We have written several stories at OutKick this year about the future of movie theaters. It all began when NBCUniversal and AMC agreed to a deal to dramatically shorten the exclusive theater window from 90 days to 17, and continued when AT&T’s WarnerMedia announced they were bypassing that exclusive window altogether in 2021 and would simultaneous release blockbusters like Matrix 4 in theaters and on HBO Max.
Earlier this week, Allan Reagan, the CEO of Flix Brewhouse, which operates a chain of 10 movie theaters that double as gastropubs that brew their own beer, told CNBC that he expects total attendance to be down 15-25 percent permanently. He believes that movie theaters will now have to pivot: “We also need to broaden our entertainment offerings beyond just the film product.”
Here’s a wild idea: What if movie theater operators use some of their screens as sportsbooks? With legal gambling spreading across the United States, movie theaters have the infrastructure to provide an experience that arguably surpasses that of sports bars. On college football Saturdays or NFL Sundays, they could split big screens to show a number of games from one vantage, and they could also provide an immersive single-screen experience for home-team games and big events. They could partner with gambling apps to offer specials to further entice people through the doors.
If you’ve been to a sportsbook in Vegas, you know that there’s an energy there that is worth replicating across America.
There are a lot of other ideas I can think of that would be fun for movie theaters. Garth Brooks did a big drive-in theater event earlier this year. How much would you pay to watch, like, a Metallica concert on a huge HD screen with killer audio?
Even if it’s inevitable that movie theaters will lose market share as home entertainment options continue to proliferate, the savvy operators will find ways to innovate to continue to make it worth leaving the house.