HOLLYWOOD—There is something that has had me thinking the past year or so: what has happened to the movie going experience? Look, I know the Coronavirus pandemic had a massive impact on things, but it seems like going to the movie theater has not returned to full capacity. Now, I know what you’re going to say, oh, look at “Top Gun: Maverick,” “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” which say otherwise with their box-office receipts.
Those are rare incidents America, and when you have big flicks like “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning,” “Fast X” and others summer blockbusters fading faster than you can count to three; there is a problem, a big problem. Look, I love watching movies at home, but if someone like myself who used to make it a mission to go to the movies once a week as a cinema lover has stopped doing it, what is the problem. I think there are two issues: 1) streaming has taken over and 2) movies are not exciting anymore.
With the streaming aspect, the studios had no choice, but to adapt to the times during the pandemic, as many movies that were already in the can either had to be released or delayed significantly. Most studios decided to allow those films to be released on various streaming services instead of the theaters that were closed. Once the theaters opened, people were still slow to enter. Why?
Fear of getting sick was perhaps at the top of the list at the time, but with cases of COVID dropping significantly as people got vaccinated, theaters reopened their doors and a sprinkle of moviegoers started coming back, but the majority are still not going. They got comfortable watching films at home. You don’t have to worry about people shining a cellphone, you don’t have to worry about loud kids, you don’t have to worry about someone kicking your chair, and you are not spending extreme prices on concession items and so much more.
You spend so much more going to the movie theater than just watching that film at home for $20 to $30. The price to rent a movie at home I have a massive issue with. Why? You’re paying to RENT a movie and it is not something that is automatically stored in your library permanently. The price is not worth the product if you’re asking me, plus you just have too many distractions when it comes to watching a movie at home. The phone rings, people are coming in and out of the house, you hear things, and the distractions are aplenty.
The originality element for cinema is a potent point. Hollywood just loves to recycle the same thing over and over again. You have sequels aplenty to the point where the dialogue and plot are so inept it drives you crazy. If that is not enough, you see remakes that feel like a copy and paste of the classic and now we’re in this era of the requel that take a bit of the original and attempt to tie it to the present with new characters that might have ties to characters from the original.
It works to a degree, but the problem is it’s a formula that so many have attached themselves to that it just has become the new norm to crafting movies. The originality element in Hollywood is lacking and it’s a major result of studios not wanting to take a gamble. They know with a sequel or a franchise that is fairly familiar is a safer bet to receive a return on that investment.
Now, let’s talk about the flipside of the actual movie theater. The experience has to change. The show time for an actual movie is not the show time, that is the time the previews start before the movie begins, and the previews can extend 20 to 30 minutes. That is a long time. I remember about 20 years ago, the previews started 15 minutes before the actual start time of the movie and they were in succession, around 6 movie trailers and no commercials or BS ad before the movie starts.
In addition, this premium seating that many theaters have started to implement is not working. You pay for a particular seat, yet you have people sitting in your seat when you arrive. You know you didn’t pay for that seat and it is not your seat. I hate to say it, there might need to be more policing with this, with someone in the theater ushering people to their exact seat to prevent such melee.
Another issue with the theater is the behavior. Some people just don’t know how to act got dammit. The constant chatter, being rude, getting into fights, screaming kids, dirty theaters, phones ringing, it just makes you say, “I rather stay at home.” If you know you might have to take a call leave the theater, that flashing light is damn annoying and if you take a call that is even worse.
The price of food at the concession stand is a problem too. I know why the prices are so high, that is how most theaters bring in their revenue. More than 90 percent comes from concession stands, whereas the box-office 10 percent goes to the theater the rest to the theaters. Yeah, theaters don’t make money off of ticket sales, it’s the concessions, but arguing its ok to spend $10 for a bucket of popcorn is a hard pill to swallow. The same applies for a $7 beverage that you can get anywhere else for $1 to $2. A family of four might easily spend $60 to $75 just going to the movie theater on a single outing.
Do I have any ideas for bringing the theaters back to life? More flicks being released in the theater and not so quickly on streaming services. Hell, back in the day once a movie left a theater, it would be at least 6 months before it arrived to purchase or rent.
Nowadays, a movie can be released at the start of August, and be available to stream on a service by the end of the month, and ready to purchase on Blu-Ray or 4k disc by September. That is absolutely crazy, let the movie savor a bit people. Eliminate the distractions that are preventing people from coming to the theater and try to have better deals on food bundles or items at the concession stand. Big thing is promote movies like an experience that you cannot get at home; that is a huge selling point.
Action, horror and comedy all work best at a theater with an audience. You don’t get the same visuals with action at home, you need the dread and darkness of a theater to create the mood for horror and with comedy you laugh when others laugh. There are simple things to do to change the perception people have about the movie theaters to get them back in those seats.