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Why Haven’t More Movie Theaters Closed?

amc Movie Theater
Even though the theater chains know they’re in a bad spot, they persist, rather than consolidate. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
April 9, 2024

Here’s a question that will almost certainly not be asked this week at CinemaCon, the big movie theater pep talk/convention in Las Vegas: Why are there still more than 38,000 movie screens in this country? Seriously, though, per the most recent National Association of Theatre Owners count, it’s 38,000 screens!

After all, this is a simple supply and demand question, right? Domestic box office peaked at $11.9 billion in 2018, but in the more than five catastrophic years since, the number plunged to $2.1 billion in 2020 and came back only to around $9 billion in 2023. Projections for 2024, hobbled by the impact of the dual strikes, are a little more than $8 billion, a year-over-year decline, not a rebound. Some analysts are predicting $9.3 billion for 2025 as the movie pipeline restocks—a bullish projection, and yet still nowhere close to that nearly $12 billion threshold. Showing movies in theaters and overcharging people for cold nachos is still a real business, but if you know someone who actually thinks pre-pandemic numbers are possible, I’ve got a silver mine in Nevada I’d like to sell you.