Among the many challenges the pandemic has created for exhibitors, the niche of second-run theatres has been particularly hard hit. With major studios shortening the window of theatrical exclusivity to 45 days or fewer, the intermediate window that second-run theatres have relied on has evaporated.
Many of these “dollar houses” have either closed or shifted to first-run screenings with much higher ticket prices. Most second-run theatres are small, independent operations outside the major theatre chains. They have had to widen their programming perspective to stay afloat, by showing alternative content such as UFC fights and classic movie titles.
Among independent exhibitors, Alamo Drafthouse is well-known for its creative programming, and the reduced exclusive window has pushed the exhibitor further down this path. Alamo’s CEO Shelly Taylor said that shortened windows on new studio releases allow the exhibitor too, “Play these movies [during the first weeks of their release], but also have screens and sessions available for alternative content.” The squeeze on windows is forcing all exhibitors to get creative with new programming and other sources of revenue, including enhanced concessions offerings as well as flexible pricing options.