Can esports save movie theaters?

Movie theaters have been hurting for a long time. The pandemic took many cinema companies to the brink, but even before COVID-19, fewer and fewer people were going to the movies. In 2017, attendance hit a 25-year low. As the nation continues to emerge from its pandemic slumber, theaters are desperate to attract customers by any means necessary.

Some have incorporated restaurants, while others, like B&B Theaters, have removed front rows to build play spaces for young children. Esports has been one of the more common solutions for these struggling theater operators, and for good reason: the big screen, cushy seats, and surround sound all lend themselves to a unique gaming experience. Dutch cinema group Pathé Theaters recently teamed with H20 Esports to introduce Go!Gaming, which utilizes theaters to host esports competitions and show popular esports finals on the big screen. In the US, Cinemark and esports firm Mission Control have partnered to bring esports events to Cinemark locations.

By actively promoting esports, movie theaters can generate additional revenues while sparking esports interest at the local level through community-driven tournaments and events. Grassroots interest in esports is crucial to the long-term health of the industry, and as more theaters get involved, we could see new types of tournaments, teams, and a wider variety of sponsorships.

If theaters do not make changes to fit today’s entertainment ecosystem, some cinema companies may be in trouble. The pandemic has accelerated a culture shift that increasingly focuses on at-home entertainment such as gaming and VOD subscription services. Interpret’s Esports Replay reveals that the average number of movies seen in the past three months by US consumers fell from 1.6 in 2019 to just 0.4 in 2021. While this figure is likely to climb as 2021 continues, theater operators must find supplemental revenues, and esports could be one exciting solution with long-term growth potential.