Megaplex=Dinosaur=Extinction

22Jul11

Film exhibitors is who they are. These folks run megalplexes or your local art house. They are third leg of the movie business. The other two legs are producers (studios) and distributors. Producers make films. Distributors markets and disseminate them. Exhibitors show them. The way the are acting, they will become extinct just like the dinosaurs. The big climate changing comet that will destroy them will be their greed and shortsightedness.

By nature, exhibitors are a grumbling lot. They complain: not enough films being released, too many films being released, deals with distributors are too tough, patrons aren’t coming, or patrons aren’t spending enough. They seem to have a perpetual cloud over their head, not unlike cartoonist Al Capp’s Joe Btfsplk

The first months of 2011 stunk, business was down 14%. As the summer releases slowly roll out, these self same purveyors of negativity are optimistic that this summer will, but these exhibitors are so out of touch they haven’t figured out they are their own worst enemies. Now before anyone accuses me of being a callous observer, relax. I was an exhibitor for 30 years. I started when popcorn was 75¢ and a small drink was 12oz not the current cup size which requires two hands and significant muscle just to lift.

Here are a few observations of what I mean.

When a ticket is purchased on line, a service charge of $1.00 or more is added. So a ‘service’ which is designed to eliminate lines at the box office, lower labor costs and make the exhibitor’s operations easier becomes a cash center. The convenience charge is only convenient to the person selling the ticket. If exhibitors really wanted to make on-line tickets work, make it free or charge only a pittance like 25¢. It defeats the purpose when the service charge can be as much as 15% of the ticket price.

Here’s another example, at least one major chain wants to develop a “loyalty” by offering a card that promises deals. These loyalty cards are designed to breed an affinity for theater in the hope patrons will come more frequently. Oh, but to join this club, you have to pay dues to the tune of $12 a year, yes, $12 per annum for the privilege of being loyal. Why would anyone pay to be loyal? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Of course, the program aimed at the wrong demographic, but that’s a whole other issue.

Now, let’s stroll over to the concession stand. We all know that everything is over priced, but it is also over sized. A person of my age has no desire to consume 72 ounces of popcorn in one sitting. Nor do I want to ingest a quart or more of soda as I watch a film. If there were regular sizes at normal prices, I may purchase something. These days, I sneak my drinks in despite those self-serving warning signs designed to intimidate.

Even if I were interested in candy, it too is a joke. For $4.00 you get a box with some candy sealed in plastic. When you compare the size of the box and the size of the actual candy, you realize that the box is twice as big as the candy. Big box, high price. You feel ripped off just buying a candy bar. Yeah, that’ll make me want to come and spend money at a concession stand. No, I’ll head over to the local neighborhood chain drug store that sells nearly everything but health to find some inexpensive candy.

In 2011, the studios and the exhibitors love 3D. Why? So they can charge more of tickets, but the unspoken truth is that many of the 3D films make less money than the same film in 2D especially family films. Here’s an example the recent release PRIEST is shown in 3D. It looks like a good trashy “B” movie, but who wants to pay 3D prices to see it? Apparently not many people. It tanked. How many other people are like that out there? More than the industry is willing to admit.

Are starting to get the drift?

Exhibitors are using every trick in the book to get as much money out of their business as possible. That’s not wrong and many businesses do the same, but exhibitors as well as distributors just don’t get it.

In their zeal to make money now, they are not building audiences and they audience they do have, they insult customers with high prices, small sizes, bogus ‘loyalty’ programs and endless ads before movies and nothing that says we care about you. They are short sighted and quickly becoming dinosaurs. Extinction is looming.

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