Opinion: Demon Slayer movie proves movie theaters aren’t going away


Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Catherine Falls Commercial. Conceptual image of popcorn in a classic striped cardboard serving sleeve with space for copy.

Much like many others, I’ve been stuck with watching all my movies at home. The coronavirus pandemic paved the way for online streaming services, which have become the new normal when distributing and screening new releases. 

Movies would make millions in box office sales on opening weekends, and theaters were unrivaled. That is until the pandemic swept through the United States and forced governments to shut down businesses and implement social distancing guidelines.

Regal Cinemas chose to close down all 536 of their U.S. theaters in October of 2020, and AMC announced that they were on the verge of running out of money as a company. Recently the ArcLight Cinemas in Los Angeles announced their permanent closure which was taken as a blow to the film community and the Cinerama Dome, considered a landmark in Los Angeles.

Many productions were forced to push back their big blockbuster films scheduled to be released in 2020 to make money spent making the films. This prompted a complete meltdown in the world of Cinema as many studios were potentially thinking about shifting over to the premium video on demand (PVOD) and avoid theater releases altogether. 

California has now opened up a lot more since the beginning of the pandemic and has allowed people to attend movie theaters with COVID-19 guidelines. Movie theaters are still struggling to have as many people through the door as more and more films have started to release in theaters rather than streaming service and PVOD, premium videos on demand.

A few weeks ago, I watched “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train” the movie was expected to come out in 2020, but rather than taking the normal approach of 2020 and going straight to streaming, it kept its premiere exclusively for theatres. Its highly anticipated release as well as the low supply of screenings in the United States helped position the movie to be one of the best selling films upon its wide release.

Before its North American release, “Demon Slayer: had only played once in Florida in order to qualify for a nomination to the Academy Awards. Before that, it was only screening in Asian countries that left fans only able to wait and read the overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics worldwide

“Demon Slayer” opened to $21 million in North America, by far the biggest domestic debut of all time for a foreign-language film. In 2020 it earned the top spot of the top-grossing film of all time in Japan and has since gone to make close to $400 million dollars in ticket sales alone.

Needless to say, this movie had a high demand of people wanting to see this movie. This was so apparent that I took an extra safety precaution and rented out an entire theater to watch the movie privately at the Mary Pickford in Cathedral City.

For just about $370 between 20 of my closest friends and family, we were able to get a private showing of the movie as well as concessions included. When everything was said and done, we each paid about $18  to watch the most anticipated movie of the year as well as peace of mind.

We felt safe, and the experience made me realize why movie theaters are still so important. We have been waiting for this movie for almost a year after it was supposed to be released, and the anticipation and excitement were felt throughout the room. What would normally bother people in a normal screening was welcomed in ours. People were making jokes from across the theater. It almost encouraged us to look at each other and freak out about what we had just seen when something exciting would happen. 

The only way I can equate this is being with the crowd on the opening night of a Star Wars film but even better. This experience made me realize the importance of Cinemas in the experience it provides. It’s a sense of community that cannot be replicated despite the convenience of streaming services and video-on-demand. 

The movie theater experience is no longer an experience to be afraid of. Many theaters want patrons back and have been doing their best to feel comfortable within the isolated walls of their screening rooms. For example, many theaters have Adopted the CinemaSafe program which is the set of guidelines for movie theaters to operate under the CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19. All movie theaters in the Coachella Valley are part of the cinema safe program that instruct theaters to reduce the capacity for theaters, disinfect between screenings, and retrofit their buildings to have sanitation stations for patrons.

The movie theater industry has gone through turbulent changes in the past century, and this is like no other.  I don’t see movie theaters going anywhere anytime soon, but I think they will be looked at differently, especially after this past year.

Whether that be in The form of more direct streaming films or an emphasis on the movie theater experience right, the show is definitely far from over.