I don’t usually go to see new movies in theaters. The past week I’ve gone 3 times, reminding me that I have strong opinions about why I think they usually suck.
Movie theaters used to be the only method of distribution for films. They adapted when TV came out with color, then widescreen, then big sound systems. Now home theaters can have all of that and the convenience of it being in your living room. Latops, tablets, and phones now have HD capabilities and the convenience of watching anywhere. Some of the devices in are homes create a much better quality viewing experience than those at a large theatre. Are movie theaters going to disappear? Not of they get their heads out of the sand and evolve.
What should they do?
1) Picture Quality
They MUST upgrade to digital projection. I would say with a projector with a resolution of nothing less than 4K. Digital projection was the next big thing 13 years ago. Not everyone has upgraded. An HDTV doesn’t have grainy spots, a file on an iPad doesn’t fade with time. The point should be to have an offering that no one can get at home. Ginormous screen with 5K resolution? TVs can’t do that. Not for a few years, anyway. And without film, there’s no 35MM reel to keep track of. It’s a file. Suddenly distribution can be on a flash drive, or over the internet.
2) Larger Range of Film Choices
Unless there’s a 32 screen cineplex, you’re not going to be able to have one place to have a choice of the blockbusters, the art films, and the romantic comedies. Theaters have had to be very selective to maximize sales and potential profit, while simultaneously stomping out possibilities for alternate programming. If only there were a way to offer more movies in fewer theatres… oh wait. Digital makes this possible. No need to keep a reel on the same projector at a screen, just open a file and you’re ready. Time between films can be decreased without changing out a reel. There can be showings of the blockbuster and night, an art film matinee, and that’s just one screen.
3) Get rid of the crappy, overpriced junk food.
Theaters have been screwed on profits by major studio distribution so they have to squeeze every penny they can out of the customers. But $5 for a regular sized popcorn is too much, so they make it a huge one without costing them much more. So instead of a little crap for a lot, I get a lot of crap and still pay a lot. You know a relatively low-cost consumable that is sold for several times it’s cost that people actually want to buy? Alcohol. Yes, there will be those few that abuse the bar and drink too much, but the profits will be good. And might motivate people to actually hang out at the theatre. Suggestion 4 will also help.
4) Better Security and enforcement of no talking rules
“Please don’t spoil the movie for others by adding your own sound track.” “Silence is Golden.” We are told at the start of the film. But is anyone told again after that? No. Not even when there are “No, YOU shut up!” exchanges going on that don’t end. Even when dozens of people are trying to enjoy the movie they came to see, the establishment doesn’t seem to care. I could go out and complain, but they generally won’t do anything to solve the problem. If I complain after, they give me a half-hearted apology and a comp ticket. They give those things away like candy to keep the people quiet. Some people complain after every movie they see just to get a free ticket. BUT WHAT ABOUT SOLVING THE FREAKING PROBLEM!?
5) Start caring about your customers
This is really what all of the above comes down to. Movie theaters don’t provide me with a better experience than I can get elsewhere. The technology may be 20 years old, yet there are posters or trailers warning me about piracy or telling me that a movie should never be reduced to a small screen. They invite me to come back often, but the selection of films isn’t diverse. They don’t allow outside food in, but they only sell crap. They ask me to be quiet, but don’t do anything when someone ruins it for everyone else. It sounds like they just don’t care about my experience.
So step it up, movie people. Give me 5K projection on a huge screen with 15.1 digital surround sound, cushy stadium seating, many films to choose from at a range of times, edible food, some alcoholic beverages, a guard checking in on theaters who will throw out those assholes that have nothing better to do than to ruin movies for people, and a reason to come back because I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. Not because you gave me free ticket to come back because everything sucked.