater nyc covid19

Movie theaters as we know them have been around for more than a century.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced movie theaters nationwide to close or drastically change their policies in order to adhere to social distancing and public health and safety measures.
Hope still remains for Hollywood, though, as many of the summer’s biggest blockbusters have yet to be postponed and drive-ins are seeing a surprising resurgence in popularity.
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The movie theater industry has been around for over 100 years, but unprecedented times have created a perfect storm for the demise of movie theaters.

“We should be a month into summer blockbusters, and we don’t even know if they’re going to show up this summer,” Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, told Business Insider.

Steadily declining ticket sales and now-shuttered movie theaters and palaces nationwide have put the fates of summer blockbusters into question.

Here is a look at the rise and fall of movie theaters — and a solution that could potentially save the industry.

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Early movie theaters, or electric theaters, were housed in tents.

Early “movies” were nothing special compared to the blockbuster films of today — they were short, black-and-white, silent films that showed everyday occurrences like workers leaving a factory after the workday or a train entering a station.

However, they delighted, amazed, and even shocked audiences of the late 1800s.

The first permanently built movie theater was Tally’s Electric Theater.

Built by and named after Thomas Lincoln Tally, the theater was the first building to be built specifically for the exhibition of films, rather than a combination of films and live performances.

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The theater opened its door on April 2, 1902, in Los Angeles, California, according to the Times Union. The theater was an instant success, and after tickets for its night showings between 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. began to consistently sell out, Tally decided to add matinee shows as well.

In 1905, Pittsburgh movie theater owners Harry Davis and John Harris introduced 5-cent Nickelodeon movies.

The movies were first shown in Davis’ and Harris’ own theater, the Nickelodeon. However, the concept of “Nickelodeon” theaters, which got their name from the 50-cent charge for patrons, would soon become popular nationwide. The theaters showed both short films and live vaudeville performances.

According to, by 1907, around 2 million Americans had visited a Nickelodeon theater. The storefront theaters remained the most popular outlet for film-viewing until many of them were replaced by larger theaters built in the 1910s.

Most movie theaters in the early 1900s only had one screen so only one film could be shown at once.

Not only were movie theaters unable to play more than one movie at once, they also lacked sound up until the 1920s. Instead, films would either be silent or live music would be played inside …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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