I Rise In Defense Of…

July 5, 2011

I noticed something really wonderful while attending a film at my local Regal Cinema theater.

At 10 AM on Tuesday and Wednesdays, Regal offers $1 admissions to all films. Yes, that’s early to see a movie and, yes, most people are indeed working during those hours, but many people also have some time off during the summer and, unfortunately, millions of other people are out of work and cannot afford regular theater prices. At a total admission price of $4,  it’s an absolutely wonderful opportunity for families of four and individuals to spend some time together at a film. Even during these tough times, and in fact, even more so during these times, we need hope and inspiration and at least an escape from the every day pressures almost everyone faces.

So, huge kudos to Regal Cinema and others who are making the film experience more accessible.

For all the complaints about movie theaters nowadays, this is also a good moment to note that theater owners are not to blame for the underlying issues of poor movie product, admission costs, etc.

From Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:

Opera, Rodeos, Corporate Meetings, and The Battle of The Bands:

Didn’t They Used To Show Movies Here?

It’s important to note here that theater owners are absolutely notto blame for the cost issues that we audiences face today when we go to the movies.

In fact, owning an independent theater today must feel a bit like having had all your money invested in pay phones just before cell phones were invented.

For years, theater owners have in fact been just scraping by.

When the cost of property maintenance, personnel, utilities, leases, and such are added to the fact that studio distributors demand incredibly tough deals over box office receipts, most theaters are lucky to just break even on the films they exhibit.

Theater owners basically then have to sink or swim off the concessions they sell. That’s why popcorn and other concession prices are so high and why theater managers and ushers are not as vigilant as we might like them to be about unruly patrons. With such meager, if any, profit margins, theaters are very reluctant to discourage anyone from attending a theater.

Many independent theaters have already closed and even the major chain theaters are desperately searching for other events to screen such as The Metropolitan Opera and corporate meetings.

Huge chain multiplexes at least have attractions like 3D. Smaller, independent theaters are facing a daunting combination of high costs and fewer and fewer films that audiences are willing to pay to see in indie theaters.

The studios and all theater owners are facing one similar challenge:

The millions of people who have stopped going to theaters and have instead adopted the mantra of:          

“I’ll wait until it comes out on Pay-Per-view or DVD.”

Films are now often released on DVD and pay-per-view at home within ninety days of their theatrical release anyway, so the wait is quite short. Theater owners have tried desperately, but unsuccessfully, to lengthen that window so that more people will be motivated to go to theaters, not just wait for the DVD. ”

Note: since my book’s publication, studios are actually trying to shorten the window between theatrical release and pay-per-view to as little as 30 days! to their credit, theater owners are fighting fiercely against that change.

As well they should.

Now, about all that talking during the movies themselves….

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mahva Jones July 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

Stephen:

Thank you for this post. I didn’t realize that it costs so much for the little guy to operate a theater. We try to go to the independents as often as possible. Also, we don’t do 3D. Don’t believe it’s worth the extra cost, and my husband refuses to wear the glasses.

Going forward, I’ll try to just smile about doing something good when we spend $40 at the concession stand.

Be well.

Reply

Stephen Simon July 5, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I know those concession prices are heartburn-inducing in every way but the theaters really have no choice. Without that, the theater could become a bowling alley really fast. Thanks so much for joining us here!

Reply

Brian Mills July 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Hi Stephen, this subject is very close to my heart and I think what the Regal is doing makes total sense. Any cinema that finds ways of keeping it open can only be applauded.
I am also concerned about the feedback that I am getting regarding how many miles moviegoers are having to travel to see a ‘limited release’ movie. An American friend of mine has had to travel over 70 miles to see “Midnight in Paris.” She will probably have to do the same mileage to see “The Tree of Life.”

Reply

Stephen Simon July 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Yes, limited release films that basically play in independent theaters are the ones that are really endangered. Great to hear from you, pal.

Reply

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