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The changing face of movie night

Via Drudge, here’s a New York Times piece on how American consumers are more and more turning to entertainment on demand. This, of course, spells doom for non-time-shifted media, such as theatrical films.

While I agree that people like the convenience of being able to watch what they want when they want, I don’t think the majority is in the position of being able to duplicate the theater experience at home. Right now, while that slice of society is a niche minority, the movie producers need to act.

  1. Lower the standard ticket price.
    This will get more people coming to the movies on a whim. “Hey, while I’m out shopping, let me kill a couple hours. It’s only a couple bucks!”
  2. Get rid of the anti-piracy ads in front of movies.
    You are preaching to the converted in most cases. It gets tiresome. People may start pirating just to avoid the stupid ads.
  3. Plug people in.
    In the “old days”, a newsreel used to run before all the movies. Now we can get our news whenever and wherever we want. But in the movie theater, it’s polite to turn off your mobile devices. Why not replace much of what people miss out on before and after the movie? Start a Movie Theater Channel that offers newsbursts and other bite-sized chunks of information. A movie theater is like an oasis where you’re cut off from the rest of the world, and more and more I think people don’t want that. (Another idea is to offer wireless content to mobile devices before the movie starts–news, entertainment news, movie trailers, ringtones, etc.)
  4. Sell merchandise: movie posters, action figures, soundtracks, etc.
    Give the movie theater more than just one function, and more people will find it reasonable to spend time there.
  5. Rethink the standard movie theater setup.
    When I visited Kentucky last, Faye, Connor, Logan and I went to “Gattitown”, which is an expanded Mr. Gatti’s, similar to Dave & Buster’s. They had a room where they screened movies at all times, and a pizza/pasta/dessert buffet just outside. You got whatever food you wanted and sat down to watch movies. Theaters could do something similar–serve healthier food, whole meals, and allow people to eat while watching. Lighting might be tricky, but I think it’s doable. There could be a “dinner theater” and a “regular theater”, and the dinner theater could have long tables similar to those found in college lecture halls. Ticket price for the dinner theater would include the meal.
  6. Create more comfortable areas outside the theaters.
    When you go into a movie house, you’re directed straight past the food and into the theater. Rarely are there chairs, and when there are they are usually uncomfortable benches. People are encouraged not to spend much time there. What about opening a coffeehouse style area where people who just saw a movie could sit down and discuss it? What about Wi-Fi access so people could blog about how great the movie was? Again, if movie theaters would diversify their offerings, more people would be willing to go more often. The idea of one stop shopping has taken hold in our culture, and movie theaters need to work on some sort of implementation.

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I’m sure theaters could do even more to make themselves appealing.

It’s obvious, though, that they need to start working on it now.