My brain’s been paranized!
It’s kind of sad that it costs less to go to a fancy restaurant with your loved one than it does to go to the movie theater nowadays. Those of you out there with children, I truly sympathize. Tickets and concessions for two adults is harsh enough. I can imagine how costs can skyrocket when the rugrats start pulling your pant leg asking for anything and everything. It’s no secret that in the past decade theater attendance has flatlined and even declined in some regions across the world. Movie executives cite piracy as the key reason for this but how true is that? True the technology of our day has made it relatively easy to illegally download movies but that is a trend that has been around as long as VCRs. Heck I can remember watching a bootleg VHS copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles my pops bought for 5 bucks in Chinatown. Film studios cite this reason so adamantly because they actually make more money in DVD sales and revenues from on Demand and pay per view providers than they do in ticket sales. That’s incentive enough for them to vilify piracy.
But what about the good ole movie theaters? Is the age old past time of a night out at the theaters coming to an end?
Theater owners need to shake things up in order to bring people back. As it stands the format of the movie watching experience hasn’t changed in over 70 years. You pay for your ticket, buy some goodies then sit in the dark and watch a movie on a big screen. Pretty simple. Pretty basic. With the evolution in technology providing us with super large TVs and killer home theater systems why would we want to go to the movies when you can have a comparable experience at home – for far less money? The novelty and uniqueness of the movie theater experience is dwindling away. It’s up to theater owners to create a new niche to attract their clientele. Forget 3D. Movie theater’s salvation lies in 4D. The answer is to make the experience personal once again. Whenever you hear about 4D it usually refers to specialty theaters found in amusement parks, resorts and tourist traps that play custom 3D movies, have complex overly expensive audio and video systems and a bevy of interactive elements from vibrating or moving seats to mist sprayers. 4D doesn’t necessarily have to be exorbitant. It just requires some rethinking. For example, Gold Class Cinemas has taken initiative and introduced a new way their customers enjoy a movie by offering gourmet style meals while seated in lavish comfortable recliners.
You don’t have to break the bank in order to offer a memorable experience. I remember many years ago when the remake of Night of the Living Dead came out I went to a midnight showing the day before it was released. I saw an ad in the paper that said “the first 100 zombies to show up in costume get in free”. Needless to say I was there in my all ooey gooey goodness along with 200 other wannabe deadheads. Although only 100 of us got to see the flick for free it was a blast watching a movie with a bunch of zombies. Everyone had a great time and some very weird friends were made that night.
Why not take that a step further? Wouldn’t it be the bee’s knees to have theater staff dress up based on what’s currently out? I’m not talking hokey Halloween costumes you can by at the corner store but legit costumes. Tattered clothes for a disaster flick or Victorian outfits for a period film. How awesome would it be to have ushers lumber down the isles during their regular check ins dressed as the undead during a zombie movie or have a fog machine roll in an misty layer while watching a horror movie? Perhaps having the scent of smoke when something is burning on the screen or that sweet smell of flowers when someone’s in the fields.
Here’s another idea inspired by the MP3 download scene. The music industry’s biggest gripe with illegal downloads was the fact that they were losing money because people weren’t buying CDs anymore. My counter to that was why weren’t their artists putting out CDs that were worth buying. How many times have you bought a CD in the past only to end up liking maybe 2 or 3 songs out of the 15 or so tracks? Digital downloads allow you to buy individually now and offer 15 – 30 second previews of their songs so you can see if you may want to buy it or not. Why not take that radical concept to the movie theater realm? Pay your money and watch 15 minutes of the movie. If you don’t like it, leave and get half your money back. I wouldn’t say get a full refund because then that can be easily taken advantage. Half makes for a certain level of commitment on both sides. Theater owners can immediately see what movies fail epically and which are legit therefore making their selection process a bit more meaningful. Meanwhile movie goers don’t have to feel like complete asses for having shelled out hard earned money on crap movies.
My wife even had the wicked suggestion of having food options that relate to what’s playing. Think about how much it could boost the local economy by having catering from neighborhood eateries. Restaurant owners would receive unprecedented publicity and the cinemas would offer a one-of-a-kind experience at the same time. In most nations you have access to dozens of diverse ethnic foods options so availability wouldn’t be too much of an issue. It would have been dope to chow down on some burritos when I saw Machete!
In the end it all comes down to selfishness. Cinemas refuse to change their format and want you to spend more and more money for the same old thing. Until they come to grips with the fact that they have to change with the times they’ll suffer the same hardships that the music industry did with the advent of MP3 technology. They didn’t want to adapt and got burned. The jury is still out for the movie theater industry but the clock is quickly running out.
All images courtesy of Google image search