Is there still a place for the multiplex in the age of Netflix?

Twenty years ago, nobody could have foreseen the fall of the video rental market, which was disrupted out of existence by online streaming services providing consumers what they wanted without the need to even leave their homes. Now, as Netflix and other providers continue to expand, could the multiplex cinema be next on the cutting block?

During a high period of growth in many towns, the competition presented by a multiplex would often put the town’s smaller theaters out of business. Multiplexes were often developed in conjunction with big box stores in power centers or in suburban malls during the 70s and 80s.

The expansion was executed at the big-box pace which left many theater companies bankrupt while attempting to compete — almost all major movie theater companies went bankrupt during this hasty development process; however, AMC Theatres and Cinemark Theatres did not go into bankruptcy.

The early U.S. megaplexes sparked a wave of megaplex building across the United States. This was financed in part by a sale-leaseback model with Entertainment Properties Trust.

In 1965 Martin’s Westgate Cinemas became one of the first indoor two-screen theaters in Atlanta, Georgia. Located in East Point, Georgia, it was later converted into a three-screen venue after a fire partially destroyed one of the theaters. The Disney family film Those Calloways had its world premier at the Westgate, the only film to have been so honored at that theater.

Kinepolis Madrid opened in Spain on 17 September 1998; it is the world’s largest cinema complex in terms of number of seats and has a total seating capacity of 9,200 with 25 screens, each seating between 211 and 996 people. The world’s tallest cinema complex is the Cineworld Glasgow Renfrew Street in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom at 203 feet. Opened in 2001, it has 18 screens and seats 4,300 people.

However, these massive complexes may now face unsustainable competition from the convenience and on-demand model provided by streaming video. The future of the multiplex remains unclear.