A WORLD WITHOUT MOVIE THEATERS…

A WORLD WITHOUT MOVIE THEATERS…

Imagine a world without movie theaters.

No multiplexes. No arthouses. No way to communally experience a film.

That day may be coming sooner than you think. Each year theatrical box office receipts decline as the DVD becomes the preferred method for audiences to watch movies. And coming up just on the horizon is movies available for download — which may eventually become the way we all watch films. (“Eventually” meaning once the major studios choose a piracy prevention method that they can all agree upon as well as a cost per download structure acceptable to consumers.)

If the music industry is any indicator, the film industry will soon follow into the download zone. CD sales dropped 7% last year as downloads on iTunes increased. (Itunes passed the one billion music download mark a while back.) Tower Records recently announced that they are closing all of their stores and filing for bankruptcy. This shouldn’t surprise anyone as their entire business is built primarily on sales of CDs, which are declining far more rapidly than many are willing to admit.

Where did all the people go… they’re busy downloading.

In response to these trends, a recent LA times story has stirred up a bit of controversy. The piece entitled “Far Removed From the Multiplex” by John Horn, asserts that teenagers would rather watch films on their computers than go to the movies. And who can blame them? Going to the movies is expensive (you can buy about two DVDs for the price of one evening at the movies) and the experience is more often miserable due to the increasing number of bad movies, endless commercials and annoying patrons. The piece brings up some interesting facts from a recent survey including:

Nearly half (47%) of respondents ages 12 to 17 say they would watch a movie on a PC, well above the interest in doing the same on a cellphone (11%) or video iPod and similar devices (18%). A similar share of those 21 to 24 said they would watch movies on a computer, although they are much less willing to do the same on a cellphone (6%) or video iPod (7%).

The distaste for the multiplex accelerates as children become young adults; 44% of those ages 21 to 24 are seeing fewer films. The Times/Bloomberg poll findings mirror a recent study by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which found an even sharper drop-off over a five-year span.

It’s a fascinating read and the industry will have to pay attention or suffer the fate of Tower Records. Read the entire piece on the LA Times site or, if you have trouble getting to the site, I’ve included the entire piece below.

So, what do you think about all this?

Will we someday live in a world without movie theaters? What are your thoughts on the current state of moviegoing? And do you watch movies online?

This sounds like a great conversation we can all have over some popcorn and soda.

Gore gone!

FAR REMOVED FROM THE MULTIPLEX
With an array of devices at their fingertips, youths don’t always think of theaters as the place to see a flick.

By John Horn, Times Staff Writer, August 8, 2006

The scores of footprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre chronicle Hollywood’s history. What David Gale witnessed inside the auditorium on a recent evening may help predict the industry’s future.

As the head of MTV Films, Gale was at the theater for a research screening of his “Jackass: Number Two,” a crude teen comedy coming out next month. The film had just started when a teenager seated next to Gale began pecking away on his BlackBerry.

“It was an amazing experience. My first instinct was to slap him,” Gale said. “But then I realized he was just enjoying the movie.”

In fact, the teenager was e-mailing a friend, recounting the movie’s best jokes.

“The kid was just doing what kids do,” Gale said. “This is how they watch movies. This is how they consume entertainment. And when they like something, they let people know.”

For decades, the movie business has followed an inflexible formula: Produce features, show them first in theaters, release them on video, then broadcast them on television. But what Gale observed “” and what a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll of teens and young adults has found “” is that Hollywood’s rickety model is poised to be torn apart.

With an array of devices competing to fill their leisure time, today’s teens and young adults show diminishing interest in adhering to Hollywood tradition. They’re willing to watch brand-new movies at home rather than in theaters, are starting to use their PCs as their entertainment gateway and are slowly turning to their iPods and cellphones for video programming.

They still crave to be entertained, but not necessarily inside a movie theater.

Poll respondent Kim Boyko, an 18-year-old student in Colonia, N.J., said in a follow-up interview that she found herself watching more movies at home on a computer, on TV or on DVD. “I’d much rather have the comfort of my own couch,” Boyko said.

For years, theater owners and movie studios have argued about the timing of home video releases. The people running the multiplexes want to keep the wait period between theatrical debut and the DVD’s first day on sale “” known in the industry as a window “” as long as possible. The studios have been pushing to shrink that gap (it now averages about 20 weeks) to minimize the need for two separate advertising campaigns.

The poll found that many teens and young adults would be happy if that window were eliminated altogether. Asked where they’d prefer to watch a new movie if it were simultaneously available at home and in theaters, about a third said they would choose to stay at home, and another third said it depended on the movie. Going to movies at theaters still has appeal, particularly for younger teens, but among respondents ages 21 to 24, 56% said they wanted to see the new movie at home, and only 9% said they would rather travel to a theater.

Based on the box-office popularity of many critically savaged films, it should come as no surprise that teens and young adults care little about what reviewers think. In deciding what to see, their friends’ judgments are the ones that matter. Those opinions are sometimes spread instantly, with almost a quarter of teenagers and young adults sharing their opinions during or right after the movie.

“It used to be that we could get people to see movies that weren’t worth it because they didn’t have so many other things to do,” said Laura Ziskin, producer of the “Spider-Man” movies, whose latest installment is slated for next summer. “Now, you have to be a hit even before you open.”

Younger audiences, Hollywood’s most enthusiastic consumers of pop culture, are seeking out new types of programming and technology, though they’re not ready yet to watch short films on their cellphones or video iPods.

Nearly half (47%) of respondents ages 12 to 17 say they would watch a movie on a PC, well above the interest in doing the same on a cellphone (11%) or video iPod and similar devices (18%). A similar share of those 21 to 24 said they would watch movies on a computer, although they are much less willing to do the same on a cellphone (6%) or video iPod (7%).

As for the movies themselves, some complained about the selection. “I’m going to fewer movies that I actually enjoy,” said Maria McGinley, a Ventura County 16-year-old. “One of my friends wanted to go see ‘Little Man,’ and I said, ‘No way!’ ”

No matter the device employed, entertaining the nation’s teens will be tough. Although the youngest kids polled (12 to 14) say they are seeing either as many or more movies than a year ago, 3 in 10 teens ages 15 to 17 are seeing fewer. The distaste for the multiplex accelerates as children become young adults; 44% of those ages 21 to 24 are seeing fewer films. The Times/Bloomberg poll findings mirror a recent study by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which found an even sharper drop-off over a five-year span.

Chandra Johnson, a 15-year-old in Port Angeles, Wash., is exactly the kind of customer Hollywood wishes it could snare. Intelligent, active and culturally literate, Chandra generally consults reviews (she’s among only 10% of her age group who do) before she’ll buy a movie ticket.

But Chandra has has seen just one movie this summer “” the critically praised “The Devil Wears Prada.” Although she maintains a MySpace.com page and an instant-messaging account, she’d rather go for a long hike in Olympic National Park than go to the cinema. “Hands down,” she said. “I have a really busy life. And I’m really, really into the outdoors.”

Jennifer Given, a 24-year-old student in Sierra Vista, Ariz., says she’s seeing fewer movies too. Part of the issue is child care; even though Given took her son, Dylan, to “The Grudge” at 3 months, she says there aren’t enough movies for kids. “For one movie, we drop about $20, if not more, and that’s without going to the concession stand,” Given said.
To MPAA President Dan Glickman, the findings of the Times/Bloomberg poll is an indication of the problems facing the movie business. “You can’t have a thriving movie industry without having a thriving theatrical business,” Glickman said.

If teens and young adults are steering clear of movie theaters, where are they going? If you’re reading this story online, you’re staring at the answer: a personal computer.

“For a while, I was on YouTube every day,” Christopher Hobert, an 18-year-old in Frenchburg, Ky., said of the popular short video website. Hobert, who is about to join the Navy, said he would spend an average of five hours on a computer at school. Because he’d generally finish his schoolwork quickly, he would spend the balance of his computer time browsing through online videos. It was more pleasant “” and a lot cheaper “” than buying movie tickets. “I hate going to a movie theater,” Hobert said, “and people commenting all through the movie.”

Sensing a growing demand for movies delivered online, an increasing number of companies are shifting their business plans to address the opportunity. BitTorrent, a website whose focus has been expediting Web file transfers, recently moved toward providing licensed content.

“A lot of people want to watch movies on their PC, and part of the attraction is portability: You can take the movie with you,” said Ashwin Navin, BitTorrent’s president. “And a computer is private, in a [kid's] own space. They don’t have to contend for the remote control. It doesn’t replace the experience of theatergoing, but the selection is much broader.”

Although some theater owners are banking on an increasingly lopsided slate of big-budget sequels, remakes and TV show knockoffs to drive attendance, more chains are taking matters into their own hands. National Amusements, a Massachusetts chain with 1,056 U.S. screens, is building high-end complexes that include in-theater table service “” with cocktails “” sprawling video-game zones and auditoriums dedicated to stand-up comedy and live music.

“We can’t do a lot about the quality of the movies,” said Bill Towey, National Amusements’ senior vice president for operations, “but we can do something about the quality of the venue.”

If some are changing theater design, others are changing jobs.

After 11 years of running MTV Films, Gale is now MTV Networks’ executive vice president for new media and specialty film, where he will oversee the creation and distribution of online, wireless and video-on-demand content for all MTV divisions.

“Everything is changing out there,” he said. “We have to adapt.”

*

Home viewing – As consumers get older, home becomes the preferred venue for viewing movies.

Q: If a new movie came out in theaters and was available for home viewing on the same day, would you generally prefer to:

Male Female
Ages 12-14
Watch movie in theater 32% 30%
Watch movie at home 35% 29%
Depends on movie 33% 41%

Ages 15-17
Watch movie in theater 24% 32%
Watch movie at home 41% 32%
Depends on movie 35% 36%

Ages 18-20
Watch movie in theater 13% 12%
Watch movie at home 38% 40%
Depends on movie 49% 48%

Ages 21-24
Watch movie in theater 8% 9%
Watch movie at home 59% 54%
Depends on movie 33% 37%

Q: What do you like most about going to a movie in a theater?

Get to see it when it first screen a group of whole theater
Opens Friends experience

Ages 12-14
Male 12% 44% 36% 32%
Female 13% 35% 55% 28%

Ages 15-17
Male 13% 50% 46% 22%
Female 19% 32% 54% 27%

Ages 18-20
Male 23% 35% 35% 31%
Female 26% 24% 47% 37%

Ages 21-24
Male 17% 43% 22% 26%
Female 11% 36% 21% 33%

Q: What do you like least about going to a movie in a theater?

Teens 12-17 Adults 18-24
Expensive concessions (popcorn, candy, soda) 49% 42%

Ticket prices are too high 38% 43%

Rude moviegoers/people who talk during the movie 24% 31%

Too many advertisements before the movies 15% 12%

Bad movies 13% 12%

Theaters are less comfortable than my home 4% 12%

Q: How soon after you have seen a movie in a theater do you

Teens 12-17 Adults 18-24
During the movie 2% 1%
Right after the movie 22% 23%
Sometime that day/night 14% 16%
When I go to school/work 24% 12%
Next time I see them 36% 43%
Other 1% 1%
Don’t talk about movies 1% 4%

How the poll was conducted: The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll was conducted from June 23 to July 3 using the Knowledge Networks’ Web-enabled panel, which provides a representative nationwide sample of U.S. households. Of the 4,466 minors and young adults invited to participate in the survey, 1,904 (43%) responded to the survey, with 1,650 qualifying. The 1,650 qualified respondents included 839 minors (ages 12 to 17) and 811 young adults (ages 18 to 24). The margin of sampling error for both groups is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In order to provide as representative a sample as possible, the survey results were weighted to U.S. census figures for 12- to 24-year-olds in the United States in terms of age, race or ethnicity, gender and region, and for urban or rural residence and Internet access.

Source: Times/Bloomberg poll




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24 Comments on "A WORLD WITHOUT MOVIE THEATERS…"

  1. Felix Vasquez Jr. on Sat, 12th Aug 2006 12:38 pm 

    Theater going isn’t going to die, it just is going to fade into the background and become an after thought.

    And if it does die, DVD and home theaters aren’t to blame, it’s the studios failure to adjust to the times and look for new ways to refresh the theater going experience that would kill it.

    If they experimented every once in a while, much like Soderberg’s stunt with simultaneously releasing his film in theaters, DVD, and PPV, perhaps sales would go up.

    But greed, and refusal to bring people anything new has definitely helped contribute to the lack of movie going.


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  2. Gigi on Sat, 12th Aug 2006 12:53 pm 

    Damn, Chris! LOl what a plethra of info!

    It is always a possibility. When I was a kid, there were drive in movie theaters all over the place. The last one within driving distance closed a few years ago. Many theaters I went to (the old grand type) have been demolished out of laziness to repair, or because it couldnt compete with mulitplexes.

    I do not like the big assed cinemas and that hinders me from going now. I hate the weird stadium seating. I hate the prices. Even though I understand them…the cost of production and so forth drives it up. But the quality of movies is going down. Thank god for indies.

    Maybe movie theaters will die, maybe they won’t. But they are already a victim of mass production. I wait many times to see a movie at home unless it is a must see (have to see Lord of the Rings on the big screen kind of thing).


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  3. Felix Vasquez Jr. on Sat, 12th Aug 2006 1:03 pm 

    Mr. Gore, you should read the book “Comfort and Joi”. It’s a short read about actress Joi Lansing, but really it examines the death of pop culture and how this modern society has ruined it.

    In a chapter, the author Joseph Dougherty examines how, though theater going may never die, the experience of seeing movies is long dead because now we’re subjected to theaters that are built beside bloated mini-malls.

    And then there are the theaters that look more like airport terminals than actual grand empiric movie theaters that bring people into the experience.

    His description really did hit home because the only theaters near me are two multiplexes, and they look exactly like airport terminals and not actual theaters.


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  4. Don Lewis on Sat, 12th Aug 2006 3:25 pm 

    Not only are we subject to shitty movie theaters, but stadium seating has ruined movie going as well. Movies are meant to overcome you and the only way they do that is if you sit below them. Also, the older theaters feature a concave movie screen that matches the curvature of your eye.

    Plus, people are so used to watching movies at home, they think they’re at home in the theater and talk and goof off. I don’t think theaters will die but they’ll either get fewer or go back to one big screen for cinephiles to relax and enjoy.


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  5. Mazama on Mon, 14th Aug 2006 5:36 am 

    You need a fact checker! You write: Tower Records recently announced that they are closing all of their stores and filing for bankruptcy.

    Tower DID NOT announce that they are closing all of their stores and they have not yet filed for bankruptcy protection. The company did announce that they are for sale and it seems clear that a bankruptcy filing may be part of future sales terms.


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  6. Mark on Mon, 14th Aug 2006 7:50 am 

    I remember being in a graduate writing course and having the teachers go on about how no one reads anymore. They were wrong. They should have said no one reads what they want to write anymore. I believe the same is true for watching movies. People may not want to watch it the way that it is being presented, the movies, the location, the costs, etc. If it was done the way people wanted it, then people would flock to it.


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  7. Adam on Mon, 14th Aug 2006 12:14 pm 

    I enjoy the theater experience. The only problem I have are with the commercials before the trailers. If we got rid of those commercials. Another thing they could do is update their film projection technology. It seems that the best movie theaters with the best film technology seem to be only in California near the studios. I live in New Jersey and we have a movie theater called the Ritz. It’s a very sophisticated movie theater with a coffee bar where you can get gourmet snacks and coffee drinks. You can sit at tables and read various magazines. The theater is equipped with comfortable seats. I’m also disabled and I enjoy how the seating is for the disabled. If there were more movie theaters like this more people would go to the movies. Also there should be more intellectual and thought-provoking. Also film studios should make more more original motion pictures instead of the cookie-cutter formula that always works but usually fails. There should be more interesting horror films instead of the teenager getting killed by maniac. I mean they killed the Asian horror genre with too many of the same stories.


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  8. Trevor on Mon, 14th Aug 2006 2:08 pm 

    OK. So I hate the fact that theaters probably will go away because of VERY IGNORANT people who have no idea where the OFF button is on their cell phone. It will go away because it costs more than $20 to get a ticket a snack and a drink. I also think people are LAZY. People will always go for the lazy way out because our society is constantly moving toward being the FAT COUNTRY, the LAZY COUNTRY and if we let it happen, then it’ll just happen.

    I know that the theaters don’t make a profit on the tickets and it’s just the food “and that’s why it’s so high,” some say. But if 7 Eleven can sell Milk Duds for 70 cents and still make profit, then so can theaters. They don’t need to make a fortune!

    OK. So those are the cons. But I do have one pro about theaters going away. Hollywood films would be on the same level as independents. Meaning that you can download whatever, so why not go for the better film that has actual substance instead of something that has 10 explosions. It’d be easier to get distribution deals and it’d be easier just to get your film seen because then all films would be viewed over the same means.

    I don’t know, it’s just a thought.


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  9. Jeremy Knox on Mon, 14th Aug 2006 2:17 pm 

    It will die, but slowly. I think going to see a movie at the theatre will become an “outing” again. Like it was 80 years ago. It’s something people will plan once or twice every few months. I also think that James Cameron is right on the money and that IMAX and 3D will save films from becoming a home-only experience. IMAX can make a film be a spectacle once again.

    The average movie theatre though? It’s dead. Especially the medium screened old time family owned two-screeners that are a relic of the 40′s and 50′s. Might as well just go see the damn movie at your friend who owns the 61″ HD TV and give HIM the 10$ to watch a movie there. It’ll smell less, have more comfortable seating, nicer people and you can drink as much as you want.


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  10. Mark Bell on Mon, 14th Aug 2006 11:57 pm 

    Mazama writes “Tower DID NOT announce that they are closing all of their stores and they have not yet filed for bankruptcy protection.”

    I believe Gore’s comments are in reference to the following story from the Hollywood Reporter: “Tower Records — when the music’s over…” which states that Tower Records filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2004, and that matters are so dire that it’s looking like an additional Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing and liquidation of assets is imminent. There have been discussions throughout the industry that unless a buyer steps up for Tower, due to the amount of money currently owed by the company, that the franchise will begin closing their doors. Consider the facts checked.


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  11. Felix Vasquez Jr. on Wed, 16th Aug 2006 3:44 am 

    I also think it’s due to lack of variety.

    EVERYTHING is marketed to teenagers.

    I remember talking with Phil, and he said he was going to take his mom out to the movies, but there’s nothing there for adults to see.

    It’s true. EVERYTHING is for kids these days, and there’s nothing for adults, and when a film is playing for adults, they’re very hard to find.

    Studios killed the theaters, not audiences.


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  12. FyreGoddess on Wed, 16th Aug 2006 7:25 am 

    (Apologies, this is cross-posted on Digg.)

    I find it unlikely, at least to the extreme stated in the opening sentence.

    Here’s the problem: Hollywood has gotten incredibly lazy. We’re (as moviegoers) subjected to the bottom of the barrel with remakes, sequels and movies that, frankly, have no heart.

    I’ve stopped going to the mainstream theaters because, beyond the cost of the movie and the snacks, the enormous screen is not enough of a draw for me when it comes to crap movies. Instead, I go to the local art house theater which, in order to afford the indie films that are its staple, they’re starting to show more mainstream movies. Every week I see more people heading out to the indie theaters to catch a better quality movie at a cheaper price. The snack bar offers baked goods as well as standard movie fare (popcorn and candy), the drink sizes are smaller than a bucket of popcorn and everything is cheaper than at the larger theaters.

    My indie theater also (in a stroke of blinding brilliance) opened a cafe next door, so now I can take my snobby coffee with me to see a snobby indie flick.

    I see better quality movies for a cheaper price than the majority of people complaining about the Hollywood crap that’s been coming out. I also see movies I would never have otherwise heard of and movies in very limited release.

    Maybe it is time for the multiplex to go away. Maybe people will stop paying $10 a head to see a movie that’s not even going to be worth the price of the video rental, but there are enough people drawn to the smaller theaters and who attend midnight screenings of cult movies that I just don’t believe that movie theaters as a whole are going to completely drop off the radar.


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  13. Karmakin on Wed, 16th Aug 2006 5:39 pm 

    Multiplexes are great for movies. It ensures that people who don’t live in the big cities can see a wide variety of cinema. That’s not the problem.

    Persaonally, I love stadium seating. It’s much more comfortable, people can’t get in your way, much better.

    And there’s quite a few movies I’d LOVE to see. A whole list of them. The actual content is pretty damn good.

    So what’s the problem? It’s simply one of cost. 25 bucks for a trip to the movies…and that’s playing it cheap. Cut that cost in half, and it would be much more attractive.

    But really. There is no problem. Receipts are pretty stable. They’re dropping a bit, but we’re in the middle of a pretty bad economic time. The problem, is the expectation of infinate profit growth. THAT’S the problem. There’s more competition. They’re lucky to just tread water. But a profit is still being made.


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  14. Jose Serralde on Thu, 17th Aug 2006 12:37 am 

    Obviously provocative, the title may be absolutely right in a sense, and totally wrong in other. Who needs multiplex-halls, who needs copyrighted films? Lots now maybe. But the exact path of this process may be even simpler: less massive theatres for massive homogene consumption, and more localised film societies, cine clubs and independent exhibitors networks. Downloading, selling content and not “rights”, licencing (in a more flexible and adaptive way) and getting film consumption as part of community development…
    Then the American film industry (always last when following cultural changes), may finally understand and support those changes…
    No halls in the future? Maybe not that kind… but collective cinema experience? FOREVER.


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  15. Sam on Thu, 17th Aug 2006 3:02 am 

    Went to the Cinema the other day, it now costs twice as much as it used to when i was younger, or i could wait a couple of months and buy the film and watch it in the comfort of my own home… hmm not much of a choice there


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  16. Robert Switzer :: A World Without Movie Theatres on Thu, 17th Aug 2006 5:11 am 

    [...] The complete LA Times story is here. Use this link rather than the Digg link above to read the full text of the story. [...]


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  17. Dave Hansen on Thu, 17th Aug 2006 9:54 am 

    I don’t think theatres will fade out. I think the main problem is with the films being released lately. I remember seeing most of my favorite movies during the summer, now I’m likely to see 4 that I really look forward to. Next year I already see movies that are getting my attention almost 12 months in advance. The problem is studios seem to be taking less risks with their feature films. They try to play it safe. I love comic book films now, but now it’s like a bandwagon for studios and everyone is on board. A name isn’t a gurantee like with the Superman Returns film. If they went for quality in their films the market would probably boom. For every Spider-Man or Harry Potter film there’s 6 movies just like it trying to repeat the success. If the movie is worth seeing, I’m sure audiences will return to see it more then once. The ticket and food prices at theatres are so high is because they’re not getting enough customers. If people kept going they wouldn’t increase every few months. If your a parent leave your young child at home with a sitter, I’m sure crying babies used to bother you when you went to theatres. It’s hard to experience a good theatre viewing of a great film in your home. Huge screen, speakers blasting, and an applause at the end. Times are changing, and theatres with other businesses are being affected by it.


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  18. ChrisAllenSite.com -Blog » Blog Archive » A Future for the Cineplex? on Thu, 17th Aug 2006 3:46 pm 

    [...] Film Threat’s Chris Gore recently wrote a piece titled “A World Without Movie Theaters” which relates to what the future may hold for public cinema. I have touched on this subject with a few posts in the past, so I figured I would share some other perspective on the topic. Have a look at what Chris has to say and also checkout the LA Times article (via Film Threat Blog) he references as well and see what you think. In response to these trends, a recent LA Times story has stirred up a bit of controversy. The piece entitled “Far Removed From the Multiplex” by John Horn, asserts that teenagers would rather watch films on their computers than go to the movies. And who can blame them? Going to the movies is expensive (you can buy about two DVDs for the price of one evening at the movies) and the experience is more often miserable due to the increasing number of bad movies, endless commercials and annoying patrons. [...]


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  19. Dustin on Fri, 18th Aug 2006 6:15 am 

    So here’s the reality:

    Movie theaters will never go away.

    Back at the dawn of the movies, Broadway producers feared that films would kill their business, but obviously there are still live theater productions going on everywhere. When TV emerged, film bosses feared the end of their industry, as people stayed home to watch TV. Obviously we still have movie theaters.

    The desire for a shared communal experience is written into our DNA. We are social creatures and crave social experiences. This is one of the attractions of live theater, since every performance is different. The Movie experience is a shared experience and will continue to be so.

    What is likely to change is the economics of theater owners. Instead of just setting up screens and seats and raking in profit they will actually have to provide some greater service to their patrons in order to get them to come out. Some theaters are already examinig this model, such as the Muvico theater chain which has opened a theater in Davie, FL with restaurants, a bar, and even childcare services within their facilities. Theater tickets may cost a bit more, but the service is simply better overall.

    I for one would be happy to see the current incarnation of movie theaters disappear. They are loud, obnoxious, and not conducive to a fun, shared experience. Where are the ushers? All of the quality gained through better projectors and sound systems is lost when the guy next to me decides to answer his cel phone and get into a fight with his girlfriend. The moviegoing experience has become tedious and annoying and it requires that new ideas be introduced. Digital film distribution will help new entrants into the field, since it will help to offset the costs of film prints and allow theaters to keep a larger amount of their profit. Long term, we can expect multiplexes to shrink a bit, and for smaller theaters to emerge that cater to more niche markets.

    This is an exciting time for the movies, as technology is permitting us to do things in film we have never done before. Additionally the costs of scale are shrinking, making it possible to make movies for much lower budgets, opening the way for new filmmakers with new voices. The theaters that get on board with these changes and work to provide unique shared experiences will survive. Those that don’t will pack up shop.

    And we’ll all be better for it.


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  20. scmadrian on Sat, 19th Aug 2006 2:51 am 

    First off, let me say that I am an ardent fan of ‘movie houses’. Nabes. (neighbourhood cinemas). Grand single-screeners. Multiplexes. All of them and any of them, anywhere you can see a film. In a ‘cathedral of film’. I especially love old theatres. Just so’s my credentials are understood.

    Movie houses are threatened. All of them. As the ‘default’ choice for viewing changes from cinemas to home theatres, more and more will disappear. As we finally have ‘simultaneous releases of films (cinema, rental and purchase, either in-person or online), things will accellerate.

    Why? Part of the answer has to do with entirely different viewing habits of the up-and-coming moviegoers, ‘the kids’. A ‘night out at the movies’ doesn’t have the same meaning as it did for previous generations. Portability, a seeming lack of interest in focusing on one thing at a time (inherent multitasking; homework and texting and emailing and tv…), a different value placed on the communal cinematic experience. Part of the answer has to do with the rest of us being fed up with said teenagers’ behaviour during a show, the cost of an evening’s worth of movie-going (I know that it’s easy to make the case that ticket prices have *far* out-stripped inflation over the past fifteen years; I did a calculation that over this period, the cost of a ticket has gone up roughly 300% where I live), the price of concessions, the price of gas, yadda, yadda, yadda……which of course has led to the massive investments in home entertainment systems.

    What’s the answer? Well, I find the suggestion that movie theatres have to offer ‘more’ to be ludicrous. They shouldn’t have to offer more than a) showing the movie, b) offering up some eats and c) making the experience as enjoyable as possible. Now, as far as I’m concerned, a) so many theatres do a crap job of this, b) half the time the popcorn isn’t fresh (I have no argument with the cost of food at cinemas; this is, afterall, how they make their profit) and c) they’ve entirely abrogated their resposibility over the years regarding this. It’s not the kids or the adults with cell phones or the noisy families that have ruined the movie-going experience, therefore contributing to the downward spiral. It’s the cinema operators who have simply not done their job and ensured that those who have paid to be able to watch a movie in silence, have been able to do so. Yes, I can lambaste those boors in the audience who need to be smacked. HARD. But I point the finger at those who, in the end, are bound to lose the most. If cinemas have to ‘offer more’, then something’s very, very wrong in the state of Denmark. Anytime you had to ‘add’ items to the experience, you need to ask yourself what’s changed and is it even possible to stem the tide. These are basic business concepts. Talk to the airline industry about ‘adding features’ , and the bottom-line in the long-run.

    Truth is, Hollywood doesn’t care about the cinemas. Why should they? Hollywood doesn’t care where it gets its revenue from and for the past thirty years, as the revenue pie has gotten bigger, the theatrical slice of it is actually *shrinking*. So if they can get their monies from downloads of their offerings, if they can see $$$ in the in-store purchases or rentals of the same, why should they care if cinemas disappear? This is a changing landscape. Those who cannot see this, or accept it are doomed to moan about ‘the good old days’.

    What do I see happening? The number of screens in the next fifteen years will shrink. We will lose not only wonderful cinematic landmarks, chock-full of history and heritage, but we’ll also lose multiplexes. Corporations who try to stem the tide will, in the end, have to concede that times have changed and that for many people, opening day of the next Bond film means cranking up the home entertainment system, downloading the film onto the central hard drive and being able to watch the movie as *they* want to…which might just include potty breaks, a phonecall…and maybe a quickie.

    Personally, you couldn’t pay me to watch films anywhere other than at a cinema. My 150 or so films watched per year has actually helped to offset the trend to home-viewing, so I feel I’ve done my part. (Never mind my contribution to popcorn revenues!) I’ll grieve as each and every cinema closes. But you know; I don’t think we’re still having wakes for buggy-whip makers… Life goes on. Deal with it.


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  21. bigbopper on Wed, 23rd Aug 2006 3:15 pm 

    Well – Ive read most of the comments about the “death of cinema” and I’m amazed that almost everyone is ignoring the elephant in the front room. It’s all about the technology. Just like in real estate. It’s all about the technology (and repeat three times). From the very beginning up until about 1950, Hollywood had a monopoly on visual entertainmet. If you didn’t want to sit at home and listen to the radio – you went to a movie theater. A simple decision and a wonderful experience. With the arrival of television after WW II Hollywood finally had some competition in the visual entertainment marketplace. They responded to the threat of tv by introducing Technicolor. When tv introduced color in the late 1960′s, Hollywood responded with Cinemascope and Cinerama and stereophonic sound. Then there came a crunch when tv caught up in these technical areas. Hollwoood’s response was to introduce the motion picture rating system. This allowed them to introduce into the theater chains material that was of an “adult” nature. For the first time the nationwide chains of theaters and movie producers could show naked flesh, fairle explicit sexual acts and unbridled violence – and get away with it. This was something that the broadcast televion networks simply couldn’t match. And to no one’s surprise, Hollywood had a mini golden age of adult-themed movies through-out the late 1960′s and the 1970′s. Then, they were blindsided – not by the VCR , which merely ptovided another revenue stream – but by cable. Folks could now watch naked flesh and see unbridled violence in color and in stereo on a large screen in the comfort of their homes at a time of their choosing. In other words, Hollywood no longer had a compelling reason to brinf people into the theaters. Yes- movies are a wonderful thing. And yes- sharing them with others in a darkened theater verges on the magical. But the bottom line is the bottom line. Why should I pay twenty bucks to see a movie once (that I may – or may not enjoy) when I can watch a near infinite selection of movie in my home at my convenience with friends I know, or perhaps all by myself? There is simply no longer a compelling reason to “go out and see a movie”. And without that compelling reason, Hollywood – as we know it- is doomed. Oh yes – there is still a market for visual entertainment. In fact, it is bigger than ever and growing every day. But this is the worst possible time to invest in a movie theater or a cineplex. And the smart money is already starting to head for the exits.


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  22. scmadrian on Sat, 26th Aug 2006 9:30 am 

    To bigbopper:

    You’re missing the point. You’re confusing ‘Hollywood’ with ‘cinemas’. There’s a huge difference. As I stated, the revenue from theatrical tickets has been ‘shrinking’ in relation to the overall ‘movie revenue pie’ for a long time. (It currently sits at about 15%) Whatever the medium, the arena, the means of transport, there has to be a source for all this visual entertainment. This is ‘Hollywood’. (Or more accurately, the film industry, made up of Hollywood, so-called indies, foreign sources, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

    This is why I harp on about ‘simultaneous release’ being the quantum shift in the landscape. (No, this isn’t about technology, it’s about procedure.) When people have a choice for *new* films, when they don’t have to go to a cinema to see a *new* film, then everything will begin to shift in way that no technological advance has ever precipitated, because this option has never been there…and things have never been so precarious in the cinema distribution game. (I’m not entering into the discussion about cable viewing vs movies, because that’s not what this blog entry is about; it’s about the possibility of cinemas disappearing.)

    Bottom-line is that more people will choose to stay home for new movies, this will entrench them as far as their general viewing habits and eventually, with a 5%, 10%, 20% drop in these ‘borderline’ cinema-goers’ attendance, the cinema industry will have to ‘downsize’. This has nothing to do with ‘Hollywood’. Where Hollywood will lose on cinema ticket revenue, it’ll pick that up (and *more) on downloads and rentals on these *new* releases. The only party to suffer in this new paradigm will be anyone connected to theatrical viewing of films, be that cinema owners, cinema employees…or those die-hard cinema attendees such as myself, who will, inevitably, have less viewing options as more and more cinemas close.

    Theatrical movie-going will be with us forever. Just not to the same extent as it has been, or is now. And there will be no ‘blame’ to assign. It’s simply a function of Life: change.

    ‘Life’s not fair; it’s just fairer than Death.’


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  23. the clowning on Mon, 20th Nov 2006 9:37 pm 

    The problem isn’t as simple as proclaiming one definite reason for the decline of the movie theatre, but rather a multitude of ones as shown in this response thread. Some people think going to the theatre is too expensive ( I agree), others dislike the homogenized airport mega-plexes (I agree as well), while some dislike the stadium seating ( I disagree. While I prefer indie films and theatres, if I choose to see a movie playing at a theatre that features stadium seating I’d rather do so than sit in a crammed theatre with a crappy projector and someone’s noggin in my way).
    However, I think everyone missed the point of the article. Consumer technology has changed more drastically in the past five to ten years than it has at any other time, and because of this growth people have become accustomed to getting all forms of media quicker and easier in the comfort of thier own homes. Furthermore, teenagers of today didn’t grow up when the internet was a new idea that mainly hackers used, or when going to the indie record store was the highlight of the week. Those activities actually required some legwork, and to a certain extent a leap of faith (I personally bought many hardcore and punk C.D’s in high school that ended up sucking because I didn’t have pitchfork to tell me what is cool). Kids today can wake up in their little footed jammies and log on to the internet via high speed and download twenty records or five movies in the time it would take them to go actually purchase a CD or go see a movie.
    My point? My generation (I’m in my late twenties), and even more so the generation before me, are extremly lazy. They have everything they need at thier fingertips and would rather download an album or film in their bedroom than go to the record store or see a film on the big-screen.

    …And it’s a shame, because watching Evil Dead on my iMac isn’t the same as getting drunk at an indie theatre with all of my friends on a Friday night midnight screening.


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  24. JonB on Tue, 28th Nov 2006 3:54 pm 

    Well, its been a while since this blog entry was made, so who knows if anyone will read this comment, but here goes…

    ——————

    I don’t think you’ll see the end of the movie theater, but I do think you’ll see the decline of the movie theater as we know it.

    As you so adeptly pointed out at the beginning people still like to “communally experience a film”. Example: snakes on a plane just wouldn’t be as entertaining at home (or Rocky Horror for that matter).

    But, as I said, I think you’ll see movie theaters as you know them go away.

    With the increasing availability of broadband and the ever widening pipe, downloading movies will be very possible. Now, picture your new movie theater experience:

    You go down to the theater and pick from a list of dozens (not a dozen or even two dozen but maybe 100 movies, or more). The theater then sets a start time for the film based on when you selected it. The film goes on the active marquee and others can now choose to see the movie you just programmed.

    Now you go to the concession booth and buy your red vines (gotta have red vines) and bladder-buster diet coke.

    Time to go to the theater.

    When you get there the differences really start to take affect. Instead of stadium seating for a couple hundred people its a much smaller room for maybe two dozen people (or less). The screen is still proportionally large for the smaller audience and now you and 20+ of your closest friends watch the film.

    Because of the smaller, more intimate venue, the multiplex has now fifty of these smaller theaters and still three or four of the larger venues.

    It cycles through movies on demand.

    The theater can now offer extended runs for smaller more independent films. It can even offer the classics available on demand.


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