News Editor

Stephen Milligan is the news editor of The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

Out of the many, many annoyances, great and small, we encountered during this year of nightmares we call 2020, one of the ones that hit me hardest was the closing of movie theaters.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the need for social distancing and the closing of numerous businesses to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’s no surprise movie theaters closed soon after public lockdowns went into effect.

But even as other businesses have returned — particularly indoor dining, which is available in numerous places after disappearing for a time at the height of the closures — the movie theaters have stayed either closed or opened to little effect, as there’s almost no product to fill the screens.

I was one of those daredevil souls who went to the movies this summer when many chains tested the waters with a few major openings, such as the new Christopher Nolan film, “Tenet.” There were maybe a dozen people in the theater, when that screening room could have held many times that number, and should have given the pedigree of the would-be blockbuster.

Since then, the movie studios have played musical chairs with release dates, hoping for things to improve and repeatedly postponing films — or moving them to streaming — as things continue stubbornly awful.

Now, although a vaccine is in sight, Warner Bros. has decided the wait is over. They will release all their 2021 movies — most of them delayed films from this year — in theaters, but they will also simultaneously put them up on their streaming service, HBO Max.

This is obviously a way to try and make up for lost revenue by the studio, but it’s certainly not going to encourage theater attendance. People who were already too panicked to watch a film in a theater won’t hesitate to spend the money to see a brand new superhero or monster movie at home instead.

Warner Bros. insists the plan is only in place for 2021 and they hope to return to normal theater releases in 2022, but no one believes them. Unless this plan flops hard, they’ll stick with it, chasing the easy money, and soon theater releases will be a thing of the past.

We are watching an entire industry implode and it’s heartbreaking to see. There is nothing like seeing a film on the silver screen, but the convenience of watching it from a couch has trumped all for most consumers. Once again art loses out to apathy and naked greed.

But it’s not like I’m any better. I’m already making sure to sign up in time to see it all myself …

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