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Home > Blog > The Fading Experience
Out of Our Minds
Tuesday, June 28, 2005 11:01 AM
The Fading Experience
Kevin Salwen on Culture

There's an interesting change happening in the movie world: People aren't going. For the 18th-consecutive week -- a stretch of 4 months -- box office receipts have trailed last year's parallel week. It's the longest such streak in Hollywood's history.

What's behind this? It's easy to say it's a quality issue, but were movies really that much better last year? Of course, the improvement in home theaters is a factor, as are rising ticket prices and the overall decline of the movie-going experience. I know in my own case, one factor is that movies are opening with such hyped intensity that the premier weekends are packed, so I don't go. Then the next weekend, I'm just not as excited for some reason. In the end, I often miss seeing the flick.

This isn't an isolated phenomenon. We're all changing our interactions with media. But is there a broader lesson to be learned here? What should Hollywood and the theater owners do?


7 comments

Stephanie - 7/4/2005 2:32:12 PM
There is a theater is Oakland, CA called the Parkway. It is one of those places with real couches, lounge seating, long tables like at home and real food. Pastas, Baked Chicken, iced teas, and the like all for a reasonabe price.

They show cult films, classics, recent(but not the newest) releases, they have 'baby day' where people can bring their babies and all sorts of fun stuff.

I loved that theater...they should all be like that!
Rob Clark - 6/30/2005 11:42:37 AM
It's all about the experience.

I remember, as a kid, going to the movies was something special. The parents would have us put our good clothes on, we'd go for dinner and then a movie. The theatre was like a temple, elegant and beautiful. A red velvet curtain would slowly draw back just as the lights began to dim. A flashlight weilding usher would occasionally patrol the theatre to assist or shush as the situation called for.

Tell me - aside from the audience - what now differentiates a theatre from just a really good home entertainment system?

If I were Hollywood and the Theatres -- I would turn things completely on end. I would start with flat pricing instead of pay per view. When you toss down your ten bucks, that should give you run of any theatre in the complex for the day. And my theatre complex would show, not only the new blockbusters, but would offer screen classics. Turn every day into a film festival. Land of the Dead is showing - then let's also be showing the original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead in an adjacent theatre. Have an action day, where every screen shows a classic action film. Valentines day should bring out Casablanca, An Affair to Remember, etc. etc.

The food is where the theatres make most of their profit. Expand on that. Rather than the AMC model of having a theatre complex surrounded by restaurants, I'd bring the restaurants into the theatre complex. And not fast food joints, but actual sit down meals with a decent chef and friendly, cheerful wait staff. Theme the meals to whatever the current film fest is.

Every staff member should be a film buff. I should be able to ask the gal at the ticket counter what movie is good, and she should be able to direct me to the right film for me.

Ditch the commercials prior to the film and bring in the manager or a senior staff person to introduce the film. Maybe tell some trivia, maybe have a little contest or play a couple games with the crowd. A little pre-show warming up of the crowd. Make it personal. Make it a community.

The movies need to be an event once again. Make your theatre a destination and an experience.
Mark Sicignano - 6/28/2005 10:23:09 PM
What comes to mind when I think of going to a movie theater is this:

$28 for tickets, Another $22 for popcorn, twizzlers, and a couple of sodas, sit amongst the garbage from the audience from the previous movie, and sit through 15 minutes of commercials to finally get to the previews, which go for another 10 minutes.

My current 'home theatre', is a hand-me-down 27' TV, a DVD player, a 25 year old receiver and a pair of 'Minimus 7' speakers. Movies supplied by Netflix. Homemade popcorn and home made lemonade (In the winter, hot chocolate). I find this experience to be far more enjoyable.

Someday, I hope to enjoy a wide screen TV and have a 5.1 surround system.

I do get out to the movies 3-4 times a year. It'd go more often if I wasn't feeling shafted at the candy counter and with ticket prices, and if they could do away with the advertisements.
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 6/28/2005 6:48:25 PM
Hey Harold, I'm with you on the advertising preamble. Although there are times when that's the best form of entertainment you might see that night. Here are my (Canadian) two cents worth on the subject. Drop the price! I will not pay that much money to have a bunch of advertisers throwing their wares at me before I sit through a film. I go to matinees or discount houses to see my films. Another alternative is to go see Indy films, such as What the Bleep do we Know, which offer great entertainment and ....no commercials....Or, here's a thought, read a book, practise a musical instrument, go for a walk, enjoy time with someone you love.....you get my drift. Still living la vida fearless. Janet Auty-Carlisle
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 6/28/2005 6:35:48 PM
Hey Harold, I'm with you on the advertising preamble. Although there are times when that's the best form of entertainment you might see that night. Here are my (Canadian) two cents worth on the subject. Drop the price! I will not pay that much money to have a bunch of advertisers throwing their wares at me before I sit through a film. I go to matinees or discount houses to see my films. Another alternative is to go see Indy films, such as What the Bleep do we Know, which offer great entertainment and ....no commercials....Or, here's a thought, read a book, practise a musical instrument, go for a walk, enjoy time with someone you love.....you get my drift. Still living la vida fearless. Janet Auty-Carlisle
Harold - 6/28/2005 5:51:10 PM
Hmmm....perhaps mining the graveyard of TV land isn't working anymore. I have called Jerry Bruckheimer (to no avail) to see if he can get the rights to NBC's oft over-looked series 'Manimal' or if we can bring 'Punky Brewster' to the silver screen. But maybe the trend is already dead.

Nor does it seem that star vehicles are paying off. I mean now that Tom Cruise has declared himself an expert on psychology what's the point in seeing a movie? The Today Show seems a better use of time. At least it’s more entertaining and informative.

Perhaps if they'd loose all the BS ads we're forced to watch before the actual movie and develop some material with ummm....what's that called....originality and plot, then folks might come back.
hellomynameisscott - 6/28/2005 2:38:10 PM
Perhaps the movie industry could tackle the sense of community you feel in a theater full of your fellow movie watchers.For example, I saw George A. Romero's 'The Land of The Dead' last weekend. The theater was PACKED full of horror movie enthusiasts, young and old.

Here's what happened:

*200 people screamed at the scary moments together - as if we were all fighting the zombies as a team.

*200 people laughed at the cheesy, horror flick humor together - as if we were all friends.

The movie would NOT have been as enjoyable if, say, 25 people bought tickets. So, it makes me want to come back again and again.

Take THAT Hollywood!

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