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Roger Ebert breaks down why movies theaters are failing


The NZA
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Box office revenue at movie theaters "lagged far behind 2010," an article by the AP's David Germain reports. Partly that was because the year lacked an "Avatar." Partly because a solid summer slate fell off in the autumn. Germain talks to several Hollywood insiders who tried to account for the general decline of ticket sales; 2011 had "smallest movie audience since 1995." I have some theories of my own, fueled by what people tell me.

 

 

1. Obviously, the absence of a must-see mass-market movie. When moviegoers hear about "Avatar" or "The Dark Knight," they blast off from home base and land in a theater seat as quickly as they can.

 

2. Ticket prices are too high. People have always made that complaint, but historically the movies have been cheap compared to concerts, major league sports and restaurants. Not so much any longer. No matter what your opinion is about 3D, the charm of paying a hefty surcharge has worn off for the hypothetical family of four.

 

3. The theater experience. Moviegoers above 30 are weary of noisy fanboys and girls. The annoyance of talkers has been joined by the plague of cell-phone users, whose bright screens are a distraction. Worse, some texting addicts get mad when told they can't use their cell phones. A theater is reportedly opening which will allow and even bless cell phone usage, although that may be an apocryphal story.

 

4. Refreshment prices. It's an open secret that the actual cost of soft drinks and popcorn is very low. To justify their inflated prices, theaters serve portions that are grotesquely oversized, and no longer offer what used to be a "small popcorn." Today's bucket of popcorn would feed a thoroughbred.

 

5. Competition from other forms of delivery. Movies streaming over the internet are no longer a sci-fi fantasy. TV screens are growing larger and cheaper. Consumers are finding devices that easily play internet movies through TV sets. Netflix alone accounts for 30% of all internet traffic in the evening. That represents millions of moviegoers. They're simply not in a theater. This could be seen as an argument about why newspapers and their readers need movie critics more than ever; the number of choices can be baffling.

 

6. Lack of choice. 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 message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It's the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can't depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.

 

i know i'm not a good case example (notoriously cheap, have netflix/ability to download screeners, etc) but i gotta admit, $10-15 sucks even before some fo the bolded factors. i can think of about 3 movies next year so far i'll go day 1 for (hopefully with a group), but most everything else'll wait. what about you?

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methinks haku rejects ebert's premise? i cant rightly point at box office sales like him & say i'm on solid ground, just that the theater experience hasn't really called to me in a bit - i might finally try this Cinebistro out here (small theater, food & booze offered im told) for one of my 3 (and since you asked: avengers, bats, promethea).

still, i liked seeing this bit:

 

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.

 

i thought sen was flying solo, but like everyone we talk to out here uses netflix mostly as a documentary viewing machine. it's crazy.

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I still go, and I try to get refreshments, as well (even if the whole damn thing can cost fucking $20). Part of the reason shit is so damn expensive is because of how damn much people spend to make a movie. After that, they take the lion's share of the profits from the tickets from the theaters in order to get back what's already been invested, and the theater can only make money off of the refreshments. That, plus the whole SOPA thing makes me wanna say "Fuck Hollywood". Something needs to change.

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Anytime I hear 10-15 dollar movie tickets it makes me wonder why I have never paid that amount ever. I get cost of living in Texas is cheaper than most, but I would imagine that doesn't apply to movies. There are theaters here where the max price for tickets is like 8 bucks (or 5 for matinee!), not to mention dollar theaters for older movies. There certainly are 10 dollar theaters here, but not many and I couldn't name them cause I don't go to em. Sure snacks are expensive as hell too, but that's always been that way. Price isn't that much of a factor to me anyway. Theater experience is my biggest problem, but when there's a good crowd, its fun as hell.

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I still go to the movies (in a standard theater) but typically they are the big movies (for us anyway) but ticket prices are really damn expensive. We're pretty fortunate that here in Houston we have places like Studio Movie Grill and the Alamo Draft House which are like dinner/movie/booze which ends up being the cost of movie plus crappy refreshments at a normal place. The Movie grills know they make their money off food/booze so tickets are like 6 bucks or something and people are often pretty considerate there. They also show things like TMNT and Ghostbusters using original movie reels when they can which is a blast. Also early on the weekends they have great/cheap movies/brunch prices.

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I hate going to the movies. I know what's coming, the food sucks, the stories are explosion filler. Haven't been since that disappointing Thor movie, and before that... Fuck, I dunno. There's nothing fun about going, it's stopping your llife for two hours where you can't talk, can't change the channel when it sucks, and can't leave without feeling cheated out of cash.

Edited by Maldron
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Well I have found that when it is just me and my wife and maybe 1 or 2 other people in a theater, I really don't mind going all that much. I know I am going to spend way more money than I want to when going to a theater, so I only go when I want to see a movie. I don't get any food other than popcorn and maybe a thing of candy and a drink. So I guess for me, the people suck more than everything else, because I at least know what suckage to expect from a movie theater. The people though never fail to suck even more.

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yeah, axel i remember cheaper flicks in texas, too - i saw more when i was out there. i think over here it's also that they're pushing 3D more, especially in films not shot in 3D, which i think is kinda garbage.

worse yet, we've lost just about all our dollar theaters. years back, those were the best way of catching last season's movies on the cheap, but they all kinda got wiped out around the same time.

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They still have the $1 theaters here, but Idon't go to those either for a reason not even mentioned.

They look like a pile of dogshit.

 

A lot of the higher end (read: expensive) theaters have badass projectors that are every bit as awesome as bluray, but MOST seem not to.

So, in addition to all the other shit listed above

 

*The movies are (generally) uglier.

*I can't smoke

*When my wife takes one of her 500 piss breaks, I can't pause and I'm forced to quietly explain what she missed (although I seem to care that she knows a lot more than she seems to actually want to know)

*I (generally) have to wear pants

*I can't jerk off when Magneto cries

*There are no kitties

*I have to watch obnoxious commercials

*I get dirty looks whenever I shout racial slurs

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When I saw the nre Dragon Tattoo movie the theater was no where near full and it was an older crowd. I figure many younger people haven't read the books. Plus it was long, but I liked it alot. I did notice that there was more of an usher presence in the theater and maybe that cuts down on things like not wearing pants, jerking off, and talking to those who went to pee or have to yell at the screen.

 

Sorry Logans. The man isnout to get you.

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I did notice that there was more of an usher presence in the theater and maybe that cuts down on things like not wearing pants, jerking off, and talking to those who went to pee or have to yell at the screen.

What the hell kind of theater do you go to?

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I'm glad I haven't had the pleasure of working at a theater. Thought it might be cool for a while, but the horrors I have heard range from annoying asses just sleeping in the aisles to actually finding used child sized blow up dolls.... shit like that is should be enough to deter me. I think all theaters should start transforming into movie tavern/draft house/grill types where they at least have people regularly going in and out of the theaters checking on shit, serving food etc.

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I'm glad I haven't had the pleasure of working at a theater. Thought it might be cool for a while, but the horrors I have heard range from annoying asses just sleeping in the aisles to actually finding used child sized blow up dolls.... shit like that is should be enough to deter me. I think all theaters should start transforming into movie tavern/draft house/grill types where they at least have people regularly going in and out of the theaters checking on shit, serving food etc.

To a mild extent they're kinda doing that over here in so much that there are cinemas where you can buy lots of alcohol while you watch your movie. The idea of having a large steak and watching a nicolas cage film appeals to me. I may have to steal your idea.
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I love the experience of seeing films in theaters. I worked in one in high school and it was pretty much my dream job. Freepop corn, soda, and movies plus I got paid an hourly wage? Fugedaboudit.

 

Yes, prices can be expensive, but you hit the matinee on the weekend and/or pull the good ol' "theater hop" maneuver and see two for the price of one. Snacks are a bit trickier, but not a real obstacle if you try. Nothing beats movie theater pop corn, and they charge an arm and a leg for it ($6 for a SMALL popcorn at one local theater!). However, there are many alternatives if you can't afford the ridiculous prices. Women have the natural advantage of being able to sneak pretty much anything they want in their purses. If you live in a more urban area, yeah, most guys can get away w/ a backpack or shopping bag--ditto on the latter for any theater adjacent to or in a mall. However, us suburban boys are at a disadvantage when it comes to sneaking in snacks unless there's a gal in the mix.

 

methinks haku rejects ebert's premise?

Meh, not so much reject his premise, but I was more so saying Ebert is just stating the obvious and (in the cases of #s1, 2, 4, & 6) regurgitating the same old complaints that people have been spewing my entire life and likely since the popularization of movie cinemas. I'm sure there was some old man* in 1941 at a theater complaining about the bobby soxers in front of him giggling about some singer named Fred Sinatra throughout the film and endlessly moaning about how a Hershey bar cost 5cents at the concession stand in the lobby while he could get a Hershey bar and a handjob for the same price around the corner.

 

*Likely Logan's grandad.

 

i cant rightly point at box office sales like him & say i'm on solid ground, just that the theater experience hasn't really called to me in a bit - i might finally try this Cinebistro out here (small theater, food & booze offered im told) for one of my 3 (and since you asked: avengers, bats, promethea).

W used to have a two screen theater that did pizza, beer, burgers, etc. and had tables, but it sadly closed when I was in 7th grade. NOLA has a Cinebistro now and I've thought about it a few times, but the ticket prices are $3 more on average and the menu is pricey as well. I may check it out one day out of sheer curiosity though.

 

 

i thought sen was flying solo, but like everyone we talk to out here uses netflix mostly as a documentary viewing machine. it's crazy.
Yeah, I love Netflix for docs as well, but but will enough people really "go out" for a documentary or "indie" film to justify the cost to theater owners? Not likely. Michael Moore managed to do it and the demand was met. Disney is likely to break records for a doc in theaters w/ this
in April 2012. Check out the trailer and you'll see what I mean. But on the whole, theater owners are in the business to make money. If the demand was there to show more docs, they'd do it. I like Ebert, but it seems like he's talkin' outta his ass on point #6. Edited by Mr. Hakujin
fugedaboudit
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