Over the last several years, movie theatres’ place in modern culture has become increasingly precarious as streaming platforms became the norm and attention spans waned. Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, articles were questioning movie theatres’ murky future. In mid-March, as final screenings took place, movie ticket sales fell to a historic low. And now, as movie chains shut down around the country, some of the biggest players run the risk of defaulting on piling debt.

AMC Entertainment ($AMC), Cinemark Holdings ($CNK), and U.K.-listed Cineworld Group ($LON:CINE) make up about half of America’s silver screens. The share prices for all three have plunged an average of 76% year to date, according to the Wall Street Journal

But the potential death of the traditional movie theatre might not matter to the modern viewer. Facebook mentions of AMC surged last month amidst theatre closings — patrons requesting refunds, asking questions about upcoming releases — and has since dropped 86%. Cinemark and Regal saw a similar trend on Facebook, their mentions falling 95% and 54% respectively.

Netflix’s ($NFLX) Facebook mentions, on the other hand, jumped 82%.

Companies are downsizing accordingly. AMC has furloughed 26,000 of its 27,000 employees. Regal furloughed an estimated 24,000 of its 25,000 employees including both cinemas staffers and corporate film buyers, as Deadline reports.

Studios like Universal ($UVV) are responding by offering in-home rental for movies that were scheduled to be released in theaters. While this might be somewhat helpful in keeping the film industry afloat, it normalizes the abandonment of the traditional movie theatre experience. And if it works, studios could continue this offer post-quarantine.

We don't like to push around narratives or false equivalences, but is this really boiling down to people choosing the convenience of Netflix at home over every other alternative? Is this becoming the '50s again with film popularity versus the rise of television? Except with phones in kid's hands instead of I Love Lucie.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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