Tower Heist: Universal/Cinemark Waterloo?

October 7, 2011

As I have often noted here and in Bringing Back The Old Hollywood, , theatrical exhibition of movies is in dire straits. 2011 continued the steep, downward trajectory of summer movie ticket sales. 543 million tickets were sold this summer–down again for the ninth straight year and down over 100 million from the 650 million tickets that were sold in 2002.  At the same time that ticket sales have plunged, the DVD business has also crashed through the floorboards, and production costs have skyrocketed.

Faced with all this, Universal has, in a rather breathtaking example of forming its own circular firing squad, nonetheless decided to release its upcoming Tower Heist feature on video-on-demand in homes a scant three weeks after it theatrical run!

That’s a wonderful way to encourage people to show up in the theaters, isn’t it? After all, this movie isn’t exactly the final installment of Harry Potter, a movie people were desperate to see. Tower Heist is a caper comedy with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. People can absolutely wait three weeks to see that at home. In fact, audiences had a very easy time avoiding those actors’ recent films like Greenburg, Meet Dave, and Imagine That altogether.

Now, however, Cinemark, the third largest theater chain in America, has threatened not to show Tower Heist in any of its theaters unless Universal cancels its suicidal three week video-on-demand plans.

To which, I say “WAY TO GO, CINEMARK!”As I said in 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 not to 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.”

For all of us who want new movies to be made and shown in movie theaters, please support Cinemark in any way you can.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Asha Hawkesworth October 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

Interesting. So if the studios kill their relationship with cinema chains, then cinema chains might be more interested in showing independent films. They still need content. Maybe this could be a great break for non-Hollywood films. Heck, I’ll even go to the theater to see an old film that I love (I’ve seen “Lawrence of Arabia” every time it’s re-released to a theater).

I saw the previews for “Tower Heist,” and if we had an “opening” to go see a film, and that was the best option, we might’ve chosen it. I love silly movies, and I like Ben Stiller. Aside from that, you’re right. It ain’t Harry Potter. (Which I would go see again in a theater in a heartbeat.)


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