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The Movies Theaters Are Reeling

22 Jan

Movie theaters are losing money at an alarming rate. The once proud American tradition of going to drive-ins with the family and then the equally lucrative practice of going heading to movie theaters has slowly been declining over the last ten years. Movie theaters are closing precipitously. The pirating of movies, higher ticket prices, and the lack of great blockbusters have led to fewer patrons of the silver screen and thus less money being spent at movie theaters.

The recent advances in technology contributed one of the biggest blows to the movie industry. The changes in the way that movies are viewed are a direct result of the new accessibility of movies on the internet. People are more likely to watch movies in the safety of their own homes than ever before. Companies like Netflix and even premium cable channels like HBO are now showing films only a month after their premiere in the theater whereas before most movies took years to be released on DVD’s. Now, movies stream through television sets with the push of a button, so the general public has no need to ever leave the comforts of home. They can pause live television with digital receivers, take a bathroom break, chat with their loved ones, and never miss a second of the action on the screen at home, versus crowding into a full stadium with strangers and having to deal with rude self-involved adolescents. Then, the pirating of films made the movie industry rethink how they have been marketing to their audiences too. Because almost all of the general public now has access to the internet, peer sharing groups have decimated the movie industry’s hold on the entertainment industry. In the last decade, hundreds of websites have popped up that are dedicated only to putting up free movies that are still in the theaters. This caused cinemas to raise ticket prices in order to meet budget and it also changed the type of movie that is being made. More independent films were made which is great, because independent projects gave directors the freedom to make the type of movie that moves them. However, it also forced studios to dissuade their directors from producing creative films with sex, violence, or nudity, so that the films can be seen by larger audiences. Theoretically, this should lead to more blockbuster type films, the fun movies that the whole family can enjoy. Unfortunately, few movies in the recent past besides the Dark Knight series and the Iron Man series have delivered.

To combat this, movie companies are throwing out every deal that they can to make money off consumers. The latest attempts are allowing reserved seating, creating IMAX shows and concerts that are viewed in movie theaters, 3D viewings of films, and the Mega Ticket. Reserved seating was a novel idea until Netflix became popular. It guaranteed seating to those consumers that spent a little extra on their tickets. However, it did not promise good seats and the option of watching the same movie at home proved to be preferable to most audiences. Showing the popular IMAX films and concert series like Broadway musicals on the silver screen showed some returns initially, but it too has not saved the movie industry. The crowds that watch these concerts do not represent the largest faction of movie-goers, so profits were minimal. Crowds can be fickle about 3D viewings. One action movie that was made solely for 3-dimensional viewing will bomb and a drama like Titanic in 3D will draw crowds. 3D movies can not save the industry. The last big idea is in its infancy. Film executives have recently launched a test sample of the Mega Ticket, a $50 movie package that contains a ticket to an early screening of the movie in 3D, a digital copy of the movie upon its home-market release, and popcorn for the show, to see how crowds respond to it. This allows the companies to pre-sell copies of their movies to the die-hard fans who would otherwise have to wait for the movies release and possibly lose some of their excitement about the movie in the meantime. It seems like a brilliant idea, but the jury is still out on this one.

According to Entertainment Weekly, two directing greats see more changes in the movie industry coming. George Lucas of Star Wars fame believes that ticket prices could get as high as $150 per ticket. The lack of interest in the seeing movie at theaters could drive the prices up exponentially. And, Steven Spielberg, one of the highest grossing directors ever thinks that tickets may be priced on a sliding scale, with independent films costing $5-$10 dollars per ticket, but with blockbusters costing as much as $50.

The movie industry is fighting for its life right now. It is siphoning money into films that do not produce big dividends, and losing money on lucrative movies because of better technology, pirating, and less interest from the public. Business executives and movie producers believe that they can save the theaters, but it is going to take more than a little movie magic to fix this problem.

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