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The Death of Cinema

The falling world of movie theaters can teach us a thing or two about economics.

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By Mason Mohon | USA

I would absolutely love to write a movie review of the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise: The Last Jedi, but that is out of the question. I saw the movie last night, or at least I tried, but all the lightsabers, stormtroopers, and edgy young Sith lords with emotional issues are beginning to blur together in my head, so I checked out of reality and used the experience as a bizarre naptime. So I can’t tell anyone whether the movie was good or bad because I was very tired. So is the rest of America. Society is getting tired of shoveling out an entire month’s worth of Netflix subscription to watch an ok movie in a dirty theater.

The movie theater industry is in trouble, but its ok, because we can chalk this all up to creative destruction.

The film industry has been punching and screaming for years. It tries its hardest to stay afloat, releasing bigger and better movie screens as they go along. Every year, we see a bigger and better IMAX 3D screen come out at another theater. They build themselves up more and more, but the problem is this may be to no avail. The market is evolving, as it does.

The weeks leading up to Star Wars chilled me when I compared them to the leading weeks in previous years. The long anticipated trilogy reboot that came with exciting trailers and lots of hype. Episode 7 was the long lost child of the space legend everybody had been looking for. The movie unsurprisingly broke box office records, and the following year wasn’t too different. Rogue One was an exciting new take on the Star Wars series. It told a story with mostly new characters and showed a different side of the universe, topping it off with an “everyone dies” storyline I thought I would only get from Cloverfield movies.

This year, I heard nearly no mention of them. I saw the trailer when it came out and bought tickets with my friends in advance, but then I forgot about it, and it seemed that everyone else did too. It would rarely come up in  conversation, and I never heard “I can’t wait for the new Star Wars.” The movie did well, though, but not quite well enough to save a fading away industry.

The Motion Picture Association of America reported that the average American will have bought 3.6 movie tickets this year, which is down 30% from 2002’s rate of 5.1 tickets. People are not seeing as many movies anymore, and why would they. Stranger Things 2, a plethora of new Marvel superhero series’, and the constant flow of originals make Netflix a satisfying alternative. Streaming services are in, and you can get a month’s access to them for the price of a single movie at a theater. This is the free market serving consumer preferences at work.

Cinema showings aren’t dying this year, but the numbers are dwindling and I do not expect them to be a major part of American society for much longer. This teaches us the valuable lesson of creative destruction, as mentioned earlier. The market must serve consumer demand, and what the consumers demand is changing. With the rise of the internet and the opportunity it gave to entrepreneurs and innovators, we should have seen this coming. The free market is a glorious thing, though, so we can rest easy knowing that if you and others enjoy something, it is likely the market will keep it around.

The way things seem to always turn around is less bad movies and more good markets.

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