Movies and Theaters – Let’s make the Customer King and make more money

Fifteenweeks in a row. That’s how many weeks in a row that it looks like admissions to theaters for movies will
down. That’s not a streak that theater owners are happy about and rightfully so.

The question of course is why? Is it the quality of the movies? Is it the number of quality movies? Is it the
availability of alternatives? Could it be due to a resurgence of broadcast TV with American Idol, CSI, Desperate
Housewives, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy bringing in record numbers of aggregate viewers? Could it be that it’s becoming
too easy to watch what we want to watch at home because of VOD and PVRs in the home? Are kids, a prime movie
going audience staying at home to play video games or hang out online?

Or could it be that the movie industry has oversold the opening weekend of a movie as “must see” event to the
point that the movie itself is more often a disappointment than an enjoyable reward?

I don’t know. Yet.

But hey, at least it’s a pleasure to not hear theater owners and the movie industry blame piracy as the cause of
the attendance slide.

Let’s take a look at this weekend Memorial Day Weekend.

Madagascar, <
BlogBuzz
> a family film, and
The Longest Yard,<
BlogBuzz
> what I call a Top 40 Film. Then there are some limited release films like
A League of Ordinary Gentleman (from
Magpictures) and BombTheSystem,
but neither was released on more than 2 screens. Put another way, there are only two English language films
opening on more than 2 screens this weekend
! That’s not a lot of movies to choose from if I want to
have something cool to talk about at lunch or around the water cooler at work on Monday.

Of course there are continuing runs of movies, 10 or so expensive films, distributed by the Major studios, and
another 20 or so shown in limited release. Of those 12, they are usually split up 1/4(Madagascar, Kicking &
Screaming, etc) or so are for family, 1/2 for Top 40 (Unleashed, Longest Yard, House of Wax, Star Wars, Monster
in Law) and the rest typically fall in the “I want an Academy Award for Something” category (The Interpreter,
Crash, Kingdom of Heaven) for thoseof us who hope to finda little bit ofintellectual stimulation to
go with our entertainment.

So on any given night, for whatever category you feel like putting yourself intofor that night, you only
have 3 or 4 major movies, and unless you live in NY or LA, only 6 or so limited release movies tochoose from.
Is that enough to always have something that the full range of movie going public wants to see?

That’s not many choices. Not many choices for kids 12 -20 who make up the most active film goers. Not many choices
for the rest of the population that goes 1x or less per month.

Then you add the battle you go through of not wanting to fight the crowds and lines and long walk from your
parking spot against not wanting to wait so long that you are one of 4 people in the theater when you see the movie,
or have listened to everyone at work talk about the movie and spoil it for you.

When there are 40k DVD titles, all the TV shows and Movies we can capture on our PVRs and VOD and PPV, you have to
really want to go to the movies.

Which is a very good thing. People really do want to go to the movies. As Jack Valenti eloquently described in a
speech to theater owners “what you offer consumers is an epic viewing experience and an alluring social adventure
they cannot duplicate in their homes – stadium seating, huge screens ripe with luminance, the sensuality of digital
sound, unknown but enthusiastic companions of a single night – all responding to the skills of cinema artists who can
make you laugh or cry or hold you in suspense. Even if families in the future are equipped with the latest
home-theater magic, it’s just not the same as the emotional alchemy in a theater.”

He is absolutely right. Going to the theater is something that will never be replicated at home. However, unless
we give movie goers a reason to go, they won’t.

There are about 175 movies per year that gross $5mm or more. That’sa little more than 3 per week. That
ain’t enough. In a world of choice, we have to provide more, and better choices to every demographic who could be a
theatrical customer.

What will it take for movie producers to produce more good movies and drive more theater admissions?

There are a couple of issues in trying to get there and they are very straight forward.

First,movie producers need to maximize revenue in everymeans possible while a film is
top of mind. That means being able to sell DVDs, PPV, Pay TV and however else we can generate revenues under the
umbrella of a single advertising push. In other words,after spending tens of millions of dollars to get their
attention, why not allowconsumers to buy the movie how they want it, when they want it, where they want
it?
That will give movie producers more revenue visibility and return and that will increase the number of
movies they make.

Second,movie producers need to do a better job of defining the value of thetheatrical
experience. Regardless of when a consumer can see a movie, we have already defined theperceivedvalue of
waiting 4-6 monthsfor a movie. Basically, its $29.95 retail,$20 dollarsat Amazon or less at
Best Buy. Then after a couplemoremonths, the price is dropped further to $14.95 or less and a new
and enhanced version is released to grab a hgher retail price from hardcore fans.

Why not price a DVD or the PPVat a significant premiumfor day anddatedelivery? It’s $29.95
retail if you want towait 4to 6 months. If youwant to see it the same day its released in theaters,
its $39.95 retail. Plus, if we are smart, we will provide a $10 or $15 mail-in rebate against that price if you
provide a ticketstub for the movie and a receipt for the PPV or DVD.

Not only does it expand the number of customers who can and will see the movie on opening night, but more
importantly, it enhances the perceived value of going to the theater. 10 bucks to get out of the house, 40 bucks to
stay home. Of course this won’t make everyone happy. Some people will still think that both options are too
expensive. No solution will make everyone happy, but it will expand the number of customers and the revenue base upon
release.

The 3rd option is one that movie producers might not like, but needs to happen. Theater
owners need to share in the backend of DVD sales and rentals
. If the goal is to expand the revenue pie for
every film, then as key partners in this effort, theater owners should benefit as well. DVD revenues have
already surpassed box office receipts by 2x or more, but at the same time, the number of DVD sales and rental per
movie release is dropping versus previous years. Rather than stonewalling each other, everyone will make more money
if producers and theater groups work together to increase the pie.

How many DVDs of a title could be sold in theater to viewers who just saw the movie?

How much marketing support could come from DVD retailers and rental outlets to promote both the movie in theaters
and for day and date availablity in their stores?

How big an order would retailers and renters place that could be used to expand the marketing for the theatrical
release?

How much money will be saved by not having to invest in a 2nd wave of advertising for the DVD release?

Would the net value of all the above be more than 1 pct in incremental revenue and cost savings? And if it is,
what would be wrong with sharing 1 pct of DVD sales and rentals with theaters?

If the current box office is $9 billion dollars, and theater owners are netting just a few percentage points of
that, then distributing 1% of the estimated $15 billion dollars of current year movie sales and rentals could plow a
quick $150 million to the bottom line of theater groups.

Itwould not only increase theatre level cash flow significantly, but also push up the price of stocks of
publicly owned theater groups. As an example, if a group owned 6k out of 36k national screens, 1/6 of $150 million
could amount to $25mm dollars. Using Regal Entertainment Group as an example, thats an extra 18 cents per share
or double their income from last quarter. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Of course all of this is easier said then done. I don’t expect the major studios to jump up and
down to do this. Nor do I expect Regal or any major theatrical group to take the lead.

I do expect 2929 Entertainment and HDNet Films to take the lead. We will
tailor the movies we develop to fit Landmark Theaterscustomer
base. We will work with theater ownership groups, retailers and rental outlets who want to try this experiment to
develop programs that expand the pie and create more cash flow for everyone.

I’m sure mistakes will be made along the way. I’m sure that there will be surprises. I’m sure we will have to do
quite a bit of adjusting to make the program a win win for all involved.

So what?

If it works, everyone, particularly consumers benefit.

If it doesn’t, everyone calls me a dumbass, and we go back to doing it the way it was always done.

I can handle
that.

101 thoughts on “Movies and Theaters – Let’s make the Customer King and make more money

  1. I like your points. I used to be a huge movies fans and keep watching lots of hollywood blockbusters, but now,they are less attracted to me cuz they are playing the same tone over and over again, few can catch my eyes. Hollywood factory should think more besides money.

    Comment by Echo -

  2. I think theatres should set up a page where you can pay per movie to stream full quality videos to a pc. Completely un downloadable but can be rented and watch as many times as you like within 24hrs. You know the after 7pm price. It would be nice for people who want to see a movie but dont have a theatre near them or dont have transportation. The movie studios would still get their cut too. It would be a hit!

    Comment by Doug -

  3. I for one have a complete HT dedicated basement room with full HDTV 720P 110″ 16:9 and complete 7.1 surround with 3 subs .

    I recently lined up openning night for latest Star Wars movie . I was excited because it had been awhile since seeing a big feature on the Colliseum 70mm THX cinema screen .

    Although the movie was enjoyable the dull grainy blurry print was not . I for one can not wait untill DIGITAL D-CINEMA gets here as my home theater is much sharper and brighter .

    Please M.C. keep pressing the Industry to go DIGITAL as it is the only way I as a customer would be interested in paying again for a movie experience…

    Comment by Ron White -

  4. The number of people who can come up with the cash or have dipped into their home equity and credit cards for a great flat screen plasma (a 42″ is selling for $1,800) with surround sound, etc. has enabled millions to enjoy the theater-going experience at home, with friends and gourmet food and snacks. Going forward, affordable 60″-72″ screens and advanced home media entertainment centers will cause most folks to further this trend. Theaters, like music retailers, will not perish — they will simply contract and morph into foot traffic drivers that enhance revenues for surrounding shops and restaurants. The specialty IMAX-type experience also has its place. Everything in-between, however, had better saddle in for a rough ride.

    Comment by Sean Sullivan -

  5. I like to eat, snack, and those kind of things while I watch a movie.

    I like to pause the movie, and step out to go to the bathroom. I like to pay $15-20 for a movie I can keep forever rather than paying nearly $10 for one single solitairy ticket. [and thats not counting the prices at the snackbar]

    If movies really care, they’ll drop some prices. If not for tickets, then atleast at the snackbar.

    No one even brings up the fact that the home-entertainment system is, if not now, going to soon blow the movie theatre systems out of the water.

    HD, Surround, Huge TVs, DVDs, etc. are all more the reason to wait, stay home, and enjoy the DVD version which also includes all the extended/deleted scenes, commentary and the works. At $3-4 rental price, [price vary for subscriptions like NetFlix and Blockbuster online] It is ALOT more enjoyable to sit at home and watch with a .50cent bag of popcorn and a .50cent soda.

    Comment by Curt -

  6. Actually to me, the actual product of movies is much much better than it’s ever been. The idea of going to see the stars is an OLD Hollywood tradition..and it’s one that’s been dying for 30 years now. Get over it.

    Why for example, will I go to see a Johnny Depp movie? Two reasons.

    #1. He’s a very good actor.

    #2. He picks AMAZING scripts. Things that are interesting and entertaining.

    #2 is OH so important. If you can find an actor that has similar tastes to you, you can go see any of their movies and be reasonably confident that you’ll enjoy it.

    And here’s the million dollar question. Would I trade having “better” theatres for not having the chance to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Garden State, or Kung Fu Hustle at all?

    Ugh. No. Not in a heartbeat.

    Comment by Karmakin -

  7. What I don’t get is this: why do people keep talking about “$20 for a movie” and “the 3 of them went to the movies… and $50 for 2 hours of entertainment is too much”.

    No one is making you buy the overpriced popcorn and soda, and you can get in for $5, give or take, if you hit a matinee (and maybe less for an ‘early bird’ show).

    Comment by MattW -

  8. mark
    i noticed the problem of the high cost on a premier movie at the movie theater .its true, its expensive to go and spend 40 bucks for a new release, but in other parts of the world people are still willing to pay the price. the reason is that there is not a lot of options on entertainment and that means big business for the movie theaters. in the usa the moviegoers might be going down but in a great part of the globe moviegoers are on the rise and they still pay whatever price for a piece of entertainment.

    Comment by christopher -

  9. I would love to see that happen, I’m a very big movie fan. I love making movies, going to the theater, buying dvd’s renting dvd’s, etc, but I have noticed (especially lately) that I almost never go to the theater anymore. It’s such a bother (and it costs extra money considering that i’ll probably buy the dvd) that I’m usually content to just wait for the dvd. I would love to have the dvd released at the same time as the theatrical release, that would be awesome. hopefully production companies will read this and do it.

    Comment by Andrew Olson -

  10. Theaters are so yesterday.

    I absolute agree with everyone that said home is preferable over a theater; the comforts of home and friends in a clean pleasant environment is more enjoyable than cell phones, screaming kids, chairs that are dirty, waiting in line, unhealthy fattening foods, etc., for $20+.

    Not too mention, the movies aren’t that original or good. Dialog is pitiful. They prefer to put one or two “stars” on the screen at the expense of the quality of the entire movie; and then those very “stars” can pitch any and everything in commercials to us. Just because some “star” is in a movie, we are now suppose to ask our doctors about a certain medicine, buy a certain deodorant, or car, or financial service; not!

    I read Gary Marshall’s book and he talks about movie marketing that he wasn’t even aware of. For example, the marketing folks falsely promoted “Runaway Bride” as a sequel to “Pretty Woman”, but it wasn’t; that didn’t matter. How many times can they do this; how many movies can be “must see” before we suffer burnout. Then again maybe we are all wiser because of blogs and newsgroups who rate movies better than the professionals. We never see a movie on opening because the best advertisement for a movie or any product is word of mouth; besides we have higher priorities in life. If there is a movie the marketing folks are hyping I just go to a spoiler site and the marketing hype no longer works.

    I also dislike the practice of offering the movie on DVD and then a year later offering the same movie but with additional scenes. For example, Lord of the Rings did this with the 3rd movie. They came out with the 3rd movie on DVD, and then some period afterwards they offered the 3rd movie on DVD with about an additional hours worth of new scenes. I’m not going to buy the new version of the DVD, so my only recourse is not to buy DVD’s in the future, at least not right away, because I know they play these games. Walmart always has movies on sales for less than $10; you just have to be patient.

    As I get older, I understand better why my cousins did not have a TV at home; today they are lawyers and doctors and having a great life. Most successful people are
    a lot more discretionary in what they put into their heads, and watch TV and movies sparingly. I always find it fascinating when people like Oprah, Viggo Mortensen, or TV stars say they don’t either own a TV or that they don’t watch it.

    And then there is reality, we are at war, we are uncertain about our economic future with globalization, an aging demographics, and attacks on Social Security and defined benefit pensions, and we are told ten times a day that Americans aren’t saving enough.

    Comment by NotHot -

  11. When the “magic moviegoing experience” including some angry-looking teenagers chatting on their cell phones through half the movie, don’t expect people to prefer it to watching at home.

    Comment by MattW -

  12. Well, I have a simple reason why moviegoers are abandoning the theaters…
    My sister in law came to visit this weekend, and they went to the theater.
    She went with her husband and 2 kids, and they spent $50 to go to a movie.
    Now, I do not think it is justified $50 for a 2 hours entertainment. it is simply too much.

    All reasons given by Marc are valid, but I think it is simply the ammount of money they charge for a movie (with drink&popcorn) makes is inviable for a normal american family to be able to do it as frequent as they used to…

    Roni

    Comment by Roni -

  13. Someone said that the moviegoing experience hasn’t changed in years. I would disagree; it’s much less pleasant than it used to be. I love movies, I love seeing them in theaters, and I rarely go anymore because the whole experience is just so horrible. Aside from the expensive junk food and being bombarded by ads, the idea of people having a little respect for others in the theater is gone. I don’t care to spend $15-20 for a ticket and something to munch on in order to listen to the people near me chat about the movie while it’s playing. On the other hand, I’d gladly pay $10 or $12 for just the ticket to a movie if the theater had ushers who would eject loud patrons. Here in Houston, I pretty much only go see things at our “art houses” (the Angelika downtown and the two Landmark theaters) because the patrons seem more interested in the actual movies and are lot more polite. If I have to go to one of the big chain theaters, I’ll generally just wait for the DVD.

    Comment by John -

  14. 1. Renovate theaters

    a) Put better screen or Display systems
    b) Put better chairs
    c) Better sound system
    d) Put in more Ticket booth ( people hate waiting in line )

    2. Give out a booklet with a dvd , make it a more personnal event , like a premier in the booklet you have the actors bios and some site to go and visit online for more detail about them , producer bios , production house who made the movie and some of there other movie.

    a) On the dvd only include the movie nothing else , fill the first 15 min with promo for other movie.

    c) Lower the price of everything by half , make it more affordable for couples and familly.

    a) Lower the price of popcorn but double every size.
    b) Lower the prize of drinks by half.

    3. Use the movie tickets as lottery tickets where you add 1$ on the ticket just so that there is a amount of money to be won and half of the proceed can go to a charity or local teen sport club.

    4. Give online prizes with the ticket where people go online and can win HDTV subscription or anykind of prize.

    5. Use the drinks cup for lottery like : http://www.timhortons.com/en/about/marketing.html
    rool up the rim.

    6. Offer Limo and Restaurant package at low price.

    7. Offer Series package at low price with dvd offer :

    – Hitchock
    – Indiana Jones
    – Back to the futur
    – Star wars entire series
    – Jaws
    – etc …

    – Offer some Indi or B movies , no one else will be showing on big screens

    – Put some English Anime night or showing.

    Comment by RBM -

  15. This is a great summary of some of the changes that needs to happen in the movie industry. The “onDemand” process that is starting to work in other industries should be workable in movie and TV.

    Tivo was perhaps, in my humblest opinion, the biggest customer-centric breakthrough. And we are starting to see the followers – Microsoft, cable companies, satellite companies – realize that Tivo got it right.

    NetFlix also breaks the mold of paying for product versus a service. And customers are becoming more service-centric. Again, cable companies sort of do this, but rather than PPV on a per product basis, they should consider PPM (pay per month) viewing service. If my cable company offered that capability in HD, I would pay the additional cost of the HD cable box to have the service.

    Theatres need to modernize, and I don’t mean by building them bigger. The experience hasn’t really changed in 15 years and as a few other posters noted, the quality in most screens suck. I go out of my way to watch something like SW3 in a DLP screen theatre because that was really the way Lucas wants his audience to see it.

    And the overhead cost of theatres (popcorn! hotdogs!) is just crazy. It really puts me off going, unless it is one of a handful of films I really want to see on a big screen each year.

    So in summary – I would buy into a Netflix model through my cable provider, where if I wanted to buy the film, I could unlock it and burn it from the cable-box PVR to a dual-layer DVD (or BlueRay!) or keep it permanently. That would go for new and old (like “A Bridge too Far”) films. And what would be great is if the film was ever upgraded (e.g. higher definition, extended version, etc.) I could subscribe to get that upgrade (Pro vs Standard software models).

    Keep up the blog, Mark. It keeps my noodle working!

    Comment by Chris P. -

  16. Personally I’m tired of bad quality movies. I hate the fact that most movies are designed for the agegroup 16-23.

    Last movie I saw was Kung Fu Hustle, an exception, it was a good move, something I knew upfront, as I always check out critics on imdb.com before I go to the theaters.

    My wish is that the movie industry would create more intelligent movies for adults. But that might not help the theatres as adults, at least me, more often than youngsters don’t rush out to see it, but wait for the DVD release.

    Comment by John Ross -

  17. What will happen when WiMax becomes available? Intel showed how movies can be transmitted wirelessly using a WiMax transmitter at the Sundance Film Festival. I think this might change the movie industry and perhaps the entertainment industry as a whole, if WiMax goes mainstream and is in laptops, PDA, mobile phones etc. Will we still need DVDs? And how about UWB HDTV with a WiMax connection to your home? I can’t wait for these breakthroughs, but I’ll still go to a movie theatre for the ambience.

    Comment by Tony E -

  18. As an actress, I’m definitely concerned about the trend. I would say that the resurgence of quality dramas and less reality programming is part of the reason.

    Personally, I’m more a “tv” person (call me nuts, I’d rather have an Emmy than an Oscar). I rarely go to movies just because parking is pain, the tickets are a fortune in L.A. and usually someone is always being a jackass in the theater.

    Comment by Amy -

  19. Movie theatres won’t die. They’re part of the social experience, much like malls. Among the trends affecting the theater business:

    1. technology – HDTV, DVD, Home Theater
    Netflix
    2. convenience – people are working harder, dvds etc. fit it into *their* schedule
    3. cost – movies are too darned expensive. They cost more but the product isn’t any better. They are usually less original and too many have a generic bland feel.
    4. choice & quality – Too often I catch my friends saying “there’s nothing that I really want to go see, let’s rent a dvd”
    5. too much money in too few films, like vcs perhaps the big studios now want to only have a small number out there to manage? not sure.
    6. overemphasis on special effects, need more movies like ‘the usual suspects’ and ‘la confidential’
    7. marketing & business trying to remove risk.. this causes multiple studios to make the same type of movie to release at the same time. (5 Santa Movies, 5 movies about Arthur & Excalibur, …)
    8. marketing.. again. Merchandising, product placement etc. dilutes, trying to capture every key segment, focus groups and all that mumbo jumbo… leads to a movie that smells, tastes and feels like shlop.. and constantly underwhelms. pandering to everyone satisfies no one.
    9. business. everything is bigger, more centralized, controlled by fewer outfits in the movie food chain.. With so much at risk, everyone wants a safe bet, no risk. most mega movies suck.. and the boutique movies attract too thin a niche.

    The only movies I like these days are the pearls by Pixar and Dreamworks. Most everything else is eminently forgettable.

    I feel that the cost, delivery method etc. are valid issues but essentially a sideshow.

    Mainly, movies and movie theatres need to get their *soul* back. And maybe that’s a pipe dream.

    Comment by Shekhar -

  20. Since we are talking about HD Net and your productions. I was able to interview Kato Kaelin (OJ Trial) and Big Surger Ray from your new show “Eye for an Eye”
    It went well but don’t forget this is a two way street with podcasting. So when are you coming on the show????
    http://www.exit50.com/?p=58

    Andrew
    Exit50.com
    Dallas podcast

    Comment by Andrew Coffey -

  21. When I read the heading of this entry, “Movies and Theaters – Let’s make the Customer King and make more money,” I expected to find comments about how movie theaters need to better cater to their customers. Yes, measures need to be taken to improve the quality and diversity of content. Indeed, content is paramount. (That’s lowercase ‘p’, not uppercase.) And yes, the entertainment industry needs to embrace a new paradigm of delivery options. However, I was disappointed to find that this entry did not address the diminishing quality of the theater experience itself.

    Given the tales told in some of the responses to this entry as well as some of my own experiences over the last couple of years, it appears that more needs to be done to improve the movie theater experience if theaters are to remain viable players in the competition for the public’s discretionary dollars.

    Some of the measures that need to be taken are just plain good business and are somewhat readily achieved – e.g. providing clean, comfortable and well-maintained facilities, improving customer service, taking steps to deal with poor theater etiquette and offering some creative pricing options.

    Other measures, such as digital (vs. print) delivery, require the overhaul of an entrenched supply chain. This requires a greater investment and is not as readily achieved — at least not by the industry at large. The gamble is whether or not the investment required to make all these changes is worthwhile. Will a large enough theater audience find enough value in an enhanced theater experience to justify the investment? As a movie fan who values the unique enveloping and communal experience of the theater, I hope so.

    I certainly commend the innovative steps being taken by the 2929 Entertainment organization to help revitalize the movie industry. Even though Mark’s comments did not directly address the enhancements needed to improve the general “ambiance” of theaters, I’m optimistic that this is not being overlooked by 2929’s Landmark Theaters. (BTW – I’m looking forward to seeing the renovations at the Landmark Inwood!)

    As for the rest of the industry, wake up! 2929 may or may not have all the right answers, but at least they’re on the move.

    Comment by Debbie -

  22. (1) I really want to see some films “writ large.” I rarely do because so many moviegoers as rude. (Talking, cell phones, kicking seats, etc.) I would pay extra if they’d hire a monitor to keep people quiet. It’s the primary reason I almost never go.

    (2) I stopped buying theatre food when I was 15 and had to use my own money. I bet they’d make a greater profit if they sold the food at normal prices.

    (3) I get DVDs for more than the film. I want the extras. I’d buy the dvd as I left the theatre, but it can’t be the film alone.

    (4) The audience rudeness problem does exist in Canada. At least the many theatres I’ve attended in Montreal. (The Anglophone ones, I can’t say what happens at the Francophone theatres.)

    (5) I may buy one videogame a year, never go to live theatre anymore, and attend sporting events maybe three times a year. My entertainment money goes to cable, DVDs, and cds. If the movie houses want me back they have to give me a much better experience.

    (6) And that leads me to my recent viewing of Sin City: at a theatre in Florida where the seats were better than my couch and the crowd was restricted to over 21. The tickets were a bit more expensive, but the audience was small, quiet, and I was comfortable. Then the movie started

    Comment by Domoni -

  23. I thought you might appreciate Kim Lampley’s review of the Enron movie over on Huffingtonpost. com

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/jim-lampley/a-different-kind-of-cuban_1813.html

    Comment by Nicholas J. Coleman -

  24. One problem with DVD at the time of release is all the special features/directors cuts/optional Bonus stuff that makes DVD’s fun.
    If they could get that together for the same timing as the theatrical release.. that would be something. Many movies I have walked out of itchingto see directors cuts/commentaries and such, just to see what things they wanted to put in but didn’t due to some random pre-release stuy. (Obvious example is LoTR, but also extends to lesser movies as well) In many cases, I would gladly pony up to see the extra stuff sooner, when the theatrical release is fresh in my mind.

    Comment by Rob Luhrs -

  25. Mark,

    Try as hard as you want, but movie theaters are equivalent to museums. I’m actually shocked that a progressive entrepreneur would invest in such dated business models. Drop the movie theater idea and stick with DVDs and PPV. Trust me, this 15 week trend is a snapshot of a much greater picture that is currently being developed.

    Comment by Jason -

  26. By the way…check out http://www.filmmovement.com they have a distribution system similar to what you have planned.

    Comment by Nicholas J. Coleman -

  27. I’m speaking as both a filmmaker and an audience member:

    People have to pay too much for tickets. Very simple.

    When you look at the golden era of film, there was more of a selection (a lot of B pictures), including double features, etc. Ticket prices (in relation to incomes) were much lower. The competition from alternative media forms was almost nil.

    Ultimately, the only solution for saving the Movie Theater is dropping the final costs of creating and marketing the film, and then *passing the savings along to the consumer*.

    Every movie is different, and the budget for each is different, but there is a lot of fat that can be trimmed from most studio films (and marketing budgets).

    I just produced an *ultra* low budget film, and screened it for an audience in Springfield, MO. The quality was not at Studio standards, by any stretch, but the story was compelling and people enjoyed the film. And it cost very little. Most movies (action and sci-fi aside) can be made a lot more modestly than they are. That, really, is the solution.

    Can you imagine the results of a theater chain announcing ticket prices halved? Attendance would sky-rocket. But that can only happen when the profit margin of the distribution company drops, or the production costs drop. Which do you think is more likely to happen?

    Comment by Nicholas J. Coleman -

  28. I’m part of the chorus of folks who are spending less and less time at the movie theatre. The moviegoing experience hasn’t just stagnated, it’s gotten significantly worse in a lot of ways.

    – Projection is a lost art. Dim screens, misframed images and damaged prints (on the first weekend!) are way too common.

    – Theatres don’t police the house for disruptive people anymore. I don’t think audience behavior is any worse than it was 25 years ago — the difference is that back then when you kept distracting other customers you’d get thrown out for it. Nowadays you basically have to start stabbing people at random to get tossed out of a theatre, and that’s only because it takes longer to prep the house for another showing if you have to clear out a bunch of bodies.

    – Commercials. (Especially commercials that are shot on film, transferred to standard-definition video, and then transferred back to film to show in the theatre. Dim, blurred, gummy-looking NTSC-resolution content splayed fifty-feet-wide across my field of vision — that’s a *great* way to make me happy about fighting traffic and spending $10 a seat.)

    I have a lot of other entertainment options available to me — a big wall of DVDs, the full digital cable package with TiVo/ComCast DVR/On Demand, my PC & PS2 — but there’d be no problem getting me into the theatre on a regular basis again if those problems above were consistently solved.

    Back when “Moulin Rouge!” came out, my wife and I caught an early-release showing at the Avco Cinema in Westwood…and I’ve never in my life, before or since, seen a movie so pristinely projected. It was like seeing HD content for the first time after a lifetime of NTSC, like the demo you’d give Donald Trump if you were trying to get him to invest in your projection system. Having experienced what the medium is capable of when handled properly, I’ve got zero patience with any venue that can’t even be bothered to pull the damned focus correctly. And that’s pretty much all of them. Digital projection solves the print-quality problem, but you’re still going to have cheapass managers underpumping the light source and minimum-wage projector monkeys screwing up the volume and the focus. (And if the couple of digital screenings I’ve seen are any indication, you also get lots and lots of screen-door-ific pixelation. Ewgh.)

    On the other topic — theatres sharing in the receipts from home video sales and rentals — Never. Gonna. Happen. They don’t put any money in on the front end, so there’s no reason for the studios to give them anything on the back end. There’s really no savings on ad costs even if you do day-and-date buy-it-at-the-theatre releases, because the home video branches of the studios will still have to advertise the mass-market/special edition video releases later on. And really, we’re not talking $10 out of the house vs. $40 at home, we’re talking $20 (tickets for two people)+$10 (Cokes+popcorn for two people)+$?? (parking, if necessary)+$?? (stress/aggravation) out of the house vs. $3.50 (rent the DVD for as many people as you can fit on the couch)+$5.00 (Cokes and microwave popcorn for as many people as you can fit on the couch) at home. The theatres have to start adding more value to the experience to make up the difference.

    Comment by Ernie Longmire -

  29. Mark, DVDs are most definitely NOT cheaper at Best Buy than Amazon.

    Comment by Gary -

  30. Nice topic.
    I think the problem is simply PRICE and availability For YEARS AND YEARS Prices have gone up at movie theatres. I can expect to spend 60 bucks for 2 people thats just ridiculas.
    I dont care “who” is to blame.. i just know 60 bucks for 2 to see movies are a joke…
    So Now we wait for it to come out on PPV. (where we can also record it on our tivo.. while on ppv.)
    That being said…
    I like movie theatres. Nothing beats the big screen. and for maybe 1 or 2 movies a year now I will go see it at the big screen.. but its noteworthy to tell you I used to go to the movies everyweek.

    Comment by Mike Verinder -

  31. Movie ticket prices need to be lowered. Pretty simple.

    Comment by Alex -

  32. This point has been made by others, but I think it’s important enough to repeat:

    Going to a movie in a local theater means bad picture, bad sound, uncomfortable seats, bad expensive food, and I’m limited to their time schedule. And it costs at least $7 a person.

    My HDTV (60″ GWIII) has a far better picture, the sound is good, the couch is comfortable, and my kitchen is just around the corner. It costs $3 to rent a DVD.

    You do the math. Theaters are obsolete.

    Comment by Erick -

  33. I’m in Canada, and truthfully, I’ve never really had the experience that you guys are talking about with regards to going to the theatre. My ticket is 8 bucks, don’t go to concessions, (Usually when me and my wife go out it’s dinner then a movie, so we’re full..afterwards we go for an ice cream).

    But no kids screaming. No cell phones. No people talking. No nothing like that. I’ve just never really had it happen to me. But still…

    Artifical scarcity quite frankly, is the cause to all the problems. Why wait 6 months for the DVD release? Would I pay 30 bucks walking out of a theatre of a movie I just loved to pick up the DVD and watch it again when I get home? Hell yes I would. I’d go JUST to get the DVD for a movie that I know that I’m going to love anyway.

    And this is coming from someone who actually likes going to the movie theatre. Boy are these people in trouble.

    Comment by Karmakin -

  34. I spent a year in Paris 2000/2001. They had a system where you paid about 20$/month to go to as many movies as you liked.

    I believe that such a system would increase attendence enormously, but I also believe that it willl increase revenue, because now I’m not spending 20$/month to go to the movies, but more like 5-10 $ and in addition to this since attendence would increase sales of popcorn etc. would also increase.

    I guess that the problem is that the studios do not approve of the system since it would likely mean that more money would go to independent movies since the people would watch more movies some of which would not come from the big studios.

    Comment by Per Gustafsson -

  35. Hey Mark,

    The three suggestions make a lot of sense.

    The issue, however, must not be how the major studios can make the process more meaningful, but whether there’s meaning in doing it. The movie theatre industry is struggling. And here’s three reasons why they are not going to be what they were couple of decades ago…

    TOO PRICEY. I could compare a fat black lady with a baby, making stupid comments and telling the actress where the killer is hidden with tackling my little brother on the living room floor during a DVD sex scene so he doesn’t plug his PS2 in the middle of my enjoyment. Both have pro’s and con’s as such, but what matters to me, the Eastern European college student, is that staying home with 3 friends is just as socializing/fun as going to a movie, only that we end up paying $4 each instead of 15-20 each. It’s the price of homewatching that can’t be replicated. And 5x cheaper.

    NO INTERACTIVITY. But lets get out of my skin and look at people that have $20 in their bank accounts. Are they going to continue to go to movies? No. These as you said are the teenagers: 12-20 year olds. And what are they doing? They are killing bots or steering the Gran Turismo 4 wheel. Its the era of interactivity — game consoles, computers, lavalife/thefacebook.com.

    NO CHOICE. But i guess you can see i am an ex-gamer. Let’s step out of my skin again. Are major studios going to make money either way? (with or without releasing DVD’s at the time of theatre screening) No. Because they can’t provide quality for the mass – the shotgun approach combined with monster marketing works only so much. You say “…That’s a little more than 3 per week. That aint enough” Yes, you’re right. It’s math. Its nature. You can’t satisfy everyone’s taste with the same movies. At least half of the top movies i watch on theatres make me wonder, ‘How do those guys dare put that much advertisement in this brainless 2hour killer’ There is a very nice and just as old article from Wired Dec’04 named “The Long Tail” (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html). It nicely proves the 20/80% rule wrong and completely ineffective, meaning that more movies produced can never be put on the same scale as the long tail. And we all know that we are coming to a time when you are not limited to broadcasting anymore. There’s Rhapsody, there’s Napster, there’s yahoo (killing both former ones), there is Netflix. And guess what? More is coming up with broadband, downloading movies and games (don’t forget games revenues outran DVD’s in 2004!) and even reducing them to a flat fare just like it happened with the music. Can’t beat the efficiency, always comes back, no matter how much you closet it.

    I just don’t see customers becoming kings… I’d just sit and watch HDVD’s in the future…

    Comment by Petar Petrov -

  36. I just went to the movies today so this is a perfect topic for me to elaborate on.

    My wife & I are mid 20’s, no kids & disposable income. We both love movies, everything from Disney, to action, to intellectual flicks.

    At the movies this Christmas was settling down to watch National Treasure, a mildly amusing action flick. As the opening sequence started I realized that the picture on the screen was worse than my new 52″ HDTV & entry level suround sound.

    To be honest, the way movies are delivered today sucks. While watching on the “big” screen has its bonuses, seeing all of the static, hairs, & pops drives me nuts. In an age when everything from music to home movies; televion to telephone service is digital, why do we put up with such horrible pictures. It sounds like we aren’t anymore.

    Today I saw Star Wars because that seemed, to me, to be a movie that needed to be seen on the big screen for the first time. Will I still buy it when it comes out? Definately, but I decided to spend the extra $25 to see it on the big screen. I was rewarded with white snow on the lense throughout the entire movie, so bad that in every dark scene I was distracted.

    When will the theater industry wake up & realize that the format that these movies are being delieved on needs to change & quick. They need to give us a reason to spend the premium $$ & visit them instead of waiting for the DVD.

    The release of Star Wars has proven that people still want to go to the movies & be part of an event atmosphere that can not be delived at home. The theatres need to at minimum match, & in reality exceed our viewing capabilities @ home. With the release of HDVD’s, Bluray, & Gamestations such as PS3 just around the corner, our home viewing ability will soon be of vastly superior quality than the local cineplex.

    They still have time to get us back but time is rapidly vanishing.

    Comment by MIPO -

  37. I for one and not one to watch the same movie twice in a week, month, or even a year. Back when they made great movies I might buy into your suggestions but these days the “Blockbusters” aren’t worthy of $8-$10. The only decent places here in Dallas are the Angelika and Magnolia – you can drink and eat there.

    The movie experience is outdated and hasn’t changed a bit. I wouldn’t be suprised if more theatres keep closing like they are. Netlflix rules ~ why see it now when I can wait sometimes 2 months and it comes right to my mailbox. If a movie is ever higher than $10 a showing, that is when I stop going all together…that’s 1/2 a month of Netflix with unlimited movies. Hotels seem to have movies “already in theatres” – why is that limited to hotels??

    Comment by Jonathon -

  38. perhaps the theatres simply need to change how they present the product. they’re still mass marketing. let’s make theatres exclusive. movie-goers nowadays are in the minority and they are looking for and “experience”. They mega-plexes can take each one of their screens and “brand” them.

    In one theatre they could have waiters bringing the customers their orders, which could be taken before the movie begins.

    In another theatre there could be large couches everywhere so that families could sit together and watch disney’s new releases

    the marketers need to think like the consumer. Mass entertainment has gone the way of the dvd now the theatre owners and companies need to take their theatres the way of the boutique and exclusivity. If people are going to pay 20 to 30 dollars per viewing experience then it should be an experience.

    stay strong
    Darrin F. Coe, MA

    Comment by Darrin Coe -

  39. “what you offer consumers is an epic viewing experience and an alluring social adventure they cannot duplicate in their homes”

    Saw Longest Yard today, guy had a crying baby that wouldn’t stop. Next time it will be a cell going off and the next time it will be people who won’t stop talking or commenting out loud. Every movie its something different and its all adding up to becoming a pain in the ass to endure the knuckleheads that go to the theatres.

    Then you have the $5 popcorn…that’s another story. Tell Valente that doesn’t add up to ‘epic’ for me anymore.

    Comment by Doug -

  40. When a new movie came out that looked interesting to me, I had a strong urge to see it. I don’t know where it came from. Maybe a behavior from my childhood, maybe because I wanted to feel part of whats going on in my community, some cosmic togetherness thing, or maybe I’m just a fool for hype, I don’t know. What has happend is. I have that movie and all movies available to me at home, anytime I want them. I have lost interest, the thrill is gone. I barely watch movies at all anymore. I’m sure Hugh Hefner is not as excited about being at the playboy mansion as you or I might be.
    I think people need to feel special in some way. Being the first to watch a movie is one way of feeling that way. You are talking about crossing the lines of the sanctity of theater. The decline in movie attendance and dvd sales is evidence that it’s happening anyway. You are just speeding up the process and trying to bank on it. In a way it’s sad because my kids will never feel the same sense of urgency and magic I felt. On the other hand the digital revolution is amazing and I feel sorry for the people not riding the wave.

    Comment by DirtyMuffin -

  41. As a 30 year-old married guy with his first child on the way, movie theatres are irrelevant to me. Here’s why:

    1. You gotta go to the theatre. Parking, waiting in line for a ticket, trying to find a good seat – it’s all a royal pain. At home, the movie starts when I press play. What if I get stuck in traffic and miss the first ten minutes of the film? I might as well not have gone.

    2. There are other humans in the theatre. They sometimes yell at the screen. Yell at their children. Kick the back of my seat. At home, the only annoyance is my cat, and I can lock him in the garage.

    3. The seats are uncomfortable, even the supposedly good kind. I have a nice couch at home.

    4. At home, I eat what I want when I want. For what it would cost for two large cokes in the theatre, I could open a decent bottle of wine. And, I can hit pause both when pouring it and eventually “disposing” of it. Besides, how can you watch Sideways without wanting to pop open a nice bottle of pino?

    5. Many theatre operators, perhaps concerned that I won’t be able to hear the movie over the other humans, turn up the volume so loud that it hurts my ears. I have a volume control at home.

    6. My viewing experience at home isn’t as good as most theatres. I have surround sound, but haven’t yet invested a couple of grand for a good 16:9 HD monitor. But, when I compare my lackluster system to interruptions from the people in front of me getting up to go to the restroom, concession stand, whatever…

    7. Perhaps it would be nice to see a movie the weekend it comes out. But, unless it’s something really special to me, my schedule usually keeps me from seeing it until it’s out on DVD anyway. I can see how others might want to see films sooner, but I don’t really care.

    8. I like documentaries and other esoteric stuff. There’s only one theatre in Cleveland that shows a lot of the films I see. So, I don’t reap the benefits (lots of show times, convenient location) of a film showing simultaneously on seven screens at a megaplex.

    9. Mark mentioned that competing entertainment options might be keeping people from the theatres. My wife and I like movies, but we haven’t been to a theatre to see one in months. And, we haven’t played video games in years.

    I get what you are trying to do via vertical integration of the movie industry, but it doesn’t affect my life unless Netflix doesn’t carry stuff I want to see.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve -

  42. Mark:

    As someone who worked as an exhibitor, (I managed a multiplex many years ago) my first thought on the 15 week drop in attendance is that it might coincide with the increased gasoline prices which have now started to ease. Gasoline prices would seem to impact teens and younger adults more than older more established adults.

    Historically, the period just before the summer releases is slowed by films released at that time because the studios were disappointed in them and had low expectations. I would also suggest that this springs film faire has been very weak.

    In my opinion, there will always be a need for theatres to exhibit films because people like to “Go out.” I myself thought theatres were going to die in the late 1970’s. In the 1980’s the amount of product increased dramatically and there was more attention given to providing a quality product, i.e. picture and sound. Now we are so used to this kind of quality at home, the challenge for exhibitors is to establish and maintain quality service and facilities.

    I keep expecting the sensitive film “prints” to be replaced by completely digital systems in more theatres. New technologies to jam cel phones inside theatres (and still allow for staff radio signals) will unfortunately also become a necessity.

    As for simultaneous release, without some kind of profit sharing with exhibitors I’d say that’s a sure way to finish them off. I don’t see theatres surviving and that would cut into a major part of the profit for any film. I’m not willing to increase the cost of DVD’s in order to grant a share to exhibitors in exchange for waiting a few months. I can wait.

    Comment by Cary Blasingame -

  43. Well, I haven’t been to see a movie at the theatre in almost a year since I became a second-class viewer – a new parent. A few theatres have “baby friendly” showings, but the selected movie is never something I (nor my wife) want to watch.

    Comment by Andrew -

  44. Mark,

    Ever cross your mind that paying $30-$40 for 2 people to watch a 1 1/2 to 2 hour dud, while having to sit there, knowing you paid $6 for about .25 worth of syrup and water, eating .10 worth of popcorn that you paid $5 for, is just getting old ?

    In the ’30’s and thru the ’70’s, there wan’t anything else to do…now there’s 20 things that are a helluva lot more fun, less costly and all the while, you know in a few months you can see it on DVD.

    Face it, when the producers try to suck even more money out of the public by releasing the crap they make in 90 days or so…well, they can only cut off so much of their nose to spite their face.

    I’m not gonna eat crappy food, sit with a bunch of strangers and not be able to hit a pause button very many times each year.

    Get rid of theaters, go straight to DVD and progress like the rest of the world’s industries.

    Movie theatre’s are dead…long live the DVD !

    Comment by Mike Sigers -

  45. Mark, your post really speaks to me out here in L.A. in the entertainment marketing business.

    One of the things that I think that the creative, film-development types out here in L.A. are missing (and hence, their productions are not delivering an emotional response which would tend to generate more revenue for financiers, studios, theatres, etc) is a willingness to spend time a lot of time talking to people in the market before shooting ever begins.

    For example, I am marketing an independent film that has to do with pharmaceutical sales reps. The film is already “in-the-can.” For the sake of marketing insight, I personally talk to dozens of pharmaceutical reps and ask questions about their jobs and what they would like to see in a film; I find a wealth of information: that they would love to see this, love to see that in the film, love a scene showing a rep moaning while getting up at 6am on a Monday in some out-of town airport hotel.

    So here I have this knowledge that could literally help to “close” a very large target audience for this film: pharmacutical sales reps or travelling reps in general. But, the film is already “in-the-can” and the budget is maxxed, so the opportunity to appeal more precisely to those “reps” and their millions of contemporaries and dollars in ticket/DVD sales is lost.

    I firmly agree with your idea about tailoring your 2929 Entertainment and HDNet film productions to Landmark demographics. As a matter of fact, I think it is the foundation upon which all your other plans for box-office revenue enhancement should be based.

    “Close the audience and you will open their wallets;” then let your team of MBAs do the rest with the new entertainment production and distribution efficiencies of which you wrote.

    Comment by chris franklin -

  46. The BIG why here has been idolized in a recent chimpin’ post: http://myitforum.techtarget.com/blog/rtrent/archive/2005/05/21/6659.aspx

    Comment by Rod Trent -

  47. “How many DVDs of a title could be sold in theater to viewers who just saw the movie ?”

    Holy s*&^, that’s a good idea. In the past few years (starting in clubs, but I think they’re doing it in big arenas now), it’s been a common thing to be able to purchse a CD of the show you just heard; while it’s clearly different in some manner (all music performances being different, as any Deadhead will attest), in many ways it’s the same.

    And as you say, the marketing (assuming they like the movie, and hey …) takes care of itself.

    Comment by bskeels -

  48. I can’t explain the decline in movie attendance over the past 15 weeks, but I can say that I only go to a movie about once a year now. I used to go to movies all the time; a college budget will change habits. Now out of college I can afford $10/person to see a movie, if I feel the need. But that’s a lot to pay for one viewing, unless it’s something I really want to see.

    With the prices of DVD’s dropping to very reasonable levels in the last 5 or so years, I’m more inclined to buy a disk for $10, and keep it forever, than to take a chance on a movie in a theater.

    As for one of your ideas, I love the idea of buying the DVD at the movie’s release. They can, and should, charge more for the disk then, but your idea of a rebate if you have a ticket stub is a great one. The downfall I see is people just asking a moviegoer for there stub to get the discount.

    The experience of seeing a great movie in the theater can’t be beat, but with the ever increasing prices of that experience continually going up I can see why people will just buy a DVD they haven’t seen before and saving money. If they like the movie they now own it, if they don’t like it, they still saved money.

    Comment by Kyle -

  49. Mark, I think what will really help this whole industry is someone like yourself who can now take a movie from creation to public release. Because you really have a part in all aspects of a movie, you will be able to set standards for new ways of producing and releasing movies. You have the ability to create all-digital theaters, DVDs released at the same time as opening day, etc.

    You definitely have some great ideas and I look forward to seeing how you can shake everything up.

    P.S. You really need to get Comcast Dallas to move to HDNet, I mean it is your home city.

    Comment by Berg -

  50. Well, Mark, there are other problems, I think. I went to see Revenge of the Sith on Friday. Great film, but there was a hair and dirt in the gate for the last 30 minutes or so. That kind of distraction just doesn’t happen at home when I play a DVD.

    I remember seeing House of Sand and Fog at our local theater: they had framed or cropped the picture so that the English subtitles for the character played by Oscar-nominated Shohreh Aghdashloo were off-screen. It’s like they had never screened the entire film: the subtitles came well into it.

    Comment by Art Shotwell -

  51. Mark, you pass by cost as if it’s a neutral factor but the truth of the matter is that it costs two people 20 bucks to see a first-run movie — IF they don’t buy popcorn, snacks, or anything else. $20 may not sound like much, but it’s half a new XBox game, it’s a month’s worth of movies from Netflix, heck, it’s most of a decent dinner for two at my local Indian restaurant.

    For your $20, you get to watch commercials until the lights go down then watch more commercials and trailers before the main feature. If you’re lucky, the feature won’t suck too badly (but the odds are strongly against you).

    How much better to stay home and watch a month’s worth of selected movies with your friends?

    Comment by PeaceLove -

  52. Thanks for finally explaining just what the hell your thought process is on all this vertical integration, Mark. As someone in the business that actually finds the trade papers a good read, I have never quite gotten the gist of what you and Todd are trying to do, but I like it.

    The Hollywood model is flawed (see DreamWorks reporting earnings down, with Shrek 2 [$940 billion] in the pipeline!! – but you better believe the execs remembered Kate Capshaws birthday).
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000921621

    I understand a lot better now. I say good luck. I think something innovative will come out of it. Those of us outside of LA are behind you.

    Now if you could only explain to me why you would have anything to do with the new Weinstein company (unless it’s in a marketing capacity ONLY)… isn’t life too short, especially when your not worried much about rent?! Just ask Soderbergh…

    Comment by Don -

  53. It’s amazing how the typical movie theater experience has yet to advance beyond what I remember as a toddler.

    Well, I don’t see “Milk Duds” being sold nowadays, but everything else is more or less the same.

    I thought by now we’d have “surround video” or something. If going to the theater guaranteed a more compelling experience, the MPAA wouldn’t have to worry so much about “piracy” of DVD-quality movies.

    When technology raises the bar, we all have to adjust. Somebody please inform the –AA’s of the world.

    Comment by Charles -

  54. YOU ARE WRONG.

    The system works. What doesn’t work is the CRAP quality of the movies we are subjected to.

    Besides, if anyone knows anything about digital, Mr. Cuban should know that as soon as a $39.99 1st day copy hits the street — it’s pirate copied on eBay for $9.99.

    Comment by PMM -

  55. great site with very good look and perfect information…i like it

    Comment by Litfaßsäule -

  56. great site with very good look and perfect information…i like it

    Comment by Litfaßsäule -

  57. The only theatres worth going to are the Landmark’s. They cater to a more adult crowd. As I get older I prefer going to theatres that have a bar instead of video games in the lobby🙂 They also tend to show interesting movies not remakes of television shows or movies.

    Comment by philleto -

  58. Some of the measures that need to be taken are just plain good business and are somewhat readily achieved – e.g. providing clean, comfortable and well-maintained facilities, improving customer service, taking steps to deal with poor theater etiquette and offering some creative pricing options.

    Comment by runescape money -

  59. Theatres need to modernize, and I don’t mean by building them bigger. The experience hasn’t really changed in 15 years and as a few other posters noted, the quality in most screens suck. I go out of my way to watch something like SW3 in a DLP screen theatre because that was really the way Lucas wants his audience to see it.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  60. Criticism! Great response Mark. You are a pioneer a reformer bringing change and that comes with criticism. Society never respect the present reformers but history loves them. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Troy Peterson -

  61. What movie experience? I built a Home Theater and I am soooo happy with my HT. It offers a better (and genuine) movie experience.

    When my wife and I went to see “Titanic”, there were a bunch of people behind us talking and laughing throughout the entire film. Not enjoyable! The scene where Jack and Rose are floating, these people start yakking away… my wife, never one to control her tongue (and believe me, I thought she’d explode sooner!) stood up, turned around and yelled an entire array of expletives deleted to these ..idiots. The entire movie audience applauded her actions. Needless to say, the people behind us stopped their yakking and we could enjoy the last 15-20 minutes of the film. We did not return to see movies for years. We finally relented and took out daughter to see “Ice Age II”. Spent too much money (over $40), heard too much noise, and had people crossing in front of us to go to the bathroom at least 8 times (Jeez, we had chosen the pee-pee row!). WHAT EXPERIENCE are people talking about?! Bad experience?

    I decided to create a home theater with projector. Dressed it all up like a theater. Used my 5.1 surround sound. Curtained up the entire room, built a ticket booth, memorablilia area, purchased some Movie posters, and wallah! NOW I HAVE MOVIE EXPERIENCE! We eat popcorn (with real butter), drink Coke and Sprite, eat hot dogs. (and it costs a fraction of the theater stuff). No one talks, the bathroom is a few steps away, we can pause the movie. I truly enjoy movies, have hundreds of them in my collection. In all honesty, I built the entire room with about $1000.

    Conclusion: For less than the cost of going to the movies 30 times, I can go to the movies any time, see whatever movie I want to watch, at my own schedule, with people I love and care for, HECK… I will probably never go to the movies again.. well, maybe once or twice, for big blockbusters and to be reminded again why I don’t go to movies! So am I sad to see them go? NO WAY! They should go the way of the dinosaur… extinction. Oh, and I can watch the first-run movies. There are ways…..

    Comment by Lewis Sanchez -

  62. What movie experience? I built a Home Theater and I am soooo happy with my HT. It offers a better (and genuine) movie experience.

    When my wife and I went to see “Titanic”, there were a bunch of people behind us talking and laughing throughout the entire film. Not enjoyable! The scene where Jack and Rose are floating, these people start yakking away… my wife, never one to control her tongue (and believe me, I thought she’d explode sooner!) stood up, turned around and yelled an entire array of expletives deleted to these ..idiots. The entire movie audience applauded her actions. Needless to say, the people behind us stopped their yakking and we could enjoy the last 15-20 minutes of the film. We did not return to see movies for years. We finally relented and took out daughter to see “Ice Age II”. Spent too much money (over $40), heard too much noise, and had people crossing in front of us to go to the bathroom at least 8 times (Jeez, we had chosen the pee-pee row!). WHAT EXPERIENCE are people talking about?! Bad experience?

    I decided to create a home theater with projector. Dressed it all up like a theater. Used my 5.1 surround sound. Curtained up the entire room, built a ticket booth, memorablilia area, purchased some Movie posters, and wallah! NOW I HAVE MOVIE EXPERIENCE! We eat popcorn (with real butter), drink Coke and Sprite, eat hot dogs. (and it costs a fraction of the theater stuff). No one talks, the bathroom is a few steps away, we can pause the movie. I truly enjoy movies, have hundreds of them in my collection. In all honesty, I built the entire room with about $1000.

    Conclusion: For less than the cost of going to the movies 30 times, I can go to the movies any time, see whatever movie I want to watch, at my own schedule, with people I love and care for, HECK… I will probably never go to the movies again.. well, maybe once or twice, for big blockbusters and to be reminded again why I don’t go to movies! So am I sad to see them go? NO WAY! They should go the way of the dinosaur… extinction. Oh, and I can watch the first-run movies. There are ways…..

    Comment by Lewis Sanchez -

  63. Comments on Media Post regarding Cuban calling Preston Padden, EVP – Government Relations, Walt Disney on the carpet. Way to go Mark!

    http://www.kaboodleventures.com

    http://blogs.mediapost.com/spin/palmer/?p=46

    Comment by Christopher Conlan -

  64. I’ve been a projectionist for 30 years, and I grew up in the theater business. (My dad was a manager for United Artists Theaters) When I started out in the projection booth, the quality of the presentation was critical, but not any longer.

    In the 1980’s the big theater chains figured they didn’t need REAL projectionists anymore. My job was all but eliminated, and given over to the snack bar kids. The owners gambled that the audience wouldn’t know the difference. Well, the more blogs that I read like this one, the more I realize that movie-goers DO know the difference. Years ago, I was taught that if I’m doing my job well, the audience doesn’t even know I’m up there in the booth.

    I work part-time now in a 3-screen art theater. The owners employ the few of us projectionists that are left here in Sacramento.

    I’m not saying that poor projection is the whole problem, by any means. But if I’m paying $9-$10 for a ticket, I want a perfect show. No scratches, no sound drop outs, and razor-sharp focus. That’s the way I run MY show. Every theater should be run that way!!

    Comment by Rick Green -

  65. Looks good!
    Your site is very good. Thank you for the opportunity to post comments.
    Go on like this and i will surely visit your site again sometime.

    http://www.100down.com/search.htm

    Comment by download -

  66. Well your prediction (observation) has continued to the point that Movie Theater House Owners are not only worried but are attempting to ochestrate enticements to get the moviegoer’s “butts back in the seats” – witness the NYT article from 12/17/05 – –
    Pursuing the Scarcer Moviegoers
    By SHARON WAXMAN
    Published: December 17, 2005
    SANTA MONICA, Dec. 16 – With evidence increasing that the American moviegoing habit is in decline, theater owners are undertaking
    a concerted campaign to bring it back.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/17/movies/MoviesFeatures/17thea.html

    It looks like a good time to meet their efforts with a counter offer for entertainment!

    Comment by M. T. Powers -

  67. I found this blog and the comments very interesting ….. stumbled across it via a link from another site. I can only speak for myself, but I have become very disenchanted by the movie-going experience. As a film school graduate (albeit now working in an unrelated industry) I certainly have a passion and appreciation for film. There are myraid reasons why, of which are difficult to rank in importance, but I’ll touch on a few. 1) I recently bought a DVD Box Set of Audrey Hepburn movies. Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Need I say more? We are sadly void of stars like this and films like this. Current films seem fixated on the grotesque, the angry, the disturbed, etc… A character cannot have depth without being crude, base, or addicted to something. What happened to films that make you glad to be alive? Films you love. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been to a movie theater and walked out inspired, proud to be seen walking into and out of the theater, and glad to be alive. They are out there ….. but maybe one out of a hundred comes close. 2) Moviegoing is, frankly, annoying. I don’t mind paying $6-$10 to see a movie. Heck, I wouldn’t mind paying $20 to see a movie. But I don’t want to spend the first 15 or minutes watching commercials and to have product placements throughout the film. Whoever makes the decision to run commercials at the beginning of movies needs to realize that this takes away from the movie-going experience. The reason we go to the theater is for the movie-going experience. When the experience is gone, we won’t go. I don’t care if somebody is talking in the theater, I don’t care if somebody is taking their kid to the bathroom … I can still see the screen and hear the sound. However, I don’t want to pay to watch commercials. I can do this at home. 3)Movie houses have competition. Let’s come up with a compelling reason to go to the movie house and people will pay the money to go. We pay good money to go to a concert, to a play, to the orchestra, etc …. but we get an experience. You get a program, you get a beautiful venue, you get the social event. A movie house could also be this. I would rather pay $20 for a ticket to a 70mm film screen in a beautiful theater, I would pay $5-10 for a glass of wine or a coctail in the lobby, I would buy a copy of the DVD in the lobby on the way out(great idea, by the way) ….. all of this …. over what we get today. And …. if people enjoy going to the movies again …. we still will buy the DVD to watch at home. We both win. Doesn’t this all seem obvious?

    Comment by Steve -

  68. I love the idea of you option 3-this would clearly benefit chains like Landmark-look at CRIMEN PERFECTO as a good examplke-but what would you give up to get a share ?

    Comment by Michael Harpster -

  69. I read this post when you wrote it but just came across an interesting aside in today’s (2005-08-16) Hollywood Reporter:

    —-

    Just last week, Walt Disney Co. CEO-elect Robert Iger had the courage to state the obvious.

    “We have to truly look more aggressively at (exhibition) window changes … not only for the studio business but for the TV business. The notion that a product airs on a television network and remains exclusive, in effect, until its rerun airs some six months later, is just one example of what has to change from a windowing perspective,” Iger said. “We can’t stand in the way, and we can’t allow tradition to stand in the way, of where consumers can go or want to go.”

    —-

    from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/columns/mermigas_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001015279

    Comment by Peter Jacobson -

  70. Here is where I think the problem lies in the movie business: the delivery model for films is very inefficient, expensive, and therefore fraught with risk. Studios use actors to try and mitigate that risk. Problem is, they pay way too much to actors for that privilege… and they should be reducing the risks every way they can instead of trying to buy their way out of it like they do.

    The studios need to look at how to make the whole process more effiencient and how to improve the product so that demand is driven by quality, not just recognition of a lead actor and millions of dollars in barrage-marketing campaigns.

    It really comes down to getting a better business strategy, which Hollywood hasn’t ever really seemed to keen on. Now they are going to end up paying the price, as consumers are the ultimate people that make the decisions… and, if you notice, consumers are really starting to build up a groundswell of demand for change.

    Is Hollywood ready? I don’t think so… they may be too entrenched in their outdated business model to understand how to make the change. It is very doable, if they take the time to research it. Otherwise, they can be pig-headed like the music industry and end up wasting a lot of everyone’s time and money… which is just a total shame (beyond being bad business practice).

    They need to learn that, just because people love their music and movies, doesn’t mean that they will be willing to buy poor quality product at an inflated price. In short, they’ve taken their eye off the consumer, and now it’s come back to bite them in the ass.

    Comment by Shawn -

  71. The reason prople are not going to the movies is because
    it is no the exp. it was even five years ago, Blame the
    Actors and actresses who rec. 12-20 million dolars per
    pic. This stresses the bottom line with the producers
    because they have to have a blockbuster hit every time
    This means for every movie that doesn’t hit the studio
    has absorb that hit and quality screenwriters and people
    who love and breath movies never get a chance. It’s a
    backward world that needs to change, or it will wither
    When I studied film ten years ago the ave. cost of a film
    blockbuster was about 80 million now that price is
    eaten up by two “A” list stars. I think that
    Reality movies ie fake docu movies that cost 5-
    10 million will start to dominate like “reality”
    t.v. has dominated the networks and cable. Creating
    new movie stars that aren’t greedy and will actually
    work for the millions they rec. People are
    getting tired of just watching whatever Hollywood
    puts out and are developing our own forms of ent.
    Look @ what happened to the music industry when
    it started suing students Music and movies are in a
    slump because they refuse to change the funny thing
    is the Men, cuz they are always men, in charge we
    the revolutionaries of their day and their pred. roll
    over and let them in why won’t they give us the
    same courtesy? Things that make you go hum? huh?

    “Even the greatest journey began with a single step”
    Terry Allen-Armistead

    Comment by Terry Armistead -

  72. 55in HDtv = 1000 bucks is some cases. The expansion of quality HD content. Along with the rise in cable and sat rates,HD premiums, and movie prices frankly equals less at the box office. It Has nothing to do with piracy.

    Comment by jim -

  73. The movie theater experience is not all that impressive to me. I have a very modest home theater system and I prefer it to the movie theater. I hate going to the theater early so I can get a seat in the middle… I hate that people bring their babies even if the movie is rated R (I know sitters are expensive but its still inconsiderate)… I hate that every silent moment in the movie is littered with the sounds of crunching pop corn and plastic straws squeaking against plastic drink tops… I hate watching regular commercials before the previews… I hate the little kid next to me with an extra large drink getting up every 30 minutes to go to the restroom…

    With all the bad things about the theater the only good things are you get to see movies a few months early, the screen is big and the sound is better. The negatives out-weigh the positives IMHO, I love movies but hate the theaters.

    Comment by Rick -

  74. I’ll tell you why I hardly go to the movies anymore….it’s because there are too many people that talk during the movies…I didn’t pay good money to be pissed during the movie…also…the 15 minutes of previews are a waste of my time…start the movie when it’s SUPPOSED TO START!! START THE PREVIEWS 15 MINUTES BEFOREHAND!!

    Comment by Jeremy Quinn -

  75. A few suggestions:

    (1)There ought to be more theaters that have built-in cafes, like The Angelica on Houston Street in Manhattan. An on-premise cafe (with a nice assortment of interesting food, including raw vegan recipes: http://www.rawfoodsnewsmagazine.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=155&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0) would create a sense of community and would attract people.
    (2) Megaplexes ought to dedicate one or two of their screens to indy films, ones less likely to get distribution.

    As a writer/director, I prefer to watch movies in theaters, as there’s something magical about an experience shared with a large audience, not to mention the larger screen and top-notch sound. But there are a few things that bug me:

    (1) When we’re paying $8 to see a film, we shouldn’t have to sit there watching commercials.
    (2) It used to be that films would have long runs, but now they’re here and gone in a flash. The window of opportunity to see a film in a theater has become way too small.
    (3) There’s just not enough intelligence and wit in most theatrically distributed films. Hollywood keeps sliding downhill–maybe it’s the mud?–and we wind up with dreck: http://rawstyle.blogspot.com/2005/05/standardizing-beauty-digitally.html (4)There are lots of films that get made that don’t ever find distribution. Google will soon be showing people’s films online, and that will make a huge difference in the quality of films that are out there and widely available. https://upload.video.google.com/

    Comment by Judy Pokras -

  76. I think the real reason is pretty obvious. People are tired of paying outrageous prices for the same old type of movies. It’s time for hollywood to make more films that are new and interesting.

    Comment by Extagen No -

  77. Lets see we have a theatre system that is more or less a relic of the 20’s – 30’s but i drive a car from the 90’s not the 30’s. So what the movie buisness is telling me it is my priviledge to pay 10 bucks for nostagia, overpriced crappy, low nutrient food for the experience ? Oh and they throw in a crap load of COMMERCIALS and free hair on the projector lense to annoy me all night? But wait, there’s more !!! I get to see overhyped and misrepresented movies that are barely like the commercial? Where do i sign up?

    Comment by Matt DeGeorge -

  78. The above comments suggest that theaters add very little value over the home-viewing experience these days.

    Since it can easily cost $30-35 for two people to see a movie in the theatre, versus $4-5 for the same product at home, the theater SHOULD be adding quite a bit.

    Today, the added value of going to the theater is (or should be):

    1) Better sound and picture. This is only sometimes the case. It’s also worth saying that the big screen helps some movies more than others.

    2) A pleasant social experience. Sharing a film with an audience can be a unique, fun experience (like going to a ballgame). These days, you instead have to struggle past the behavior of too many people to enjoy a film.

    3) Earlier viewing. You get to see the film 6 months or so before it comes out for rental/PPV at home.

    That’s it. That’s the whole list. (And this doesn’t mention the plus-es of the home experience: convenience, cheaper/better food, the ability to pause a movie, DVDs with more content than the original release).

    So, here is my criticism:
    The only truly reliable value-add disappears when you do a simultaneous release, unless you charge a huge premium. I am having trouble seeing how it won’t harm theaters by driving away even more customers. My guess is that you would get more (and maybe better) movies as predicted, but STILL have fewer theatre-goers, because the theater would be adding even less value.

    Instead, you will see things like Netflix Premium or PPV Now, where they build the cost of the release-premium into the service. (Personally, if more good movies came out, I’d be happily watching more good movies at home.)

    If theaters want to remain competitive, they’ll need to figure out how to enhance the experience to justify a $25 premium. Ushers and competent projectors would be a good start, and at least restore our expectations.

    Some of my favorite suggestions beyond those:

    1) genuinely good food/drink
    2) more comfortable seating
    3) a subscription model. Hey, I’d pay $25/month for all the releases I could see. There are a number of possibilities with these: they could do a premium pass required for the first week of release, they could limit prime showtimes (7:30pm) and let you buy in for a few more dollars.

    I’m sure there are other ideas, but those are a start.

    Comment by Brad Lehman -

  79. Recent article in Adage discusses Mark’s plan.

    MOVIE THEATERS FACE THE MUSIC OF CONSUMER CONTROL
    Demand for Simultaneous Screen and DVD Release Increases
    June 07, 2005
    QwikFIND ID: AAQ62S
    By Scott Donaton

    The most important story on the front page of The New York Times on May 27 wasn’t the move by Senate Democrats to block a vote on John Bolton or the Gobi desert water shortage.
    Scott Donaton, editor of ‘Advertising Age.’

    Nope, the piece with the most significance appeared below the fold, in the bottom left-hand corner, under the headline, “With popcorn, DVDs and TiVo, moviegoers are staying home.”

    A single sentence stunner
    The trend itself wasn’t news — the Times is notorious for waking up to such things months after the rest of the media pack (next week: cellphones — they’re everywhere!). What transformed the story into a stunner was a single sentence, a quote from a college student on why he’d rather read a book, surf the Net and watch canceled TV shows on DVD than stand in line at the movie theater.

    “I want to do things that conform to my time frame, not someone else’s,” he said.

    That one line jolted me like a triple shot of espresso. It packed as much hidden power as the earlier revelation that consumers spent more money on Internet services, cable TV, magazine subscriptions and the like than advertisers spent on media last year.

    Those of us who toil in, or cover, marketing and media have long paid lip service to the transformational potential of consumer empowerment. But it’s one thing to speak about the end-user revolution in closed conference sessions and over cubicle walls. It’s quite another for consumers themselves to wake up to the power they yield.

    At the start of May, Ad Age published a story on a plan by rule-breaking rich guy Mark Cuban and Oscar-winning moviemaker Steven Soderbergh to simultaneously release films in theaters, on DVD and pay TV. The decision on how, when and where to watch the movies would be left to filmgoers. The scheme “could rewrite Hollywood’s business model and shatter movie marketing conventions,” we wrote.

    Sure there are hurdles, notably resistance from theater owners, many of whom would simply refuse to show such films. But — to quote a bad movie line (and this is a theme I’ve sounded before regarding those who would try to block change) — resistance is futile.

    The consumer is boss, and the boss will have her way.

    We all know parents of young children who complain that they never get to see new films anymore; they have to wait for them to come out on DVD. Why shouldn’t they be able to see the movie when everyone else does, only on the small screen — even if they have to pay a premium price? Many would, especially if they have a home-theater setup, while others would still want to experience movie thrills on the big screen with a crowd’s reactions.

    Complicated economics
    The economics are complicated. The potential for lost revenue is real — imagine someone paying a small fee to watch a new release at home and inviting over 20 friends, each of whom would have shelled out for a ticket at the box office and then $20 more for popcorn and Coke. In such an environment, many theaters would probably go under even if the remaining ones prospered.

    It’s not for me to judge whether it’s a good thing. My point is simply this: There’s no choice. If they’re in charge, you have lost control.

    Make them like it
    The same week Ad Age reported the Soderbergh story, I found myself in conversation with a bunch of entertainment types. When I suggested that simultaneous release of a film on multiple platforms could be the future model for Hollywood, I was met with looks clearly meant to convey doubts about my sanity. No, someone said, the answer is to remind people how much they love the theater-going experience.

    Try telling that to the college kid.

    Comment by Evan Frankel -

  80. Noticed a lot of responders lamenting the rising ticket prices at theaters, and while I share that sentiment…there’s a good reason for why it happens.
    Check out this post on the many factors that lead to the ticket and concession price spikes, and it just may explain a few things to you:

    http://lnnline.blogspot.com/2005/06/why-movie-theater-prices-are-so-high.html

    I’m not saying it makes it any easier to spend that much, but most people who hate high theater prices just think the exhibitors are greedy. In fact, without the prices being high, especially at the concession stand, they’d be out of business…and you’d have no more silver screens to visit.

    Comment by KW -

  81. Mark,

    As usual, great thinking. Who knows if your idea works, but once again you’re focusing value proposition from the customer’s perspective and that has to be the right starting point.

    At the end of the day, however, great flicks will sell. The delivery format and surrounding experience are always secondary to the content. Ticket sales are dropping because too many films disappoint.

    I don’t know what percentage of films you watch end up disappointing you. 30%? 50%? 70%? This number will be different for everybody. Whatever this percentage is, imagine if the same percentage of restaurants disappoint you. You’d eat out a lot less too.

    So here’s an idea. Theatres should charge a different admission fee depending on the quality/popularity of the film. This may at first sound like a stretch. But if you think about it, that’s how they price DVDs. You know that you know that you won’t find a DVD store selling The Godfather and From Justin to Kelly at the same price. And if I picked up From Jusin to Kelly from the $4.99 bin, I wouldn’t have a lot of expectations and when done watching I would be less pissed off than I would if I had paid $19.99.

    Same should apply to theaters. By the time movies open at theaters they would have gone through enough screening and reviews that the studios should have a pretty good idea how well it should do.

    Back to the restaurant analogy, I am seldom disappointed eating at McDonalds because I am not paying a whole lot for it. I know it’s crap, but I expected it to be so. Had they charged the same price as a Sirloin Steak would at a fancy restaurant, I’d be disappointed.

    Victor

    Comment by Victor -

  82. Mark, I agree with you 100% – however, one thing you failed to note is that movie theaters are missing one of the greatest revenue opportunities in the history of entertainment merchandising – “the captive audience inside their theaters.”

    I believe there isn’t a better way to increase merchandise revenue than to capture the audience before or immediately following the viewing of a major release. Imagine merchandise sales inside the theater lobby – drawing on a family of four immediately following their screening of Madagascar – t-shirts, video games, sound tracks, hats, books, Plush Toys, posters, pre-sale DVD, still photos, props, toys, etc.

    Broadway shows and sporting events do it – what makes movie theaters different – share of pocket and share of consumer.

    Mark – create this Newco – one that delivers turnkey retail solutions to movie theater nationwide – I’ll run the company for you!

    Comment by Evan -

  83. Between the obnoxious movie goers talking on cell phones and to each other, other peoples kids (I have none and wouldn’t take them in public if I did) and the prices I haven’t gone to a movie theatre in over a year. The lazy owners have a filthy establishment and stupid employees and it doesn’t bother them. I’ve been in a movie where some kid employee came in and (without taking a seat, standing in the aisle) laughed loudly at every lame joke. I went and got a manager and pointed him out, they didn’t even care. It’s lazy and pathetic management and owners, and I’m not giving them $40 to see a movie they did nothing to create and everything to ruin. I’ll save $30 and rent it if nobody tells me it sucks.

    Comment by okie doke -

  84. The answer, Mr. Cuban, is very simple; the movie-watching audience has become acutely aware of the shrinking theater-to-dvd release window. Over the past 1.5 years, people have witnessed a theatrical film’s DVD release drop from nine, to six, to four months, and will see it become a three month window this coming August.

    So what motivation is there to go to a theater, when you know you can wait it out a few months? What film is that important, you must see it now?

    Stars are no longer the draw, due to the studio-agency cabal of force- creating them from mediocre talents. This lack of marquee draw creates fear in the execs heart, so the story is stripped of all its questionable attributes in the name of playing it safe. The movie is then marketed to the LCD via test screenings in an attempt to homogenize the final version even moreso. By the time the product is ready for release, it has been sanitized of any and all unique traits that it once possesed, leaving the studio to bank on a rather silly premise – “if you liked it before, then you’ll like it again”.

    So, with an audience that can see a bump-off from a mile way, any interest to see an Alexander or a Troy takes a backseat because it will be on DVD before a season has passed. The audience, in effect, knows the studio is desperate. The studio, in a quarterly proft panic, does nothing but play out its fears for everyone.

    This leaves only a few solutions. One, is yours – kill any time difference, which makes the movie a product of the moment. It can work on a mass consumption audience *if* you price accordingly. Blow the tag out, and you’ll just make the secondary/used market that much stronger.

    The second option, is to do the exact opposite of what you’ve reccomended – delay the theatrical and DVD release to an even longer period. Once the audience understood instaneous gratification was no longer available, they would begin to migrate back to the theater. I doubt the studios would go along with this because it would take an entire year for the audience to realize the theater/DVD time delay has increased again, and the quarterly losses would kille a studios forecast.

    The third solution, is Jim Cameron’s – 3D. True 3D, not some bs version. If he’s ready to go in 2007 as he’s claimed, then my suggestion is to weather the ugly period out until then and get ready to upgrade. True 3D will never be replicated in the home on the level a theater will be able to pull off.

    My only other suggestion, is you need to decide one thing – is this about saving theaters, or saving the movie industry? If it’s about the theater experience, then diversify your content – HD live simulcasts, at a reasonable price, would draw audiences. Otherwise, rely on the studios at your own risk.

    Comment by Martin S -

  85. I used to love to watch movies in the theatre as long as it wasn’t a matinee … but that was many years ago…before the days of malls with multi theatres that were thrown together to look like a real theater without actually being one.

    Since then, they have pretty much done away with the beautiful theatres with comfy seats, were the theatre owners took pride in their theatre and kept it clean and treated people like people instead of a ticket.

    Even when you could smoke in a theater they were cleaner than they are today.

    Now it’s 6-12 tiny (by comparison) mall style theaters, that are small, cramped, uncomfortable, tight feeling, with sticky floors and arm rests, and rigid uncomfortable stained seats. With stained or pitted, cracked or lined screens, weirded out lenses with finger marks or something, and crappy over-bearing sound.

    I do not even feel comfortable in the current theatres for even 5 minutes much less for the length of a whole movie. And we haven’t even discussed the despicable condition of the restrooms.

    And if you go to a later in the evening movie, you will have to go out of the theatre into a desolate parking area to locate your car in a sea of cars or far away from the exit just to drive home.

    Many theaters no longer have Jordan Almonds anymore. The popcorn tastes stale and it doesn’t have real butter, and I don’t drink soda…besides the fact that the pricing is outrageous for the ‘food,’ drink and the movie itself.

    At home, I can make my own fresh popcorn with real butter, or have a meal while I watch; drink coffee or whatever I want. I can have an alcoholic beverage like a Toasted Almond, or smoke a cigarette if I wanted to. Dress how I like and sit with someone I care about without dealing with the inconsiderate people around me who think they are the only ones in the theater.

    I can be comfy on our own couch or chair, take a break from the movie if I want to go to the restroom without missing anything. Scan back in the movie if I miss something or if the scene was one I wanted to see again…or watch it again right after it’s done if I want.

    Not be stuck behind someone who is taller than I am where I can’t see the movie without craning my neck.

    I don’t have to listen to a bunch of people talking throughout the movie making it impossible to hear the quiet dialogue.

    And I don’t have to sit on those disgusting seats that are so close together side to side and front to back that even a small 5′ tall person like myself, can’t get comfortable.

    Theater experience … yeah right.

    I will take our 26″ TV on the wall or the 17″ flat screen monitor on the computer, pipped through our stereo with subwoofer and surround sound, watching a great sounding and looking DVD in the comfort of my home compared to the ‘theater experience’ any day.

    And waiting for the DVD to come out? No worries. I don’t have to see everything when marketing says I do. I will see it when I can see it comfortably … where I can truly enjoy the movie.

    Just my two cents.

    Comment by LilBambi -

  86. I used to love to watch movies in the theatre as long as it wasn’t a matinee … but that was many years ago…before the days of malls with multi theatres that were thrown together to look like a real theater without actually being one.

    Since then, they have pretty much done away with the beautiful theatres with comfy seats, were the theatre owners took pride in their theatre and kept it clean and treated people like people instead of a ticket.

    Even when you could smoke in a theater they were cleaner than they are today.

    Now it’s 6-12 tiny (by comparison) mall style theaters, that are small, cramped, uncomfortable, tight feeling, with sticky floors and arm rests, and rigid uncomfortable stained seats. With stained or pitted, cracked or lined screens, weirded out lenses with finger marks or something, and crappy over-bearing sound.

    I do not even feel comfortable in the current theatres for even 5 minutes much less for the length of a whole movie. And we haven’t even discussed the despicable condition of the restrooms.

    And if you go to a later in the evening movie, you will have to go out of the theatre into a desolate parking area to locate your car in a sea of cars or far away from the exit just to drive home.

    Many theaters no longer have Jordan Almonds anymore. The popcorn tastes stale and it doesn’t have real butter, and I don’t drink soda…besides the fact that the pricing is outrageous for the ‘food,’ drink and the movie itself.

    At home, I can make my own fresh popcorn with real butter, or have a meal while I watch; drink coffee or whatever I want. I can have an alcoholic beverage like a Toasted Almond, or smoke a cigarette if I wanted to. Dress how I like and sit with someone I care about without dealing with the inconsiderate people around me who think they are the only ones in the theater.

    I can be comfy on our own couch or chair, take a break from the movie if I want to go to the restroom without missing anything. Scan back in the movie if I miss something or if the scene was one I wanted to see again…or watch it again right after it’s done if I want.

    Not be stuck behind someone who is taller than I am where I can’t see the movie without craning my neck.

    I don’t have to listen to a bunch of people talking throughout the movie making it impossible to hear the quiet dialogue.

    And I don’t have to sit on those disgusting seats that are so close together side to side and front to back that even a small 5′ tall person like myself, can’t get comfortable.

    Theater experience … yeah right.

    I will take our 26″ TV on the wall or the 17″ flat screen monitor on the computer, pipped through our stereo with subwoofer and surround sound, watching a great sounding and looking DVD in the comfort of my home compared to the ‘theater experience’ any day.

    And waiting for the DVD to come out? No worries. I don’t have to see everything when marketing says I do. I will see it when I can see it comfortably … where I can truly enjoy the movie.

    Just my two cents.

    Comment by LilBambi -

  87. I walked into the movie theatres with $50 on Wednsday.

    I walked out, having only bought 2 beverages and 2 movie tickets, $30.

    I don’t think much more needs to be said about how they do their business.

    Comment by Curt -

  88. Going today to see a movie my daughter and I already have seen a few weeks ago. Going to a theatre that I know I like, clean, not a blurry screen, afternoon show so I can get good seats for my bad knees. Going to pass on the ‘goodies’ today, might secret away a pop can or two on me. Going because I loved this movie and have to see it again on the ‘big screen’ before it comes out on dvd. (can’t afford a Big screen home entertainment combo, price wise or space wise) Will still cost between 45 – 50 $ as there is three of us. (Unless I can convince them not to eat the snacks, hahaha) The experience of going to the theatre passes some time, keeps us out of malls (where we tend to spend more) is a time for us to be together, people watch, and then afterwards share the experience of talking about the movie. It’s an outing. Walking from the back 40 parking lot, climbing the steps to the back row, usually twice due to bathroom breaks, gives us more excerise then couch sitting even with kitchen/bathroom visits. I enjoy my choice of (canadian) theatres. There is one I will never visit again due to fifth. My choice. I don’t go when it’s busy,or noisy with birthday party kids.

    When the movie comes out I most likely will buy it.

    Comment by sidney -

  89. What about some supply/demand price determination on the films in the theater? Right now any movie no matter how new/old, good/bad, popular/unpopular are priced the same. I might pay a little less for a crappy theater or a midday showing, but the films are not individually priced. Theaters would get much higher turnouts for Garfield II if they dropped the price to $4 as soon as they realized it wasn’t selling any tickets. Those kids are still going to eat tons of popcorn, which is where all the profits are anyway. Likewise, I thought Revenge of the Sith was great and would love to see it on the big screen again, but I’m only going to shell out $10 so many times. If in a month or two the price dropped to $8 I would probably go see it again, but for $10 I’ll wait for the DVD.

    Comment by Frank -

  90. Perhaps the decline in movie attendance is in fact, as Mark has suggested, a combination of these factors. While the lack of choices certainly compromises the consumers willingness to go to the movies, the demographic at which most films themselves are aimed is also skewed. As a college student I believe I represent a large percentage of those who have helped the number of theatre-goers dwindle as we have plenty of free time and more than active social lives. I think I can speak for many when I say I would rather sit in my off campus house and watch a dvd with my roomates and a beer as opposed to getting dressed and heading out to pay 10$ for a movie that a.) probably isn’t worth that price and b.) I can wait a couple months and catch on dvd for a couple bones more but have the ability to watch at any time for the rest of my life. Hell, for a couple hundred bucks split 4 ways, I can purchase surround sound to affordably further enhance the movie viewing experience in my humble abode. Obviously this isn’t by any means a exact replication of the movie theatre atmosphere, but the price is right, and in some cases this scenario is more than somewhat preferable. If the movie theatres and production companies wish to capitalize on their market, perhaps offering DVD and theatre releases simultaneously is the way to go. However, as Mark has pointed out, large entertainment companies are not going to jump at this immediately. Until then,if I’m a production company, I’m asking myself, “why not make movies for the people who can pay for them?” A.K.A not college students.

    Comment by Ryan -

  91. Valenti is a droopy-eyed anachronism. He is way out of touch with modern audiences. And the studios are largely to blame for poor attendance, not simply because they (mostly) make crap for movies but because they pay the prima donna actors such insufferably high salaries that they have to charge theaters 90% rental fees for prints, which gets passed along to audiences in the form of $5.00 popcorn and ads before the movie. I’ve said it before elsewhere and I’ll say it again here: no one deserves twenty-five million dollars for a few months’ (or weeks’) work. NO ONE. People who sweat over hot grills for eight hours at Burger King work harder than damn near any actor in any role (there are exceptions, but not many). If all the studios would come together in a rare show of mutual support and cap such salaries at, say, a million a picture (still ridiculous) we might actually see ticket and concession prices drop. And theater managers need to adopt zero-tolerance policies for cell phone usage and generaly talking in their venues. And we have to get away from this “Opening weekend” box-office mentality and return to the days when it was possible to catch a really decent “smaller” film nearby. And if I hear one more assertion that lower ticket sales are due to people downloading or pirating movies, I will vomit. Terrible movies aimed at the lowest common denominator and insane star salaries are killing theaters, not we.

    Comment by Dick -

  92. The decline in theater attendance is due to a decline in the quality of the product. And I’m not talking about the films.

    Mark, you have got to drive down the road to Austin and visit the local Alamo Drafthouse chain we have here. http://alamodrafthouse.com That is the wave of the future for theatres. They regularly sell out on weekday nights. I either have to arrive 45 minutes early or buy tickets online. If a movie isn’t showing at one of their locations I simply don’t want to see it. Here’s what they do right:

    -No ads beforehand. They show old film clips related to the movie. Old kung-fu for action movies, sitcoms a major actor was in, underwater documentaries for the life aquatic, etc.

    -They have waiters/waitresses that bring you food before or during the movie.

    -They have good food, and drinks (beer and wine too). Snacks or real meals. I regularly drop $30 for my wife and I, where I never buy snacks at traditional theatres.

    Comment by Joel Schopp -

  93. I live in Wichita, KS and there is a gentleman here that has revolutionized the movie-going experience here. His name is Bill Warren, http://www.warrentheaters.com/ He started out here about 15 years ago with a second-run theater that showed movies for $1. A few years later he opened another second-run theater on the other side of town. Once he had saved up some money he built his first first-run theater. This theater is a throwback to the golden-age of moviegoing. Neon and large murals on all the walls. Faux marble column in the lobbys. Large restrooms with polished black marble floors. All the theaters feature THX sound systems and several offer cry-rooms so parents with small children can still attend. A few years later he added onto this theater with more screens and they all featured stadium-seating. His theaters also feature a Malt Shoppe that serves a full line of fountain drinks and burgers and club sandwiches, etc… Warren then opened another first-run theater on the other side of town that featured a balcony in its main auditorium that only allows adults and serves alcohol. Meanwhile, all the other national chains have folded up and shut down. This past year he opened a new theater in our revitalized Old Town district. This new concept has a Sports Bar attached to it and also offers seat-side ordering. The seat-rows are very wide and when you want to order something you simply press a button on your seat and a waiter will come out and crouch by your seat to take your order. The order is sent back to the kitchen via a wireless Palm ordering system. So usually by the time the waiter returns to the kitchen your order is ready to be brought out. This new theater also only allows children during its matinee shows. After 6pm it’s adults only. And the food here isn’t standard theater food. You can get an awesome Reuben or pizza or an array of other foods as well as alcohol. He now owns 4 first-run theaters and 2 second-run theaters. Everyone else has left town except for one Dickinson theater. So it is safe to say that Bill Warren receives 90% of every movie dollare in town. Going to one of his theaters is an experience and although you end up spending $40 – $50 it is well worth it.

    Comment by J. Bishop -

  94. The comments of Mr. Fleming (and some of the others) hit the nail exactly on the head. The noise level in movie theaters these days is incredibly distracting and has killed the movie-going experience. The irritations of cell phones, candy wrappers, babies in post-7pm showings and general chatter far outweigh the benefits of seeing a movie on the big screen.

    I often dream of a members-only movie club where with your $50 annual membership, you sign up to a code of conduct that forbids antisocial behavior in the theater. Only dedicated movie-goers would sign up and would be assured of an enjoyable experience. Until then, I’m happy to wait until DVD so that I can see a film without distraction.

    Comment by Billy Hoffman -

  95. I’ll tell you why I have not gone to a movie theater in the last two years and will never step foot in one again: the other customers in the seats!

    It used to be that people respected the theater and sat silently without disturbing others. Now, it’s as if we are all in someone’s living room and people are free to talk to each other throughout the movie. I found that I had to say something to someone at EVERY movie during the last year or two of going. Not just kids mind you, mostly adults!

    There is no staff that walks around with their flashlight and “shhh” people like in the past. and unbelievably, no one seems to be able to invent a silent candy box wrapper.

    People are rude these days, and this rudeness makes its way into the theaters. It’s simply much more enjoyable to watch a movie in my home. So I have to wait 6-9 months for the movie to come out on PPV, but who cares? I’m no slave to the movies.

    Comment by Mark Fleming -

  96. All the complaints can be valid, all the suggested reforms be needed… and none of it will contribute to the movies that do get made being “better”.

    It’s content, not financials.

    If you want “better movies”, fix not the financial model, fix the (even more poorly constructed) intellectual property model.

    The way intellectual property material is filtered, gathered, reviewed and ultimately selected (or not) is a travesty with no analog in any other type of non-ip commerce in any industry in any country.

    Fix that problem and we’ll have better movies, better books and better music in (relatively) short order.

    Fix the financial model of Hollywood and you will help the tier-2+ (not tier 1) studios and possibly movie theaters make more money.

    (*Immediate* DVD availability will help theaters only if they are exclusively in the revenue stream for a period of time – not practical and not likely.)

    (The complaints detailed about the movie going experience won’t be fixed by fixing the financials of the movie industry.)

    From my perspective as a computer scientist, the revolution in thinking yet to be experienced by any portion of Hollywood – from the studio (of any size) to the theater (of any size) is this:

    The (ongoing) *relationship* with the audience is a vastly more valuable asset than any single sale.

    Yet shockingly, they all engage in A.S.R.: Acquire, Serve, Release.

    The future is A.S.K.: Acquire, Serve, Keep.

    Hint: so-called modern “tools” (email, web, etc.) ain’t gonna get it done. The web’s “come-and-get-it” paradigm is A.S.R., all over again.

    If I told you how I solved this problem, I’d be accused of advertising.😉

    A.S.K. is the future.

    Comment by Daniel Farfan -

  97. I think the big problem is the creative bankruptcy of Hollywood. Half of the movies this summer are remakes of TV shows and 30 year-old movies. Give me a break. Also, I could use $75,000 to start up a movie production company. My first production will be a public service fantasy, but I’m saying any more until I get some kind of reaction.

    Comment by Tom Snider -

  98. Yea… making people go see movies, and then making them pay AGAIN for DVDs doesn’t maximize revenue???

    The Incredibles is huge in the theatre, and then sells 5 million DVDs on day 1. I think the studios already have figured out how to maximize revenue.

    Look at Lord of the Rings. Go see the movie. Buy the DVD. Buy the Special Edition DVD. You release these all at once, people choose one. Release them consecutively, and people eat it up.

    Comment by Chris -

  99. Hi Mark,

    While you make some good points as to the decline of movie goers, and without reading every response where this may be addressed, here is why I stopped going to the theater.
    There hasn’t been 1 time that I went to a movie over the past 3 years where someone did not talk through the movie either on their cell phone or just to their companion. To me, this is unacceptable and down right rude. I think the lack of respect for others is rampant in our society. Yes, it’s expensive for an average person to see a movie and get popcorn etc., but then to have someone ruin the movie by talking or acting up makes the $30 you spent even worse.
    I don’t see a solution coming in the future, because no one is willing to stand up to these people who can’t shut up for 2 hours without the fear of what they might do. People are crazy and the minute you ask them to be quiet (which no one should have to do)they want to fight or argue like you’re in the wrong for asking them to be quiet.
    I’d much rather forego the experience of the theater which used to be fun and settle to watch it at home in 2 months when it’s released on DVD.
    I’m a fan of Star Wars and wanted to see it in the theater to get the full effect. So I thought I’d go to the midnight viewing (my first ever) because I figured only people wanting to see the movie would do such a thing. I was wrong. Same shit different movie.

    Comment by Jim -

  100. Here’s what I don’t get, and I’m sure a regional thing.

    First, I agree that if you’re paying $50 for two to go see the movie, you’re wasting some money. My wife and I can go for under $20.

    Second, I’m not seeing these “distractions” that others are speaking of. I know my phone isn’t going to ring, because we, like others, have it turned off. I don’t have kids screaming around me; if one does, the peer pressure to get them out of the theater is overwhelming. And if somebody kicks my seat, I’m kicking something else in return.

    Comment by Jay R. -

  101. I think it’s all about perception. I read others comments on their movie experience and I have to laugh. I have a HDTV and full stereo sound and I still enjoy going to the theaters every so often. I never go opening weekends..and often avoid Friday and Saturday nights. I stick to a theater that I know has great screens and great sound. And, I rarely eat the concessions…

    There always will be great movies…and bad ones. As the overall number of movies that comes out, the number of bad ones will increase…but so will the number of good ones. I was a film major in college and I am pretty critical of movies, but I have learned to appreciate the ones I like and find well done…and just forget the rest. If I am unsure, I wait for the DVD.

    My point is that your experience is what you make it…make it a good one.

    Comment by Stacey -

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