Five Ways to Increase Movie Theatre Attendance
It's been a couple of days, but I just have to respond to this Vulture piece about how Hollywood can lure more people into the movie theatre. There's nothing political or partisan about the piece, it's just wildly out of touch with the average filmgoer and, as someone who misses the thrill of going to the movies, my concern is that the article might be taken seriously. Hollywood and the media that sucks up to it all live in a bubble-- a bubble that creates a phony reality. So even with the best of intentions working on both sides, glaring judgmental errors can be made when no one lives in the real world.
This bubble is so impenetrable, serious people are seriously considering allowing texting during movies.
If you read the Vulture article, you'll see that their Big Dumb Ideas all revolve around offering more rewards and free stuff for moviegoers; stuff like cheaper tickets, loyalty programs, and babysitters. They also have this idea of allowing Facebook fans to program what's shown in a theatre.
This lack of goodies and gimmicks is not why box office attendance has pretty much flat-lined over the last decade, or why it collapsed last year, or why it's making a major comeback in 2012.
Like a spoiled crybaby child of my own, I can't help but love Hollywood. I wish it would grow up and mature and behave itself, but I love movies so much that I can't help but love the industry that has brought me so much joy over the course of my life. So with the very best of intentions, I offer my own five suggestions for improving theatre attendance.
1. Remember 2011 and 2012. Attendance is up this year because the movies are better and more appealing to everyone. Universal appeal matters, as does quality. Simple is never easy to achieve, but it really is that simple.
2. Right now the theatre experience is a miserable one and not the relaxing, pleasurable one it used to be. Theatres do practically nothing to enforce their own rules when it comes to talkers and texters. These abysmal human beings not only break the spell of what's happening on the screen; they create tension. You can't enjoy yourselves at the movies anymore. Just the thought of going to see a film fills you with the dread of worrying about the jerk-offs you’re going to have to deal with. There should be a zero tolerance policy for these people. You talk, you text, you go.
3. Concession prices are outrageous. After plunking down $20 for tickets, you're looking at another $20 minimum for two hours worth of munchies. Part of it is the money, but you also feel taken advantage of. Because studios take so much of ticket sales, concessions are how the theatres have to make money. If Hollywood and theatre-owners could work something out, that tide would lift all boats.
4. Ohmydeargawd the advertising. After three or four trailers and/or commercials (especially the ones that occur after the promised start-time), it just gets oppressive as you start to feel like you’re being taken advantage of as a captive member of the audience.
5. Low quality theatres are also a problem. I don’t mind sticky floors, I do mind sticky seats. I'm also tired of dark, murky movies that are more often than not the result of cheap theatre owners trying to get a longer life out of their projection bulbs.
I'm not a rich man and I didn’t spend a lot of money on it, but I still have an incredible home theatre system … and I'm not alone. So if the movie doesn’t look very good or it looks like it will insult me, my choice is to pay $20 for a couple of tickets or wait 15 weeks to rent it for a buck at Redbox. That's an easy choice.
Also, if the movie-going experience is a miserable one, but in my living room the environment is relaxing and the picture will be brighter and crisper. That's another easy choice.
The problem with Vulture and these morons who want to allow texting is that they're too focused on those who already go to the movies. Okay, so you create an environment more suited to our obnoxious, spoiled youth by allowing texting. Maybe a few more will come more often. But you will also surely chase away what remains of your over-30 crowd.
If Hollywood wants to expand its audience, through the improving of the actual product (movies) and the hospitality of the theatre that delivers it, Hollywood can start to bring back the hundred million or so adults who have given up.
Trust me, there's a mammoth pool of us who love movies but hate movie theatres.