How Meme Culture is Helping Bring Back Movie Theaters

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Universal Pictures/ Paramount Pictures/ Sony Pictures

Don’t let the pre-pandemic numbers fool you. Despite Avengers: Endgame becoming the highest-grossing film ever made, movie theaters were, and have been, slowly dying off year by year. Even before the pandemic, local theaters were shutting down, just completely unable to stay afloat amidst the streaming wars. The town next to me, for example, went from a hub of cinema with two theaters to a barren wasteland with none. The pandemic certainly didn’t help; not only were theaters largely unable to make money, but streaming services had all the time in the world to try to expand and grow a loyal user base. 

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Getty Images

The titans of the movie theater industry are no stranger to this danger as well. AMC Theaters faced bankruptcy towards the tail end of 2020 but was able to stay alive due to a large cash infusion from investors. They were safe, but not too safe. This is because people are still reluctant to drag themselves out of bed and to the theaters when the alternative of streaming is right in front of them. 

What could possibly motivate the average American couch potato to hit the theater?

The Three Ms.

Minions, Mustaches, and Morbin’ Time.


Move over Marvel because there’s a new top dog in town. Backed by rampant meme culture and the reputation of the Despicable Me franchise(which has already grossed $8.65B), Minions: Rise of Gru has cemented itself as the go-to movie in theaters. Some have dubbed this trend as the “Gentleminions”, but it largely didn’t need to be named because you certainly know it when you see it. Whether it be a group of 15 heading to the cinemas in full wedding attire, or a group of equally meme-crazed kids sneaking bananas inside, the movie theaters are profiting in a major way. 

It’s sometimes even accompanied by a pre-game meal at IHOP.

The Baz Luhrmann x Minions Crossover You Didn't Know You Needed

The Mustache Messiahs

It would be remiss of me to say Top Gun: Maverick has succeeded solely due to meme culture. Grossing $1 Billion at the box office is nothing to scoff at; in fact, it has quickly become one of the highest-earning non-Marvel films. But it would be even more foolish of me to undermine the power of the internet. Men worldwide hit the theaters to see their Mustache-Messiahs on the big screen. The buzz that viral trends like this have created an impact that no one even realizes, similar to how advertising subconsciously influences us. This trend certainly isn’t the only reason Top Gun has been so successful, but it certainly didn’t hurt. 

It's Morbin Time

We’ve arrived at the crème de la crème of the 2022 theater releases.

Morbius makes the Minions and Top Gun memes look like child’s play. Never have I seen a meme so rampant that it spurs movie theaters to set up extra screenings. I know what you’re thinking, no one attended those screenings, and that was the whole point. You may be right, but all exposure is good exposure. Movie theaters were the talk of the town, not streaming; people were looking at box office numbers, not streaming smash hits, and for that month of Morbius memes, no one could take their mind off the theaters. Morbius became synonymous with movies, “It’s Morbin’ time” they said, signaling the return of movies (even bad ones) to the forefront of popular culture.  

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