Why Movies Are Dying
The relentless march of technology is leaving a lot of wreckage in its path.
First CD sales evaporated (along with record stores).
Next, DVD sales and rental outlets boarded up their doors.
Bookstores look like the next victim of consumer demand for instant gratification.
Roger Ebert has posted a list of reasons why movie ticket sales are slumping, and internet streaming is one of the culprits. He notes that 2011 was the lowest year for ticket sales since 1995.
His list, in summary:
1. The absence of a must-see mass-market movies (blockbusters like Dark Knight, and Avatar put butts in seats).
2. Ticket prices are too high. The 3D surcharge and daunting prospect of paying $50 (before refreshments) for a family of four keeps parents away.
3. The theater experience. Cell-phone users and noisy patrons aren’t being policed by most theaters. Why pay $13.50 for a movie that is constantly interrupted by texting and conversations?.
4. Refreshment prices. Where theaters make the bulk of their money. Cheap syrup and popcorn at premium prices.
5. Competition from other forms of delivery. Huge HD television screens are getting cheaper, and aforementioned internet streaming services are relatively inexpensive.
6. Lack of choice. The same movies playing on several screens, and none of the smaller movies many adults want to see.
Box-office tracking shows that the bright spot in 2011 was the performance of indie, foreign or documentary films. On many weekends, one or more of those titles captures first-place in per-screen average receipts. Yet most moviegoers outside large urban centers can’t find those titles in their local gigantiplex. Instead, all the shopping center compounds seem to be showing the same few overhyped disappointments. Those films open with big ad campaigns, play a couple of weeks, and disappear.
The myth that small-town moviegoers don’t like “art movies” is undercut by Netflix’s viewing results; the third most popular movie on Dec. 28 on Netflix was “Certified Copy,” by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. You’ve heard of him? In fourth place–French director Alain Corneau’s “Love Crime.” In fifth, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”–but the subtitled Swedish version.
The critic concludes that Americans love movies more than ever — it’s just the theaters that put them off.
There is at least one small chain of movie theaters that is doing it right; creating a movie-going experience that is enjoyable and relatively inexpensive:
Alamo, based in Austin, Texas has set the standard for excellence in programming, projection, sound and they are fantastic at enforcing rules to keep patrons from using cellphones or talking.
Here’s one of the PSAs they run before their screenings, in which Patton Oswalt reads verbatim an actual voicemail call from a patron who was kicked out of Alamo for using her cellphone:
They also serve decent food and beer that make movie-going an event.
Unfortunately, Alamo only has theaters in a small handful of cities, including Austin, TX, San Antonio, TX, Houston, TX, Denver, CO and Winchester, VA.
If I had enough money, I’d invest in a franchise in the Washington, DC area.
Movie theaters will have to be more responsible to the movie-going marketplace in order to survive the convenience of internet streaming.
As a movie lover, and someone who has cut back seeing movies in recent years, I would love to see a local theater that shows first-run foreign films and curtails the excesses of other patrons.
- In a competitive market, why is movie theater popcorn expensive? (economics.stackexchange.com)
- Alamo Drafthouse Expansion Begins in Littleton, Colorado Late 2012 (slashfilm.com)
- Yet another reason to silence your cellphone . . . (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Down In Front! Where Do You Sit In Movie Theaters? (entertainment.time.com)
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