Editorial, Opinion

Streaming vs. theaters: Have rising prices dulled the movie magic? | Editorial

At the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, movie theaters closed down, dramatically altering the accessibility and popularity of the live movie-going experience. 

Since then, movies have primarily been released on streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Max. 

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Even after people have begun viewing movies in theaters again, the trend of releasing films on streaming services is still common. And while theaters are open, people are losing interest in attending, as the cost of the experience often outweighs the benefit. 

In a city with as much culture to offer as Boston does, students have plenty of options for movie-going, from the reliable AMC Boston Common 19 to the iconic Coolidge Corner Theatre. 

However, we are deterred from taking advantage of these opportunities because of the hefty price tags associated with the experiences. 

An average movie ticket in Boston today costs $16.50 — not to mention transportation costs and snack prices, which add a pretty penny despite being essential to the classic theater experience. This can easily make one excursion cost around $30, which many of us cannot afford to spend on a movie. 

Companies such as AMC offer passes to make ticket prices worth our while. However, their only plan that offers to fully alleviate the cost of the ticket is their A-list plan, which costs $25 per month in Massachusetts. 

Their other free subscription plans sometimes offer discounts and snack refills, but not a plan to waive costs on films themselves.  

Though these subscriptions might be a smart option for an avid film-goer, it’s not sustainable for the average college student. With how busy we are — from classes to jobs to extracurriculars — there’s a slim chance we can attend enough movies in theaters each month to make that price tag worth it. 

Though it’s undoubtedly expensive to see movies in person, streaming is growing increasingly expensive as well. For example, a standard Netflix subscription currently costs $15.49 per month — $6.99 with ads and $22.99 for premium.

Streaming platforms have also cracked down on sharing accounts, making it difficult for families living apart to share plans. This only adds to the cost of these plans and causes us financially-struggling students to have to pay for our own accounts if we want to be able to stream movies at all. 

Plus, to view the breadth of movie options streaming services have to offer, it feels necessary to subscribe to more than one platform, making it cost an extra $30 or $40 per month.

That being said, many consumers wait for a streaming service to release a movie rather than see it in theaters — not finding the value in spending money to go in person when we are already paying for streaming services. 

Because of all of this, film viewership feels like a lose-lose situation in today’s economic climate. 

The theater-going experience undoubtedly adds a great deal of value to the viewership of a film that the at-home experience doesn’t offer, especially for students in Boston who can go to AMC or the Coolidge.

Plus, certain movies are simply more fun to see in theaters. The ambiance, demographic and shock value of recent movies such as “Saltburn” or “Bottoms” heightened the theater experience, creating incentive and anticipation to see the films upon the original release date rather than wait for the release on streaming services. 

This summer also saw a revival in the spirit of movie-going with the sensation of “Barbenheimer.” The clash of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” — two polar-opposite, Oscar-nominated movies that were released on the same day — brought in a diverse audience and created trends that encouraged participation in the theater-going experience. 

Both movies found commercial success and seemed to make the theater experience a worthwhile experience to audiences once again.

At the end of the day, it seems unlikely that streaming services will completely replace movie-going, but the accessibility of streaming services has detracted from the appeal of the theater experience.

It’s unfortunate, though, that films have become so expensive and inaccessible in all arenas — going to the movies is an unmatched experience, not just for college students but for people of all ages.

Despite the financial drawbacks, the theater experience will always offer an element of ambiance and human connection that Netflix at home can’t compete with.

This Editorial was written by Opinion Co-Editor Lea Rivel.

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One Comment

  1. Nice piece.
    Streaming is battling to replace the theatre going experience.
    But the quality and height of experience gotten from theatre is second to none.
    Thus, Cinema cannot be replaced.