What can moviegoers expect at reopened South Carolina theaters?

What can moviegoers expect at theaters in South Carolina?

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The movie theater box office in Rock Hill has been dark since March 17. The coming attractions posters have been blank.

Experts say people have grown accustomed to not going to the cinema to watch movies. Tamila Crowder said she has been OK without going to the movie theater.

"Actually, it's a good bonding experience for us instead of thinking we always have to spend money to have a good time," she said.

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That is part of the problem for theaters hoping for a comeback, said Lou Pantuosco, an economist at Winthrop University.

“The public and the studios have all realized that they can make it without them,” he said.

Pantuosco is talking about the push to put movies on digital sooner for home release and the growing dominance of streaming services. New deals are being struck between the studios and streaming services, which could hurt theaters.

“Now with these new deals, where they’re to get the blockbusters, and move them digitally early, it’s gonna make it a lot more difficult for (theaters) to be profitable.”

National theater chains like AMC and Regal have lost billions of dollars. AMC reported more than $2 billion in losses during June.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster will allow theaters to reopen Monday at half capacity, and moviegoers will be required to wear a mask. However, that may not happen soon.

AMC has not announced an opening date but will operate at 30% capacity when its locations open. Regal plans to reopen nationwide on Aug. 21.

Both chains will require masks, workers will disinfect theaters after each showing and there will be limited concessions. There will be no food or beverage refills allowed.

Some moviegoers told Channel 9 they won't return to a movie theater soon.

"It just doesn't seem like a responsible thing to do," Cindy Genung said.

"It's not worth it. It's a luxury. It's not something we have to do," Rebekah Sadler said.

The four-month industry shut down created a boom for streaming movies at home. Pantuosco said he expects consolidation in the industry and maybe sharing between theater and streaming movies.

“It might inspire the ‘Netflixes’ of the world to put their movies in theaters, if they can work out a deal where in 20 days it’s, ‘Back to us, on streaming,’” he said.

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Another economic concern is, who goes to the movies? Economists said it’s primarily people under 35. That’s also the age group that has lost the most jobs during the pandemic, including retail and restaurants.

Theaters are counting on that age group to return when the blockbusters finally start playing again, experts said.