5 Things Movie Theaters Must Do To Survive

Movie Theatre
Movie theater of the future?

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.

What have your movie theater experiences been like? Are there any points I missed that you’d like to add?

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That’s Not A Word, It’s Not In the dictionary

a dictionary
Words, words, words...
A lot of people say this. A lot of people say this to me. I like to make up words once in a whiloccasion. So let me set the record straight.

If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

“How dare you say such a thing! Ms. So-and-so yelled at me in 4th grade for making up a word so I won’t let anyone else do the same!” you might be thinking. Well Ms. So-and-so was wrong about such-and-such.

First, let’s get rid of this phrase: “the dictionary.”

There is no one dictionary. There are many dictionaries. Different publications with different editions and different versions with different editors. They don’t have all of the same entries. They don’t all have the exact same definitions. Each dictionary serves a purpose and is edited as such. If you consult your Webster’s College Dictionary, it might not have complex medical terms. If you look up a word in your Writer’s Dictionary you might not find old slang.

Next, “That’s not a word.”

The first definition of word in the American Heritage Dictionary (notice that I specified the dictionary I referenced) is the following:

n. A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning…

If you look at other definitions from that or other dictionaries I’m pretty sure that you will not find any that says inclusion in a dictionary is a criteria for being a word. I’d like to call your attention to the end of the above definition: COMMUNICATES MEANING. Here’s more evidence:

The beauty of words is that we are all in control of them: everyone who is a competent speaker of a language is able and allowed to produce new words when needed and to alter the meaning of existing ones, and as long as grammatical rules are followed these new words will be understood even by people who have never heard them before. – “What is a word?”

I’ll repeat one of my above statements. If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

You now have my permission to create words. Others create new words all the time. That’s how English evolves, it’s not an inflexible set of items and rules to govern them… no matter what Ms. So-and-so said. Language is a tool for communication; as many tools are it can be fun to use. So go have fun. Find a locution for the nonce. Happy neologizing!

Any questions? Feel free to share words you invented in the comments!

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A Patron By Any Other Name Would Still Give You Money

Cash Register
Photo courtesy of flickr
I’ve been thinking lately that the term Patron to describe a customer of an arts organization sounds a little precious. I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with it, but I’m wondering what would happen if companies started using a different word.

The American Heritage Dictionary has several definitions for patron, these are the relevant ones:

  • n. One that supports, protects, or champions someone or something, such as an institution, event, or cause; a sponsor or benefactor: a patron of the arts.
  • n. A customer, especially a regular customer.
  • n. A noble or wealthy person in ancient Rome who granted favor and protection to someone in exchange for certain services.

Some people just come to see a play. Once. Are they a patron? Is there anything wrong with calling them a customer? I realize that customer connotes a transactional relationship. Are we trying to make them feel important and conjure an image of definition #3 or are we distracting ourselves from the fact that there is a transactional relationship where they exchange money for entertainment?

I have no answers, I just bring questions.

What do you think? Is there another word you use? Am I wasting brain power on a word that works just fine?

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Standardized Testing Sucks, A High School Story

Exam
Photo courtesy of flickr
I’ve been thinking a lot about education lately. Formal education, about how I don’t like it. Informal education is great. If you know me, you know that I love learning. I’m quite the autodidact. But whenever the state has been involved in that process, it rarely went well for me.

I’ll be blogging more thoughts on education soon. But first, a short story.

While I was in 10th grade California had the bright idea to require me to take the high school exit exam. A test which all students must pass before being allowed to graduate.

I answered many questions about math, science, English. One essay prompt asked what the best pet for a child is. I answered (in 500 words or more): a younger sibling. I passed easily. Most of my peers did too.

I passed the High School EXIT exam in 10th grade. The next two years of high school I continually asked, “Why the hell am I still here?

Do you have any silly school stories?

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Consider The Source Part 2, or I Approve This Message

It’s not just breakfast that people are lying to you about.

We The People Don't Like Looking Things Up
Photo courtesy of Flickr
This isn’t meant to be about any political party in particular (for serious), but rather of our culture and current system of electing officials.

Just as you should be careful of believing messages from someone trying to sell you something, I’d advise you to be wary of what political candidates say. Their goal is to get elected. They say things that will make you want to vote for them. “We need to [fill in the blank]!”

Yes. We do need to [fill in the blank]. How do your policies make that happen. Do your policies make that happen? It’s possible that what you’re suggesting has been done in the past and failed miserably. But I don’t know. I haven’t looked it up.

Do research. Please.

I decided to to a little research a while back about what constitutes false advertising. My first stop was the ever-helpful Wikipedia. I found this nugget:

“All commercial acts may be deceptive, not just advertising, but noncommercial activity such as advertising for political candidates is not subject to prosecution under the FTC Act.”
– (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_advertising)

Politicians can straight up lie in campaign ads and not not face legal consequences. Just thought you should know.

Heard any good lies lately?

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Consider The Source, or Part of This Complete Breakfast?

In today’s world of mass media absolutely everywhere, a huge amount of the messages we’re getting are marketing messages. People trying to sell us something. Sometimes we take what we hear and believe it is fact. It makes sense to us.

Do research. Please.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

For eggxample (pun always intended), eggs are a popular food. You can find them in a lot of foods, or as the main part of your omelette. From our culture and education, we have certain assumptions. The one in this case is “fat/cholesterol is bad.” So someone one day says “what if I can give someone an egg without the fat or cholesterol?” Tada, Egg Beaters is born. Consumers say “I like eggs, I don’t like fat or cholesterol. BUY!” I don’t know that egg beaters as a brand are as popular in foods anymore, but there are tons of restaurants that offer “healthy” versions of their breakfasts by using only egg-whites.

It makes sense, right? Eggs = good. Cholesterol + Fat = bad. Egg whites = eggs – (cholesterol + fat)

The point here is that the consumer never stopped and considered that people have been eating eggs for thousands of years and doing just fine. Does the man with all the money in his pockets really know better than nature? Turns out whole eggs are better for you!

So now there are a lot of people going around thinking they’re eating healthier because they’ve bought into the message of a smart marketer.

The food industry is full of these. Sugary cereals are “part of this complete breakfast.” I heard that every day as a kid from ads. Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Cinnamon Toast Crunch… but I just ate them because they tasted good. Lots of sugar, minimal nutrients. A healthy complete breakfast is probably more along the lines of a whole-egg and vegetable omelette, and some real fruit.

“Milk, it does a body good.”

Does it? I’ll let you look that one up.

If you’re brain isn’t too fried… what are other messages out there that you see people buy into as fact?

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Toward A Tipping Point

I’m normally a calm, serene, and even-tempered person. I like to take long walks to relieve stress. I also normally try to avoid making public comments about politics. But the more I see in the news, the more I am angered, amazed, and appalled.

I am angered by bills that are considered on the senate floor; I am amazed by local and state governments taking away constitutional rights of their citizens; I am appalled by irrelevant issues bickered about by the public, media, and presidential candidates.

I won’t point a finger of blame, nor will I claim that I have a solution. But as I observe, as I listen my shoulders tense. My jaw tightens. My fists clench.

What is to be done? I don’t think I can walk this off.

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Thanks

To everyone out there that reads my blog
To my friends I see all the time
To my friends who I don’t see nearly enough
To anyone who makes me smile
To everyone who gives me hugs
To all the people I talk to online
To all the cool people online
To authors of awesome blogs I read
To the creators of great art
To the creative teams of shows I saw
To teachers
To writers
To people that are still reading this post
To the many, many others that I’m forgetting
To you

THANK YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I Feel Good, I Knew That I Would

You know what feels awesome? ACTING. REAL ACTING. It’s something I haven’t done in a while.

I’m in a play now, by the way. Come see it if you live anywhere near it because it’s gonna be awesome.

Let’s back up. When I said real acting I don’t mean that any film or other projects I or other people have done aren’t real acting… because I’ve done some of that. I was also in two plays last fall. But this play, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol by Tom Mula is the first acting I’ve done in two years that I can really sink my teeth into.

You know… table work, vocal excercises, dialect work, lots pf physicality, and plenty of memorizing to do. This week is the 1st of 4 weeks of rehearsal and I’m already loving it.

I’m wondering how the hell I went so long without it. And yes, I directed some stuff, did some other creative projects here and there, did a hell of a lot of marketing and theatre admin work.

But I’m an ACTOR! I’m a clown. A physical actor. A singer.

I need to be reaching with my body, raising my voice, using my imagination.

WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN DOING THAT!?

You know what I get to do now? Play. I’ll say it again. PLAY. I’m in a play, I get to play. You know what one of my mantras is? PLAY. I need to play or I get depressed. Now I get to play. And for whatever reason it had to happen after I temporarily (more on this another time) had to move back to San Diego.

SO GOOD, SO GOOD, I GOT YOU.

What is it that you’re not doing right now that you want to? Has this ever happened to you?

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Change, Something You Can Depend On

Change
Change for the better. It's better if I have more change.
It hasn’t even been an entire year since I blogged about my last website redesign. In it, I say

Websites just seem to get old pretty quickly for me.

No kidding. I then go on to mention my redesign of the Coeurage Theatre Company website which I completed (but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been constantly tweaking) about a year ago.

But I might not feel so good about it at the end of this year.

I know myself so well. That website is, indeed, starting to look old to me. But I’m gonna hold out on that one for another year. The company has patrons and company members that depend on it for info. And they are probably just now getting used to it.

My site, on the other hand is all about me. So I can change it if I want to. So I did. And now I’d like to bring up some of the questions I asked in that post…

Do you feel the same way about your website? Or more generally, do you feel that way about any of the things you create?

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