In November, a Memphis-based movie theater chain called Malco Theaters started renting out its screens. Now, theaters in South Korea are starting to do the same.
Since November, Malco has been allowing up to 20 people to rent a screen at $100 for two hours or $150 for 3 hours. The company has 36 theaters across Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky, and the practice has been gaining traction, but not enough. According to Malco VP Karen Melton: “It is gaining traction, and is becoming popular, but nothing is adding to our profitability at this point.”
Theaters have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with both US and Global revenue dropping significantly in 2020 according to Variety. US box offices experienced an 80% year-over-year decline from 2019, struggling to reach $2.2 billion in total during the pandemic. Worldwide returns looked similar, with ticket sales totaling at $12.4 billion–a 71% drop from 2019.
Despite this, theaters in South Korea are now renting out their screens, as well. Though cinemas there are currently restricted to 50% capacity, CVG (South Korea’s largest theater chain) has started renting out its theaters for gaming to create a new revenue stream. Before 6 PM, up to four people can reserve a screen at $90 for two hours; this fee rises to $135 after 6 PM. Gamers who want to rent screens also need to bring their own games, consoles, and controllers to play.
CVG employee Seung Woo Han came up with the idea to rent screens out for gaming after realizing that games and movies share a lot of similarities. “When thinking about how to make use of empty cinema spaces, I noticed that games nowadays boast excellent graphics and well-structured stories just like movies,” he told . “Both have a storytelling aspect to them, so if someone can enjoy watching a film in the cinema, I thought they would also enjoy playing computer games in one.”