In the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown, both the trade and mainstream press fretted that the spike in home streaming would accelerate the decline, if not demise, of the theater experience. Even at this premature date, it seems safe to conclude that, for better or worse, it will take more than a pandemic to knock out Hollywood blockbusters and the multiplexes that show them.
On the contrary, sheltering in one’s own place has reminded us of the fundamental need to congregate with strangers in public spaces. I’ll wager that well after lockdown fever has subsided and pent-up demand is fulfilled—by next summer, let’s say—people will pack movie theaters in numbers not seen since the turn of the millennium.
Arthouse cinemas, located in dense urban centers and catering to diverse tastes, will likewise thrive. Even now, the arthouses—in partnership with innovative independent distributors—have been quick to respond to the current climate via virtual cinemas. As an alternative to video on demand through your cable TV box, your favorite theater is offering new foreign films, indies and documentaries for your rental pleasure.
Cinema at home provides a revenue stream for specialized theaters, and a way for filmgoers to support their local haunts until we can amble down the aisles in person. The programming typically combines wide releases with exclusive picks, sometimes with variable pricing. Bookmark this page and check your favorite theater’s offerings regularly.
The Texas chain with the Mission District outpost has an extensive online selection, Alamo On Demand, that ranges from this week’s releases (Lucky Grandma) to recent stuff you may have missed (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) to vintage faves (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School).