Tom Hanks Was Right About Movie Theaters Surviving Covid, But Our Reasons For Showing Up Again Have Changed

Memes and the internet existed before the pandemic, but they're influencing us now more than ever.


Box office sales have been booming over the last month with the release of Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, Doctor Strange, and the recent launch of Minions: The Rise of Gru. While this is excellent news for the movie theater industry, it seems as though new factors have influenced movie-goers and their reasoning behind showing up to buy their ticket for a new flick.


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Pre-covid, the movie theater industry was slowly declining because streaming services were trying to compete with cinemas. In 2019, Disney Plus unveiled a feature that allowed customers to pay an extra fee to have access to Disney movies that were simultaneously playing in theaters so that people could watch them from the comfort of their homes. Netflix is another service that has been trying to compete; in recent years, certain films produced by Netflix have been eligible and won awards such as Oscars and Golden Globes. Traditionally, people would have to go to the cinema to watch movies nominated for Oscars. Still, with Netflix and Disney Plus allowing their customers to watch these big-ticket films from home, there’s no need for people to go to the theater. 

In addition to streaming services, another form of technology has influenced movie-goers since cinemas reopened: social media. The best example of this would be Top Gun 2 and the new Minions movie's influence on the internet and memes. While Top Gun 2 would’ve done well in the box office without the help of memes, the viral videos circulating on TikTok helped to increase ticket sales. So if you’re a little confused, just log on to TikTok; over the last 3-4 weeks, Miles Teller has become the Internet's boyfriend based on a 2-second clip that went viral on TikTok of him dancing shirtless in Top Gun: Maverick. Although the new Top Gun demographic was most likely teenage boys and middle-aged men, the meme that transpired online influenced adolescent girls and women (myself included) to go and see the movie. 

As previously mentioned, memes have also influenced people to see Minions: The Rise of Gru. While the film was made for children, memes affected teens and young adults everywhere who have shown up in costumes to watch the movie. National headlines appeared after theater employees kicked multiple groups of young men out of various movie theaters for taking the meme too far by recording the film and disrupting children and families in the cinema. 

With the internet and social media being a constant in everyone’s lives, I doubt the influence will cease to exist for movie-goers. Perhaps the next movie affected by this phenomenon will be Elvis, as Austin Butler has already moved up the meme ladder.