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Baltimore Movie Theaters Strive to Attract Students Amid Streaming Surge 


Hoping to draw customers in, The Senator, located on York Road, recently hosted film revivals, including classics like “The Shining” and “The Holy Mountain.” But since the COVID-19 pandemic, Baltimore movie theaters remain largely empty. Meanwhile, streaming services have quickly gained traction as a popular source of film and media consumerism.

The Senator and The Charles are both in proximity to Loyola’s campus. Each theater has a range of incentives to draw students back. The theaters are offering student and senior discounts, $7 movie Mondays, and significantly lower prices than chain theaters. Filmmakers, nonprofit organizations, and universities are able to rent spaces for events and parties.  

Kathleen Lyon, co-owner of The Senator and The Charles, remains optimistic about the future of movie theaters. 

“The streaming services, which have always been there, have definitely ramped up. A lot of the film companies were using that platform directly instead of having it go to a streaming service after theatrical release. It makes sense that they did it that way because they didn’t really have any other vessel in which to play the movies because the theaters were closed during the pandemic,” Lyon said. 

Lyon, a former lawyer, worked her way up in the movie theater business by selling popcorn and tearing tickets at her father’s theater. Now, Lyon continues to work to keep the family businesses open during the streaming age. 

The combination of direct-to-consumer strategies and government-mandated theater closures economically impacted Baltimore movie theaters. As mandated pandemic precautions are lifted, Lyon hopes people will return. 

“There’s always going to be streaming. I love it just as much as the next person. But our position has been a very different experience. You either want to be in your house in your pajamas, which is totally great, or you want to go out and have a social experience and see something with other people. You want to have a communal experience and watch a movie on the big screen,” Lyon said. 

Analiese Amato ‘22 enjoys going to movie theaters with friends and family. Amato is currently taking a class in screenwriting and has taken past classes on fundamentals of film. 

“Obviously there’s the bigger screen, but the comfortability is something people want while watching movies. Just making that experience the best that you can possibly have, the most deluxe and premium experience, is what keeps movie theaters alive. So, when people are looking to go somewhere, they are going to those fancier theaters or something that has a more vintage feel,” Amato said. 

Many people align with Amato’s statement. In a 2021 survey conducted by The Qourum, Cultique and Fanthropology, individuals said they would be upset if movie theaters disappeared. Respondents mention rewards and experience as top enticing factors to continue going to theaters. The survey polled over 2,500 pre-pandemic theater goers.

The convenience of streaming services does remain an obstacle for Baltimore theaters. One of the most popular services, Netflix, reached a total of 192.95 million paid subscribers worldwide during their second quarter of 2020. This statistic is reported by Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data. 

Amato is one of those subscribers. She is also a member of Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video. Amato relies on streaming for the majority of her film entertainment. 

“It’s mainly about convenience. If you want to watch a movie and you don’t always want to go out to do it. It’s something that’s more of a relaxation thing now. It’s the ability to watch a movie anywhere,” Amato said. 

And yet, people continue to trickle back into movie theaters today. Lyon is hopeful about the future of The Senator and The Charles. “It’s not like a faucet, it’s not like they’re filling the place. But it’s a gradual rebuilding of business. We’re doing the best we can, and we feel optimistic about things continuing to progress,” Lyon said. 

Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash

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Baltimore Movie Theaters Strive to Attract Students Amid Streaming Surge