In the past, I've written about my profound love of movie theaters. As I've personally stated, other than an actual church, a movie theater is essentially my spiritual home. A recent piece from Popsugar further illustrated that I'm far from alone in my abiding love of the cinema.

Following the devastation of 2020 to the theater industry, 2021 has been an anxiety-inducing mixed bag of emotions. Reports in recent weeks have varied so drastically about the future of theaters that it might give one whiplash. Some onlookers might enjoy some more simplified explanations as to what's going.

What has theater chains and their devotees concerned

The catalyst for much of the recent whirlwind of emotions is the Marvel blockbuster "Black Widow." After being delayed for over a year, the movie was finally released in July.

At first, it almost seemed like it was pre-COVID pandemic times again. Audiences flocked to the theater to see Scarlett Johansson's turn as the solo headliner of a Marvel epic. Optimism about the status of movie theaters was flying high. And then, abruptly, it wasn't so much anymore. After a massive opening, things kind of fell off the deep end for "Black Widow."

This can happen with theatrical releases. Sometimes, though not always, it can indicate that audiences poorly received the movie.

And that it's gotten a bad reputation because of it. But this was very apparently not the case with "Black Widow." Reviews from audiences and critics alike were generally very positive. I myself found it by and large fantastic. The conclusions many came to for the sudden drop centered on one thing - Disney+.

At the same time, Marvel and Disney released "Black Widow" to theaters, and it also became available at home via Disney+.

For a somewhat eye-popping price of about $30, in addition to the existing streaming fees.

Long story short, a number of people have taken it as a signal of doom for theaters. And it's true; there were a ton of people who decided to stream the movie at home. And that streaming is the inevitable future for films.

These worries aren't entirely new either.

Especially since so many film and television lovers became even more acquainted with streaming since COVID-19 hit. And that theatrical revenues have often ebbed and flowed over the years.

There's also the fact that theaters still hadn't been making the profits that they'd normally expect. Because, hey, there's still a pandemic happening, leaving people understandably wary of groups. Yes, it's been tough times for the movie theater industry.

Why cinema enthusiasts should still have hope

We can't know what the future holds for this or any other industry. However, people looking at the "Black Widow" situation have tended to over-simplify things. It's not as basic as people would just rather stream than go to the theater.

There are various reasons to still believe in the cinematic model, including the ones listed below.

For one thing, much as people might like to forget, there is still a global health crisis happening. If it weren't, in all likelihood, the movie would have profited more like the booku bucks that had been anticipated. And, really, still made. By almost any normal standard, the box office tallies for "Black Widow" have been massive. Just, perhaps, not to the level accustomed to for a Marvel movie. And outside of the U.S., where Disney+ is often less available or not, things were closer to normal. There remains an inherent desire among movie consumers for a theatrical experience. Even drive-in theaters have seen a resurgence in the midst of COVID-19.

The box office numbers were still significantly larger than ones for streaming. And the gap ended up being even larger than originally thought. People tended to fail to take some things into account. Such as that, streaming services usually don't keep all of the fees that they charge people. Major chunks of what Disney charged people to watch "Black Widow" would be headed elsewhere. Like Amazon, Apple, or wherever else people have gotten their streaming devices from.

Another issue arising from the novel coronavirus is capacity limitations. Many if not all theaters still aren't allowing the size of crowds that they normally would. Automatically capping ticket sales at a lower level from the get-go.

But even still, many of the headlines surrounding big movie releases have been about how they exceeded expectations. Warner Bros. really embraced the trend of simultaneous releases. In their case, using HBO Max. But they've also seemed to have cooled off on the prospect. As noted by Yahoo, they seem poised to return to more traditional theatrical releases starting in 2022. And there's also Netflix, the original king of streaming. Like so many other streaming services, they began producing content of their own. They're reportedly looking to become a bigger player on the theatrical side, rather than almost exclusively rely on streaming. Companies Warner Bros. and Netflix wouldn't happen if they didn't think theaters had a bright future.

Two of 2021's biggest Movies have been "A Quiet Place Part II" and "F9". Both of which debuted exclusively in theaters, and both did exceedingly well. Paramount and Universal saw huge come in using the traditional method with nary a streamer insight.

Disney and Marvel are likely partly to blame for what happened with 'Black Widow'

Really, some of Disney's streaming strategies may well have backfired on them. And in some cases, it was extremely predictable. Some Disney+ subscribers have reportedly been hosting viewing parties of the movie. (Incidentally, cramming together in likely smaller spaces probably isn't much safer than going to a theater during COVID times.) People who once would've had to buy their own tickets end up getting to see the movie for free.

Other problems such as piracy also became a bigger issue with the streaming method.

Disney had reportedly been hoping that the strategy would also bring in a wave of new subscribers. It didn't. A bulk of the streamers who paid to see the simultaneous release were already-existing subscribers. Maybe people didn't want to pay roughly $40 to watch tv at home basically.

And the fallout might be a bigger headache for Disney than they'd anticipated. The unhappiness of theater chains and loyal theater-goers was probably, at least to an extent, expected. But ire that it's drawn from two of the biggest movie stars in the world, maybe not so much. After a long working relationship together, Disney has decidedly gotten on Scarlett Johansson's bad side over it.

Marvel exec Kevin Feige had hoped to continue working with her into the future. Maybe, ironically, as part of a Disney+ slate of Marvel content. That might sadly be in doubt at present. But it's not even just Johansson; Disney has also apparently drawn the ire of Emma Stone. Whose movie, "Cruella," Disney also simultaneously released shortly before.

Marvel also makes the creative decisions with Johansson's character before "Black Widow." Many fans were upset by what they ultimately chose to do to her character in "Endgame." Knowing what happens to her in those events left some openly less enthusiastic about finally seeing her own movie. And casual fans might understandably be confused about where "Black Widow" would fit into the timeline.

Some might not bother with the kind-of-but-kind-of-not-prequel.

People who love theaters still need to take things seriously, and there are things they can do to help

Even though there is a litany of reasons to still be optimistic, theater lovers shouldn't take things for granted. People have indeed written off theaters before. With the launches of television and home video and beyond, the industry persevered. But these are unprecedented times, and the future is uncertain.

If you're going to the movies, follow safety guidelines. I do and even take some extra ones of my own. It can also help the theaters themselves to wait a little longer to see the movie of your choice. Percentages of ticket sales often heavily favor the studios at the initial opening.

Generally, about three weeks after the release, it tilts in favor of the theaters. This could, however, be a fine line to walk these days. Theaters need the bigger profits to remain open. But the early ticket sales could persuade the studios not to give up on those theaters.

If you see a movie early in its window, concessions are often the name of the game. They've long been where theaters make the bulk of their profits. Yes, they can be rather pricey. But even a small purchase can help. This also comes back to the safety guidelines in the midst of a pandemic. Hand sanitizer is often your friend.

People are understandable and justified in their hesitancy to return to the cinema. If you still aren't comfortable with it, there can also be other creative ways of helping your local cinema.

Purchasing gift cards that can be used later on. I've even heard of some people purchasing popcorn and leaving without actually seeing a movie.

To put things in perspective, much of the spread of COVID-19 has been linked to restaurants. Perhaps more than anything else. And yet, many people (not me) have gone back to regularly indoor dining.

Restaurants have often been found to be the cause of spreading COVID-19. Perhaps more so than anything else. Yet many people (not me) have returned to indoor dining when theater-going is probably safer.