God, I Want to Go to a Movie Theater

Renting new movies that debut digitally is somehow more expensive than movie tickets.

Look, I know times are absolutely terrible right now, but we need to figure out a better way of going about the transition from movie theaters to digital distribution than what happened today with Scoob!

With movie theaters closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Scoob!, the CG reboot of the Scooby-Doo movies is launching digitally today since there are no theaters open for it to make its planned theatrical debut in. This has been the case for a lot of big movies, like Onward, which Disney brought to digital platforms and Disney+ early because theaters starting closing down just as it was beginning its theatrical run. Birds of Prey also got its home release fast tracked, and then finally, Trolls: World Tour made its debut on digital platforms, and was apparently successful enough for Universal to say it plans to make digital launches a part of its strategy moving forward. AMC, the biggest theater chain in the country, wasn’t happy about it, and is severing ties with Universal out of spite.

Other movies have been delayed until later in the year, and still plan to be in theaters when things are hopefully safer. But right now, we’re dealing with the movies that are okay for us to watch from the comfort of our quarantined homes. Scoob! is out now on digital platforms, and I was ready to pop some popcorn and sit back and watch it this weekend. Until I opened up my digital store of choice and saw that the rental price for the movie is a whopping $19.99, which is usually the price of buying a movie outright.

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For all the jokes we make about how expensive going to the movies can be, pre-pandemic, there were a lot of steps at big chains like AMC and Regal to mitigate costs for patrons, including subscription plans that allowed for free entry to a movie, with these companies recouping costs through concessions. As an avid movie goer, I was a Regal Unlimited subscriber, and it meant I was paying about $18 a month to see literally as many movies as I wanted. If I got food at the theater, my entire visit cost around $11 give or take depending on if I’d accumulated enough rewards points to get my popcorn for free. The cut to costs made me more willing to see movies I would’ve otherwise deemed a risky use of my money and time, or gave me a cheap way to do double features if I wanted to knock out multiple movies in a day in my never ending quest to see everything.

Now, it’s been two months and three days since I was at my local theater, and the last thing I saw was The Hunt. Had I realized that was going to be the last movie I saw in a theater for a while (hopefully not forever, despite some people ready and willing to call for the end of these establishments), I might have seen something else.

Despite the perceptions of how expensive it is (and it can be, if you go in and pay full price every time you walk in), I really enjoy the theater experience, and it was one of my vices pre-quarantine to just have some me time, and I saw a lot of good (and bad) movies because of it. I would have gone to see Scoob! without hesitation in a coronavirus-less world, right now I’m staring at the rent button on the Vudu listing wondering if it’s worth spending as much as I did on my digital copy of Parasite and Frozen II, which I own now, rather than rent. If this is our new normal, I hope there’s more regulation on rental prices for new movies, because right now, a system I felt like I had gamed has suddenly changed the rules on me and become more prohibitive than ever.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Georgia-based writer who still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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