Friday, May 6, 2005

LET'S ALL GO TO THE LOBBY: Interesting enough article in the front of this week's Entertainment Weekly (not online) about the declining fate of movie theaters -- 10 straight weeks with lower box office than the previous week, sales down 6% overall from last year, and DVD sales/rentals now outgross theatrical runs, $24 billion to $9 billion.

Part of the blame, the article suggests, is that there's nothing special about going to the movies these days -- no new innovations since stadium seating and digital sound, both a decade old. In so many ways, the home experience is superior: no commercials, the ability to pause/rewind/fast forward, no screaming kids, availability of commentary tracks, etc. Want to see a trailer? No need to leave the house. And thanks to Netflix, there's no movie so obscure that it can't arrive at your door in a few days.

Which leads me to ask: what can movie theaters do to bring you back? About a decade ago, a dying multiplex near my home tries pairing second-run flics with unlimited popcorn and soda. I liked it, but the business model didn't last.

One thing I'll suggest is to focus on that which is unique to the movie theater: the ability to laugh in public with a large group of people. If I ran a multiplex, I'd reserve a screen or two on weekend nights (and not just at midnight) for the classic comedies of the past few decades -- Animal House, Caddyshack, Revenge of the Nerds, The Big Lebowski . . . you get the idea. Because laughing as a group -- and quoting a movie aloud as a group -- isn't something you can do by yourself. Even with first-run movies, why not have showings where talking back to the screen is encouraged?

One of my favorite places in Chicago was the Brew and View at the Vic -- an old-time theater that let you get drunk while watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with a couple hundred of your instantly closest friends.

Bottom line: to bring the masses back to the movies, make the movies a place where it's more fun to be part of that mass than watching alone at home.

Obvs, I'm quite interested in your take on this.

No comments:

Post a Comment