Why is Movie Theatre Revenue Attendance Declining?

There’s been plenty of chatter about declining movie theatrical revenue attendance. You just know the MPAA is itching to tie this onto piracy somehow and thus get some favorable legislation.

Let’s nip this one in the bud, shall we? 5 6 7 factors are hurting theater attendance:

1) Social factors eroding theater environment (talking, cell phones, babies crying, etc.); 
2) Sacrificing long term relationships with theater-goers for the increase in short term profitability (commercials, no ushers, etc.);
3) Higher quality experience elsewhere (Home theater);
4) Declining quality of mainstream movies;
5) Easily available Long Tail content alternatives (Netflix, Amazon);
6) Price;
7) Demographics: Aging babyboomers simply go out to movies less.

While content quality has indeed worsened over the years, it shouldn’t be the main concern this Summer:  As of late, there have been a spate of movies which have been either well-reviewed (Batman Begins) or had good word-of-mouth (Wedding Crashers) or incredible special effects perfectly suited to the big screen (Revenge of the Sith or War of the Worlds).

So what else might be the source of declining theatrical fortunes?

Well, how about the movie theater-going experience itself? The adventure of heading to a cineplex is becoming a less and less pleasant form of entertainment. Many of the headaches involved have been painfully detailed by Bob Lefsetz’ readers (see their ordeals below).

Note that we are not even discussing content quality at this point.

Then there are the adverts. A recent L.A.Times article — Now playing: A glut of ads — points out that even studio executives were stunned by 15 minutes of commercials theatre goers had to endure after paying their 10 bucks:

"As head of production at New Line Cinema, Toby Emmerich is not your typical moviegoer. So when he wanted to see "War of the Worlds" the other night, his choice was between seeing the film in a theater with a tub of popcorn or watching it in a screening room at Jim Carrey’s house, with a private chef handling the culinary options. Despite this seemingly loaded deck, Emmerich opted for a real theater.

"I love seeing a movie with a big crowd," he says. "But I had no idea how many obnoxious ads I’d have to endure — it really drove me crazy. After sitting through about 15 minutes of ads, I turned to my wife and said, ‘Maybe we should’ve gone to Jim Carrey’s house after all.’ "

When DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press took her young twins to see "Robots" this year, she said, "My own children turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, there are too many commercials!’ Now, when the lights go halfway down, I’m filled with dread. The whole uniqueness of the moviegoing experience is being eroded by all the endless ads."  (emphasis added)

So while the industry laments piracy, consider if you will why going to the theatre has become so much less enjoyable than watching DVD films on your own big screen in the comfort of your home theatre.   

The theatres have adapted Radio’s disasterous Hamburger Helper approach: Short term increases in profitability in exchange for alienating your core audience, who eventually seek out a more enjoyable substitute. Quite frankly, I’m astonished the film industry has (contractually)
allowed theatre owners to degrade their copyright protected product by
diminishing the experience so dramatically.

As Radio has so painfully learned, the end result is a big fat Buh-bye!

To a large degree, this is  a zero sum game: The theatre chains losses are Best Buys’ gain; Is it any surprise that high quality home sound systems and large screen TV sales have gone through a ginormous growth spurt over the past 5 years? Even as the lowest common denominator productions falter, Netflix (and its rivals) allow home theater owners to enjoy a Long Tail orgy of DVD content. 

Yo, theatre owners, when a segment of retail electronics called HOME THEATRE explodes in sales, that is your wake up call. You seem to have been oblivous, and missed the bell ringing.

Good luck getting the toothepaste back in the tube!


UPDATE: July 25, 2005 7:37pm
At Slate, Edward Jay Epstein explains the numbers behind decreased attendance on increased revenue. Fascinating stuff . . .


UPDATE II: August 30, 2005 12:07pm
A weekend NYT article, titled Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle quotes an exec as blaming the quality of flicks:

"Part of this is the fact that the movies may not have lived up to the
expectations of the audience, not just in this year, but in years prior," said
Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had some flops
this summer, including the science fiction action movie "Stealth"
and the romantic comedy "Bewitched."
"Audiences have gotten smart to the marketing, and they can smell the good ones
from the bad ones at a distance."



Now Playing: A Glut Of Ads
The Big Picture
Patrick Goldstein
L. A. Times, July 12, 2005

Lefstz Letter
June 5, 2005
(complete sourcing below)

Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle
NYTimes, August 24, 2005


Continue to see Lefsetz’ readers critique of the theater experience . . .



Comments in response to the Lefsetz Letter about declining theatre going experience:

Steve Lukather:

Hey Bob, its MUCH worse in Europe. I went to a movie in London a few years ago and it was almost 45 MINUTES of commercials!! This was before this shit started to happen in the USA. I was freaked out! Pissed off, same as you. Fucking COMMERCIALS in a movie theatre!???? I like the trailers for new movies, thats cool, but I am with you 1000%. It is all about greed as the movie theatres or the people that made the movie you are PAYING to see are getting that kickback from the sponsors. Hell it is bad enough with "product placement" in the actual MOVIE! Look around in the backround of a scene and see a coke can, or what kind of car the bad guy drives..I could go on but hey.
I would rather stay home and crank it on my 5.1 system, smoke a bowl and have a pizza and some wine. Why deal with the traffic and the assholes in the theatre.How much is it for popcorn and candy????? 100 bucks? hahaha Parking..yeah THATS like 15 bucks now. Fuck that? I should have bought parking lots when I was young. i would bwe stinkiing rich. Its fucking pavement with minimum wage losers taking your money. PURE profit. hahaha
Anyway, have a nice weekend. I will. hahahaha


Wade Biery:

There is not ONE person I know who has chosen NOT to go to the theater anymore, who chose that because of the MOVIES. Not one. They have ALL chosen it because the experience SUCKS!! A bowl of wet dicks……

Kids (as well as their self-important over-entitled asshole parents who taught them that they really ARE that fucking special) on cell phones, kicking my fucking seat and hollering at the screen, 20 minutes of previews and commercials and other dickhole nonsense that starts when MY FUCKING MOVIE is supposed to be starting, prices for junk food that would make a 50 year old hooker embarrassed, and the slack-jawed mouth-breathing progeny of a trailer park orgy 18 years ago running the whole thing, no fucking wonder people are staying away in droves. I know these days if I were to go to a theater, I’d end up punching people right and left, and that’s not what I’m into these days…..

Fuck those cock-cracks, they get what they deserve.


Jason Miles:

We went to go see Crash a few weeks ago and the Movie went out of Focus 5 Times-I was the only one in the theater who got up to tell the manager that it was out of focus-people were just sitting there. I got up the 5th time and started to really complain to the manager. He then said if I don’t stop complaining he’s going to call the police on me.
Do you believe that!! I got my wife and we left I wouldn’t leave until they gave us our money back. The manager (20 something) started to then harass us and wouldn’t give us our money back until we produced our ticket stubs told him to take the ticket stubs and shove them.
i mean what a great movie experience-we missed the end of the movie and I know people were sitting there just watching a movie out of focus-So do you think people in the year 2005 are totally fucked up or what


John Boylan:

Okay, okay, I agree, although I only pay $8.00 at AMC because I’m over 55. But how did you like "Crash?" I loved it. I suspended disbelief for almost two hours and had a great time. Plus, I was stimulated to have a long discussion about racial issues with my significant other. Plus, I was glad I have a house in the Hudson Valley.


Michael Patterson:

When is the last time you went to see a movie in Europe? The commercials before the movie are amazing. I usually try to go early to make sure I see them.
I was living in NYC when prices hit $9.50 and my friends from the Midwest were shocked. I went out on the road with an artist at that time and paid $2.50 for a matinee in Iowa and $4.50 at night. How times change.
I now use bit torrent to find a movie if I miss it in a theatre. I am going to the SPOT conference in Denmark this week and I have 25 things lined up to download for the travel time. Of course it is all student films that use creative commons to let me download  it and use it as long as I follow the cc license.
I also have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale if you are interested.


Barry Ritholtz:

I used to go to the movies all the time — Even my blog is called the Big Picture.  Then I started going less — and then less still and now — hardly at all.

My screen at home is better, the sound system is better, the picture is in focus, the floors aren’t sticky and the movies start on time. My seat is clean.
And there’s no idiot chattering away 2 rows behind me, and (this is my favorite) THERE’S NO CELL PHONES RINGING.  EVER.

Hey, but they are saving $6 an hour per theatre on ushers.

The commercials just add insult to an already declining experience.


Damon Lawner:

I usually start screaming obscenities, and my wife looks at me funny and that quiets me down a bit. those fucking commercials. it’s worth the $14 to skip them, AND I don’t have cable in my home anymore for a reason. with a child on the way, I am trying to keep the bombardment from those fuckers down to a minimum.


Al M:

re: the whole get to the theatre for the show, then
having to sit through 20 minutes of crap – i treat it
as shit buffer time. if you’re gonna see anything at a
multiplex, know that you don’t really have to get
there right on time. to do this reliably, you have to
go during the off-peak times, and it means you can’t
see movies opening day (but honestly, who the shit
wants to brave that gong show, ESPECIALLY for the dork
fests. i got roomies who went to the episode three
midnite screenings. freaks come out at night…).

course, none of this applies if you go to a decent
art-house cinema. could be i’m just spoiled, but if
you go to the Cumberland or Carlton cinemas here in
TO, you sit through 6, 7 minutes max before your
flick, and most of that being artsy trailers you
wouldn’t see advertised in usual channels anyway.

movies are generally crap nowadays anyhow; TV, too.
best to just download the stuff you know is good
(recommendation from a trusted source). i’ve always
felt that if you’re gonna waste your time on something
totally gratuitous, might as well surf some porn.
cheaper, and no one’s insulting your intelligent under
the pretext that it’s anything other than what it is.


Mike Campbell:

Hahaha. Oh man, I was wondering when you’d get around to this one!

Tickets cost more, they’ve torn down all the best movie theatres (real estate value, don’t you know), the popcorn SUCKS – I don’t care that the average large bag of excellent popcorn has as many calories as a Big Mac, I’m not fat, where’s MY option? – and I’ve been subjected to fucking ads for years now!

I love the movie experience, almost as much as I love the musical experience. My brother hasn’t seen a film in a theatre for eons. He waits for the DVD. Truth to tell, he hasn’t seen a movie at a theatre in so long that he used to wait for the VHS – and that was BEFORE decent home theatre units…

The point is well taken; shouldn’t the addition of advertising before a film bring the cost of the feature DOWN? I do believe that was the original idea. Pretty much in the same ballpark as the old record company saw about "when there are enough manufacturing plants to meet demand, CD prices will come down," as they should have. That was a big fat lie too. Hopelessly sad and spectacularly short-sighted at the same time…

Music and movies both moving into the realm of the virtual experience. I’m sure you’ve been in more than one place where the appetite for the tech experience has known no financial constraints. It’s pretty amazing. I can’t drop $25,000 on a home system that takes full advantage of what’s currently available but if I could, maybe I’d go for it. It must be tantalizing. The idea that you could hang out in an environment, that you were totally comforable in – if you smoke, you could smoke (anything you wanted to smoke) – the popcorn wouldn’t have to suck, you wouldn’t need babysitters, you wouldn’t need to have someone killed to find a place to park, there would be decent music before the feature. Bliss.

You’ve hit the nail on the head again – greed, plain and simple – will be the downfall of this, otherwise, brilliant run at another chance for the current human cilvilization to prove it’s more than another momentary blight on the global landscape. Sadly, the handcart to Hell is voluminous and picking up speed daily. I sure hope the kids with the iPods can suss this out and put a stop to it before the Woodstock generation finishes fucking up their own previously Utopian ideal. Wankers…


John Bertsche:

the arrogance of our big business is hurting all of us

the US is so hopelessly behind the curve that we’ll probably never 
catch up.

what do we actually make, other than  entertainment?

germany has liquid-hydrogen powered BMW’s

china is making fuel-cell powered cars

does anything we really NEED say "made in USA" ?

OK, I need a new pair of Tony Lama’s….I know I can’t get those 
anywhere else…

but I think I’ll wait till I’m in Nashville…they’re too expensive 


James Lee:

as usual bob, you hit the nail on the head.  $10.50 per ticket and then i ‘ve got to see commercials?   and stand in line to buy a eight dollar bag of popcorn on which they are making a profit of $7.75.    what the hell is going on here.    we don’t go anymore.  and it’s their fault.




I walk into my favorite restaurant. The hostess asks for my ticket.
"Ticket?", I ask?
"Oh, you haven’t heard about our new policy…It’s $15.00 for a seat near the kitchen, $25.00 for a seat near the door and $50.00 for the "preferred" tables. "OR", she goes on, "you can get a table for half-price if you’re willing to sit in our waiting room and watch a short entertaining commercial from our corporate partners."
I go for my wallet and my party is seated near the door.
The waiter arrives in a vest festooned with patches and buttons advertising Coke, AOl and Sony Music. He wears a Microsoft ballcap.
"Hi, I’m Todd, I’ll be your meal facilitator tonight.  Everyone want Coke?", he asks cheerily.
No, no one wants Coke…"What kind of beer and wine do you have?"
"All our beers are Budweiser, all our wines are Gallo but you have many choices within those brands. May I suggest the White Zin, it’s on sale?"
We make our choices and he hands out the menus.
They are unusually heavy with thick plastic pages.
"What’s this?, I ask.
"Oh, those are our brand new, improved, Interactive Choice Selectors from Microsoft."
I open the menu to the first page.
It’s a brightly lit list of the restaurant’s specials for next week.
I try to turn the page. It won’t turn.
"You have to read it first and vote for your favorite", Todd explains. "Then you can read page two."
I don’t even think I’ll be here next week", I tell him.
"No problem! Just vote anyway. It’s fun!"
I choose yellowfin tuna with the wand and hear a click as page two is released.
It’s a listing of what’s on TV tonight. "Vote For Your Favorite Show" it says.
It seems I can also vote for my favorite American Idol.
I go through three more pages of advertisements for Anti spamware, Computer Pop-up protection and a contest to name Brittny’s baby, sponsored by the Advertising Council of America.

I could go on but you get the idea…
It’s an ad, ad, ad mad world and it’s getting worse.
The golden geese of music, movies and who knows what’s next have been covered in posters and flyers and will die from suffocation.
The long run health of industries have been sacrificed for the fast buck.

You are correct again Bob. You, me, the public, we get no respect…We are Rodney Dangerfields all.
They love us only for our purchasing power and they treat us like we’re stupid.
Seeing the ironic truth that it is they who are stupid and shortsighted does not provide enough satisfaction to make up for what they have taken from us….the joys of a great concert experience and movie experience.  Fuck ’em all.


Joshua Freni:

I stopped going to the movies regularly when I got surround sound with a bass cube at home.  Why bother with the crowds, the cost and the commercials?  So I can see it on a big screen?  Plus, u can’t watch a movie in your underwear while drinking a six pack at the theatre.

Comments courtesy of Lefsetz Letter


Now Playing: A Glut Of Ads
The Big Picture
Patrick Goldstein
L. A. Times, July 12, 2005

Lefstz Letter
June 5, 2005

‘Apocalypse Now’ for America’s movie theaters?
William Bunch
Knight Ridder Newspapers

Hollywood has been cruisin’ for this year’s box-office bruisin’
Michael Heaton
Plain Dealer Columnist, Friday, June 24, 2005

Hollywood is lacking its usual summer sizzle
By David Germain
Associated Press

DVDs producing renaissance for R-rated comedies,
Video sales bring in the big bucks

Patrick Goldstein
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times

Film revenues in decline: This season’s disaster movies
Andrew Gumbel
Independent UK,  28 June 2005

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. royce commented on Jul 19

    The decline in sales is probably not anyone’s fault. It’s probably unavoidable. Digital media is just changing the way we want content. People will still go to the movies, but they’ll go less often because they can substitute a cheaper, individualized, private experience for the pleasures and annoyances that come with watching a movie on a big screen with a group of strangers.

    More commercials is a symptom of the underlying problem, not the cause.

  2. Damian commented on Jul 19

    Shouldn’t one of the reasons for the decline be the increasing price differential between seeing a movie in the theater and seeing it at home? Sort of similar to the home theater point, but different in that it a cost decision. I, for one, pass on many movies whether I see them on a small TV or on my HD giganta screen mainly because I don’t think it is worth $30 (Two people, popcorn, etc.)….just a thought

  3. Karmakin commented on Jul 19

    Actually the core problem is the general business problem. Assuming that sales will go up, all time, on an infinate basis. Personally, as a movie buff, I still enjoy the movie experience. Mind you, where I’ve never had talking at the movies, no cell phones, no nothing like that. So yeah.

    But because movies are a creative venture, receipts are going to vary from year to year. People don’t go to the movies just to go to the movies. People don’t go to the movies, and wait until they get there and say…what do you want to see? It doesn’t happen. People say, I’m going to go to see movie X. And if there’s no movies they want to see? They stay home or do something else.

    Simple as that. I don’t think that DVD sales play a huge part in this, I think it’s mostly the natural nature of the content delivery business.

  4. Karmakin commented on Jul 19

    Oh and by the way. We get the ads before the movies, but generally speaking the ads start 15 minutes before the posted startime. at the start time you get the trailers (which I personally enjoy. I feel gipped if a movie has only one trailer), then a short (no cells, no talking, please bring out trash) clip (with decent music), then the movie.

    But because the product ads are BEFORE the startime, I don’t mind it. Because I ignore it, keep on talking, whatever. And it’s something other than pop music crap in the background.

  5. Lance commented on Jul 19

    I love the movie experience but the cost does not justify the experience for me. I hate spending $60 to take my kids to a movie and then not being entertained what so ever (Madagascar). I would rather take them to another form of entertainment. If we go to a water park and spend $100 I think that is ok because of the value. I will wait for a movie to come out on dvd or pay per view because if I hate the movie, it wasn’t as costly. I don’t mind seeing a bad movie, but I hate paying so much for it. Anyway, I think it is a cost issue. Make it more affordable and I will go to many more movies. Send it straight to DVD and I will pay $20 to watch it in my home!

  6. Tim commented on Jul 19

    Barry, as a long-time reader I recognize that you are a big film/music buff, just like me. So, with that in mind, I *implore* you to make it to the Alamo Drafthouse if you ever visit us here in TX. They started in Austin, but they now have a few in San Antonio and Houston. These independent theaters are beating the hell out of the chains, and I refuse to go anywhere else.

    To start with, they serve *real* food, desserts, beer, and wine. At reasonable prices, brought to your seat. ZERO paid advertisements. Now, on the other hand, there is always content playing on the big screen before the movie starts. For example, before “Revenge of the Sith” they showed the (in)famous Star Wars Christmas Special. Before Kill Bill, they showed several clips of classic, cheesy kung fu films. Before some movie with Tom Hanks in it (I think it was The Terminal), they showed old episodes of “Bosom Buddies”. This is actual *entertainment*. And, you better show up early, because they sell out every single show.

    You should check these guys out, because people are going to wake up to this, and the theater chain that goes in this direction is going to print money.


  7. dude commented on Jul 19

    I think I am a typical consumer and here’s why I don’t go to the theater anymore:
    1. Decreased movie quality – the studios are just not putting out as many movies of the really high quality, and because there is so much competition, its harder to find those movies, so you have to be more discriminating in what you select to spend your money on.

    2. Overhype – another thing that exasserbates that problem is that the studios hype every movie beyond any measure of normal so that its impossible to determine which movies are the ones you want to see based on the claims of the studios. its a classic case of “the boy who cried wolf”. The studios keep telling us that every dang movie they make is a blockbuster, so pretty soon, you just tune them all out and let other people waste their $8 and report back to you.

    3. Too many movies – By the time you find someone who has seen the movie and says that its great, then find someone to corroborate the story, there are so many movies coming out that by this time, the movie is no longer in the theater. Again, i think I am an average consumer, and planning my schedule around the 1 week that the average movie is in the theater just doesn’t work for me. If the theaters don’t bother keeping them in the theater long enough, I’ll just wait for the DVD instead of configuring my schedule around theirs. who is the dang customer here anyway?

    4. Increased quality of Home theater and poor quality of theaters – since I now have a 52″ TV with surround sound and great speakers, I find that my system at home is pretty much better than what I find at the theater, especially with sound. This was certainly the case with Episode III, which was the last movie I saw in the theater. The sound at the theater was barely cranked up and thus defeats the prupose of going to the theater. Why do most theaters today still use a reel to reel mechine to display movies? step up to digital for pete’s sake! on top of all that, I can lay on my couhc at home and eat homemade lasagne. that hardly compares to a $25 for a hot dog, popcorn, and a drink while sitting in an uncomfortable seat that only reclines to the point of discomfort and the guy next to me who has a bladder the size of a peanut.

    5. DVD’s come out so fast now, and the content/convenience of places like Netflix and filmmovement.com is really uncomparable.

    Although I have downloaded one movie when I went to the theater and had to leave in the middle of the film because the fire alarm was triggered, that experience made me really reject downloading bootlegs because of the astounding poor quality (and my TV is bilt to be a computer monitor). In my life, priracy is not a factor in why I do not go to the theater. They just need to improve their product.

  8. JWC commented on Jul 19

    My two cents worth – last week I took my grandson to the movies and was amazed at what I spent for popcorn and drinks! And the movie was certainly not that wonderful either. I had only ONE G rated film to choose from.

    My husband and I gave up movies years ago, with the exception of going to see the Lord of the Rings. So my only experience is with the grandkids. But I tell you to take all four of them at once is cost prohibitive.

  9. Dragian commented on Jul 19

    Trailers. They friggin tell you the whole plot. They suck big time. Look at the trailers for The Island. They literally spoiled the whole movie!!!

  10. Danielle commented on Jul 19

    1. Not many movies worth seeing on a big screen.

    2. Poor quality/sick of star overexposure

    3. Popcorn (and other snacks) better at home

    4. Experience generally better at home. No control over sound. Too loud way too often. I have to cover my ears at every action scene!

    5. The ads/trailers way too long. By the time the movie comes on my kids are restless.

  11. dsquared commented on Jul 20

    Personally speaking I don’t go to the cinema as much as I used to because I am older.

  12. Stephen Collins commented on Jul 20

    I actually just wrote about this on my site.

    Yes, the commercials suck, but I am not too bothered by them, because they don’t (yet) play past the start time of the movie. As long as the movie starts when it is supposed to (with previews) I don’t really care what’s on the screen, every one is chatting and ignoring it anyway.

  13. James commented on Jul 20

    Just once, I’d love to see a discussion of the moviegoing experience that doesn’t involve child-haters spewing their nastiness all over the place. For the record: not once have I ever had my theater experience spoiled by crying children, talking children or any variety of child-centric unpleasantness. Rather, adults who think the theater is an extension of their living rooms are a far greater issue.

    (Barry Responds below)

  14. M1EK commented on Jul 20

    Ditto on the Alamo Drafthouse. My wife and I went to our first movie out of the house in about 2 years (new baby) for SW Ep III, and saw it at the Alamo. It’s hard to justify going anywhere else anymore, even though the theaters the Alamo owns are slightly less rock-em sock-em in the visual and audio department.

  15. Heather commented on Jul 20

    I used to love seeing movies on the big screen but I just don’t enjoy it as much anymore. Reasons, besides the expense and the CRAZY cost of theatre food (I either don’t buy it or I take in my own since what they charge is criminal anyway), are mostly …

    1. The temperature. I’m usually cold in a theatre. I know to dress warmer than I would typically but even then, sometimes, I’m freezing! It’s nasty to sit through a 2 hour movie with goosebumps the whole time. Why have such a cold temperature for such a sedentary activity?

    2. The sound! Horrendously loud!! It used to be that I would expect the previews to be loud and then the movie itself would be acceptable. The last movie I saw in a theatre (Cinderella Man) was so loud that I had to keep my fingers in my ears the entire time and even then I could hear loud and clear.

    3. The ads. More and more ads for longer and longer time. I went to Cinderalla Man for a start time of 9:45 but I had to sit through so many ads and trailers that it was well after midnight before I got out of the theatre on week night when I had to work the next morning. I like to see a few trailers but the ads really get my goat! Shouldn’t they have to pay ME to watch those?

    No matter how comfortable the seats and how big the screen, if I’m otherwise uncomfortable through a whole feature length movie (and then some), I want to be real comfortable being there (sound and temperature included) and I want some special treatment for what I’m putting out to be there. At the price of popcorn, they should be bringing it to me on a silver platter with a sprinking of edible gold cust and with a shnooky popcorn spoon so my fingers don’t get too buttery and, on second thought, a real cloth napkin … and maybe an attendent to wipe my lips with it.

    Remind me again what I’m getting for the price I pay to see a movie?

  16. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jul 20


    Anyone who goes to a movie like Revenge of the Sith or The Incredibles really cannot complain about children — these are essentially kids films (cleverly created so as to have some appeal to adults also).

    What I specifically mentioned was crying babies — not children — and I am continually astounded at some parents bringing their infants to inapproprite films (NC 17 or R) or inappropriate times.

    btw, its not just movies — I was completely astonished when on Valentine Day, at a very upscale restaurant with a heavily promoted special Valentines Day Dinner, a couple brought their infant to dinner at 8:00. The baby cried all meal, ruining many an evening.

    The restautrant was fully booked. Obviously, its not the infants fault — rather 2 very selfish parents, and a cowardly/clueless Maitre D.

    The restaurants name is Diannes (in Roslyn, NY) — and we’ve never gone back.

  17. Josh Rothman commented on Jul 20

    I agree with all your complaints–but I have to add that, for us, declining movie quality is the big factor. This summer, for example, the three ‘big’ movies–Revenge of the Sith, War of the Worlds, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory–are remakes or sequels. So many more of the others are worthless special effects binges–“Stealth” anyone? If you want to see a long-term connection with the audience eroded for the sake of short-term profitability, just look to the movies Hollywood is producing. This is as much of a factor as anything else. We continue to patronize our local art cinemas and film archives, which are not only commercial free but which also show good movies.

    The truth is that there have been several ‘gold ages’ of cinema–think back to the era of “Rear Window” or, more recently, to “Apocalypse Now.” These were movies that people went to see because it was important to see them, and they were mainstream movies that were widely released in theaters. Nowadays there is a total disjunction: I can see “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” on four screens at the cineplex down the block or I can take the subway to a completely different theater that only shows ‘art’ movies. And I’m lucky to even have an art theater, since many places don’t have them at all. Movie theaters are doing badly because they’re showing crap movies.

  18. Ralph commented on Jul 20

    >”Just once, I’d love to see a discussion of the moviegoing experience that doesn’t involve child-haters spewing their nastiness all over the place. For the record: not once have I ever had my theater experience spoiled by crying children, talking children or any variety of child-centric unpleasantness. Rather, adults who think the theater is an extension of their living rooms are a far greater issue.”

    I suppose all the children have turned to donkeys on the childless island where you apparently live, but back here in the real world, pointing out that kids can be disruptive in a movie theater hardly makes one a “child-hater”. The fact is that selfish parents do indeed bring young kids to R films or late shows, and i’d love to smack them on the head with a blunt instrument (The parents, not the kids). It might actually be a form of child abuse, exposing a 3-year old to horrific gore and violent imagery.

    Aside from that, i think a point has been missed about the decline of movie theater attendance. I dont think its primarily about content, or picture quality, or about the superiority of the home-viewing experience. Movies are, and have ALWAYS been, fuled by the desire of kids and couples to simply GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. It’s not a matter of there being nothing worth seeing, or films being easier to watch at home. It’s that there are simply more, better, cheaper, more pleasant environments to go OUT to.

    Movies used to be the cheapest date you could go on, but they’re not anymore. That the experience has been degraded by ads, bad food, bad projection and bad service certainly adds insult to injury, but if they were still a cheap, convenient night out, the decline would be less pronounced. That the movies aren’t particularly good… thats subjective and cyclical. That you can have better viewing at home is true for high-end tech owners but thats not yet so widespread as to have had this kind of effect. It also doesn’t address the still existing need to “go out”.

    The answer for movie theaters isn’t better technology or better movies. Its about making the experience of going out to a movie a good, relatively inexpensive option for people again.

  19. Damian commented on Jul 20

    Karmakin wrote:

    “Simple as that. I don’t think that DVD sales play a huge part in this, I think it’s mostly the natural nature of the content delivery business.”

    Uh….and you’d be wrong. Check out the declining revenue and ticket sales of the theaters. Then look at relative penetration rates of DVD and home theaters – pretty strong correlation.

  20. Microsiervos commented on Jul 20

    Publicidad antes de las películas en los cines

    Se supone que cuando vas al cine estás pagando por ver una película de cine, no por tragarte diez minutos de publicidad antes del comienzo. Además, nunca empiezan a la hora que dicen y encima las palomitas y refrescos cuestan…

  21. Andrew commented on Jul 20

    THank goodness others here have pointed out the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. For my money, the best movie theater in the country.

    Great, “long-tail” programming, as well as current releases and summer blockbusters. And we *willingly* arrive 30 minutes ahead in order to catch the fantastic and often quite rare stuff they show before the movies.

    Good food and beer. Reasonably comfortable seats at the old Alamos, and plush, wonderful seats at the new ones.

    If I ever leave Austin, it will be the single thing I miss the most. Live music I won’t miss. The Alamo, though, that place is heaven.

  22. dude commented on Jul 20

    here’s another thought on the reason for the decline: Americans have less disposible income. Real Wages have been going down for about the last 5 or 6 years, and inflation is going up. I’d be curious to know if other entertainment goods and services have also experienced a decline in sales. The RIAA will be quick to point to CD’s and music declines, but what about theme park sales? What about video game console sales? Perhaps people are strpped for cash and choose the video game console, which is tangible and retains at least some of its value, over things like movies and theme parks, which are bassically just money down the drain since one cannot sell memories. …just a thought.

  23. Geof commented on Jul 20

    When I went to see Return of the King, I was turned away by the long line-up. Then every time I considered going, I thought that I would be funding Hollywood’s evil copyright policies. On top of the crowds, the loud noise, the endless advertising, the expense, it was just enough. Overnight, I went from over a movie a month to one or two a year. I never did see Return of the King.

  24. Thomas Claburn commented on Jul 20

    Sadly, avoiding theaters is no longer a sure way to avoid ads. Too many DVDs disable the ability to bypass coming attraction previews, FBI warnings, and the new anti-piracy segments I’ve seen on rented DVDs recently. It’s a rare DVD that loads the main menu directly (the extended version of the Lord of the Rings, for example). If theatrical revenues continue to decline, I’m sure we’ll see more ads on DVDs to make up the shortfall. I wonder how long a business model based on the idea that the customer is always wrong can last?

  25. Robert Nagle commented on Jul 20

    Interestingly, I just had a dialogue with a city newspaper reporter who wrote a basically pro-commercials at the movie theatre. She surveyed the local theatres (in Houston) and found that while theatres had lots of commercials, most of them started before the official movie start time. In other words, come early and get bombarded by commercials.

    I still don’t like that, but if movie times aren’t being postponed, that’s a different story.

  26. Petey commented on Jul 20

    “Let’s nip this one in the bud, shall we? 5 factors are hurting theater revenue”

    What rot.

    It’s a coincidence that theater revenue starts dropping at the exact same moment as movie piracy takes off on Bittorrent?

    To reiterate, what rot.


    If you think movie piracy is OK, just say so. Don’t resort to intellectual dishonesty to make your case.

  27. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jul 20

    I’ve written extensively on why I don’t think P2P is what’s impacting CD sales; (See this http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/music/index.html)

    If you want to argue that Bit Torrent is hurting Theatrical sales, how about providing us with some data points? When did BT come out — when did theatre sales slow? Is there are proven overlap between theatre custmers and BT users?

    Your argument lacks details, or persuasive facts. You think that higher prices, more ads, weak contents, DVDs, and noisy unpleasant theaters have nonething whatsoever to do with this?

    Petey, step it up.

    Before you start name calling, put forth a strong argument (or at least a real one). Otherwise, everyone here will merely assume you to be an MPAA troll.

  28. el ruben del mar commented on Jul 20

    Declining box offices = Alamo’s Gain

    This is why places like the Alamo Drafthouse are doing gangbusters in the face of declining box office numbers.

    People go to the movies for the experience, not for the corporate marketing schlep of lousy commercials and bad “reinventions” like Fant…

  29. dude commented on Jul 20

    Petey – I agree with Barry. Perhaps you are correct, but you do not provide any data to back up what you are saying. I do not download movies because the bootlegs tend to suck, and the download times are excessive, and most of the time its just easier to rent a DVD than to figure out how to make it worth watching on my home theater. I have not downloaded a movie in over 3 years, but I have joined both Netflix and Filmmovement.com in the last 3 years. If a movie is not worth my money and time to go see in a theater, its sure not worth the time and money required to (a) locate on the net, (b) spend hours and GB downloading, (c) unzip/decode/unhack/etc. IMO, Its just a waste of time and resources.

  30. Mulling it over commented on Jul 20

    I’ve found that it’s possible to use the DVD backup software DVD Shrink to improve DVDs by removing the ‘feature’ which prevents me from skipping the previews. It also removes the Region Code. Nice.

    The McMenamins theatre pubs in Portland, Oregon offer uber-cheap flicks you can watch while eating pub food and drinking microbrews. There are several other theatre pubs in town. Standard theatres are now pretty much for the Wal-mart set, IMHO.

  31. James commented on Jul 21

    It’s funny that the L.A. Times wrote that article. Here in L.A. we have to sit through their commercials before a movie starts.

    I don’t go to the theaters to see big mainstream movies anymore. I can see them 10 times a week when they come out on HBO. I enjoy the often unpredictable and stylish indie and foreign films. Thank goodness I live in Pasadena where I have three theaters of the sort to walk to.

  32. Roland Tanglao’s Weblog commented on Jul 21

    links for 2005-07-21

    Make the Web Mobile With IYHY – B. Adam (Howell) Yet another hack to route around broken sites for mobile devices – “Go ahead and put a URL in the text field on the homepage. Go ahead, any URL….

  33. Nathan commented on Jul 21

    I actually don’t mind ads before the movie. As someone else mentioned, it’s a nice buffer if you need to grab some food or visit the bathroom. Kind of like boarding time. Plus the ad’s themselves aren’t usually that bad.

    That said, I’ve been going to the movies less though. One decisive thing is the main cinema near me (who charge obscene amounts for the candy bar), just start enforcing a ban on outside food. (previously they only took issue with hot food and glass bottles).

  34. Petey commented on Jul 21


    “I do not download movies because the bootlegs tend to suck, and the download times are excessive, and most of the time its just easier to rent a DVD than to figure out how to make it worth watching on my home theater.”

    The problem is not you. The problem is teenage boys, who make up a huge chunk of the theatrical audience, downloading movies while they’re still in the theater.


    Barry Ritholtz,

    “I’ve written extensively on why I don’t think P2P is what’s impacting CD sales”

    I looked through your link, and you’re obviously cherry picking data points to prove your desired conclusion.

    You don’t like the content industries, you don’t see entertainment IP as worth of protection, and so you’re willing to either intentionally or unintentionally be intellectually dishonest in how you look at the evidence.

    Music sales drop off a cliff right when Napster hits, remain below those levels today, and you want to say it’s not about P2P?

    Movie theatrical revenues start declining just as movie file sharing hits a critical mass, and you want to say it’s not about P2P?

    Arguing with the who-cares-about-piracy crowd is like arguing with global warming deniers or with the Intelligent Design people. If you’re trying to arrive at the facts with people who just aren’t interested in the facts, it goes nowhere.

    “Otherwise, everyone here will merely assume you to be an MPAA troll.”

    Ahhh. And here we arrive at the real truth. A hostility to first the music industry and now the film industry leads a wide range of otherwise reasonable folks to craft the facts around their arguments.

    Like I said before, just say you don’t care about entertainment IP and you don’t care about piracy. That’d be wrong on a variety of different levels, but at least it’d be honest.

    You don’t want a broadcast flag on TV signals because you think you have a right to do anything with any content you come across, the legitimate IP owners be damned. Information wants to be free, and that principle is more important than laws or facts.

    Saying P2P hasn’t affected music and movie sales because you think P2P is otherwise a good thing is known as lying.

  35. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jul 21

    1) I care deeply about both the film and music industry, as I am a huge film buff and music fan. Indeed, Music is one of my great joys, and I am all too aware that if it is becomes an economically unviable entity, it wont be around available (at least no in pesent form). Ditto film.

    2) But I also care about reality, and have been deeply disturbed by the RIAA’s attempts to distort and misrepresent. My hostility is to them — not the artists/producers/managers of music, not to the directors/writers/producers of films.

    3) If you really want to see some hostility, read about the industry weasels who steal from artists (see the books “Hit Men” or “Stiffed”) and have conspired to fix prices and thwart competition.

    4) The music industry’s woes predate Napster — look at the 1996 Telecommunications act, which set the wheels of radio consolidation in motion. Thats the genesis of shrunken playlists, reduced variety, and vanishing radio share of entertainment, and reduced CDs sales. Consumers cannot buy what they never get exposed to;

    5) Speaking from personal experience, I never bought more CDs than the period when Napster was around; It was like the ultimate radio, and I discovered more new music then, than any other recent period;

    6) Your complaints about arguing that P2P advocates do not use facts are disingenuous: They have been discussed ad nauseum on this site in lurid detail. After the 1996 Telecom act, we saw a major recession, 9/11 attacks, and then the rise of alternative entertainment — DVDs, Video Games, MMPOG, Blogs, etc. all of which impacted sales.

    7) Its not just CDs, but all “old” media — sports attendance, TV viewing, newspapers, magazines, radio — have suffered from a sales slowdown. There has been a major shift occurring, and industry execs who just blame Napster are missing the bigger picture. (Get a clue);

    8) Indeed, most of the Recording industry’s woes are self inflicted: High prices, refusal to respond to the demand for digital distribution for too many years, boring retail experience, and of course, weak content (insipid Boy Bands!) are the main sources of industry problems.


    Blame P2P. Thats easier, and requires no thinking — or innovative management — or responsibility — by the recording industry.

  36. AK commented on Jul 21

    It’s not all so bad, here in catalonia a cinema ticket costs 5€, popcorn and a drink is 3€, and they show about 5 or 6 comercials, they don’t last more than 5 minutes :)

    but I remember once in scotland the experience was kinda like you guys are saying, we had like 15-20 mins of ads. that was in some big cinema-chain, I don’t remember the name. I suppose it’s only cheap in small cinemas?

  37. Petey commented on Jul 21

    “The music industry’s woes predate Napster — look at the 1996 Telecommunications act”

    And look at the music sales graphs – consistently up until ’98/’99, and then they fall off the cliff. Yeah. It must be something other than Napster. Can you hear yourself?

    “Speaking from personal experience, I never bought more CDs than the period when Napster was around”

    You’re experience is not the norm.

    I was in a college town during that period, and all the kids – the lifeblood of the music industry – basically stopped buying CD’s.

    The demographic most active in P2P is the demographic most crucial to the pop content industries, and is the demographic most likely to steal with any moral compunctions.

    “But I also care about reality, and have been deeply disturbed by the RIAA’s attempts to distort and misrepresent.”

    The music industry suits are undeniably sleazy. But you seem to have decided that if they aren’t intellectually honest, that frees you from the burden of intellectual honesty. I don’t like that logic.

    And I’d expect you can see the fallacy of assuming you are only hurting the suits, and not the artists. I have friends in bands, and I know how the collapse of A&R spending in the post-Napster era has hurt them badly. I have friends in creative positions in the film & TV industries, and they’re all terrified about the future.

    But you go have fun sticking it to the RIAA and MPAA. Bad suits. Bad.

    “Your complaints about arguing that P2P advocates do not use facts are disingenuous”

    That’s my experience. Folks who have made an ideological determination that Information Wants To Be Free and that P2P serves a societal good are willing to fix the facts to “prove” their ideological decisions.

    They are more concerned about proving their case than they are about the validity of their points. They feel they have a larger truth on their side, and thus are allowed to cut corners on all the other “minor” truths.

    I kid you not. It’s a specific mindset I’ve only seen when debating global warming deniers and Intelligent Design proponents.

    “Its not just CDs, but all “old” media — sports attendance, TV viewing, newspapers, magazines, radio — have suffered from a sales slowdown. There has been a major shift occurring, and industry execs who just blame Napster are missing the bigger picture.”

    The shifts you discuss are all true, but music sales peaks right as Napster peaks. 6 years later, theatrical movie attendance peaks right as currently-in-theater movie P2P distribution takes off.

    If you’re determined to massage the facts to fit your conclusion, you can close your eyes to Occam’s Razor.

    “Blame P2P. Thats easier, and requires no thinking”

    Easier?!? I’d suggest the content industries would rather be fighting any enemy in the world except for piracy. They can deal with the other factors and still make money. Piracy is the one thing they know can kill them.

    The 90’s media conglomerations were all about making sure they’d still be able to sell product even as distribution methods shifted with technology.

    But piracy isn’t solved by innovative distribution methods.

    “Thats easier, and requires no thinking — or innovative management — or responsibility — by the recording industry.”

    It sure is hard to compete with free, even with the most innovative management.

    Maybe you’re one of those folks who think bands should just make their money selling their T-shirts while touring. You can’t download those, I guess.


    Pretend you hold no brief for P2P or against the RIAA and MPAA, and try looking at the data again with an open mind. It’s really pretty clear.

    To return to the global warming metaphor yet again, that’s kinda what the content/piracy issue is like. I can’t prove with 100% certainty that the largest factor in music and movies right now is piracy, but an open minded observer will quickly come to conclusion that piracy is the overwhelmingly likely explanation.

  38. Damian commented on Jul 21

    I find it interesting that neither Petey nor Barry (and Barry – I love your blog so don’t take this too hard) present any data to back up their relative and opposite views. Sure P2P might be causing the movie business to slide – or it could be a host of factors. Human beings tend to look for one single causation for an event – we’re pattern matchers – so that’s the way we are wired to think. Personally I think it is all of the above – with P2P being still a relatively small portion of the problem (in my opinion – note: NO DATA AVAILABLE). So, in total, all the factors that are likely to have had an impact (culled from the comments here):

    – Increase in movie ticket prices
    – Drop in disposable income
    – Rise in the number of entertainment options available
    – Decline in theater experience
    – Increase in the home theater experience
    – P2P downloads combined with a lack of online innovation from movie companies
    – Decrease in DVD release window
    – Decrease in film quality (a high subjective measure, but one I happen to agree with)
    – Increase in films produced (not sure if this is true – might be increase in films while increasing the number of screens that a typical blockbuster is released on)

    Now, Petey – given all of these factors, how can you possibly say that P2P is the sole factor in affecting movie attendence?

    Regarding your comment: “It sure is hard to compete with free, even with the most innovative management.”

    Well, Apple seems to be doing a decent job with iTunes – granted, still a small part of the overall music sales numbers but it shows that people are looking for legal options.

    Just some food for thought…..

  39. Extra commented on Jul 21


    Your corrolation of the entertainment industry with globel warming is interesting. I know I have gotten hot under the collar after attending my local theater. If others have the same reaction that could explain the globel warming.

  40. dude commented on Jul 21

    Petey – I hear you on the teenage boy issue. They have lots more free time than I do and alot less money, so they would be more likely to be willing to spend time tinkering with the whole download process. However, I would imagine that the demographic of people who post comments on this site would pretty much exclude teenage boys, and just look at all the people, including me, who have posted comments that say “I used to go to the movies, but I don’t now because….” Saying that the whole problem is due to P2P completely discounts all of us who feel like the Theater experience is no longer worth the price, for whatever reason.

    You can’t deny that there are other factors beyond P2P that have contributed to the decline in theater ticket sales, but your point about the teenage boys seems valid. Do you have any data on how much of the theaters’ ticket sales come from the teenage boy demographic? I would imagine that its at least a huge chunk, if not one of the largest.

  41. Moxie Cinema commented on Jul 21

    Thank you for articulating the problem with theater experience so well. You really hit the nail on the head. My wife and I are opening our own indie theater and will bending over backwards to create a one-of-a-kind movie-going experience. Not only will it differentiate us from the multiplexes down the road, but we’re also hoping it will help us maintain a high rate of customer retention. Thanks again for a great article!

  42. Disgusted commented on Jul 21

    Although I find the limited and poor choice of language in the posts above to be disagreeable, I agree with their content.

    As a grandmother, I will not take my grandchildren to movies anymore. All the AMC and REGAL theatres (that’s what’s available within 25 miles of us) are dirty, charge excessive amounts of money (try taking 6 children and one adult to a movie for under $70), then they have commercials. My little ones are well-behaved, they know that gramma will simply end the experience if they talk or wriggle too much, but they are puzzled at why other parents / grandparents don’t enforce good behavior. I took the little ones to a children’s flick and there were trailers for R-rated films with questionable language and nudity. Why should I expose my grandchildren to that kind of trash?

    I am more and more appalled at public behavior and the lack of basic good taste and *manners.* We need the ushers back, we need either no commercials (preferred) or strict limits on them – less than 5 minutes, we need projectionists who carefully watch for and correct when movies go out-of-focus.

    All this, plus reduce the prices to something the average person can afford – at least under $7 for adults and under $4 for children. And we need parents to teach their children proper public behavior.

    Then you might see average people returning to the theatres once more. In the meantime, I’m making my own popcorn (under 15cents for 8 children), and we watch DVDs – quietly, without disturbing the others – and have some healthy beverages (juice or homemade lemonade). No candy to make them hyper. And we can pause the movie for them to go to the bathroom.

    My husband and I do the same thing when it is just the two of us in the evenings. Why not? Why should we subject ourselves to unbridled bad manners, uncomfortable seats and tasteless junk food when we can be comfortable at home? The “movie experience?” It’s gone with the wind. The last movie I saw in a theatre that was worth anything was To Kill a Mockingbird back in 1962. People were polite and quiet. Popcorn was fresh and tasty. It cost less than the meal we ate before the movie (at a moderate quality restaurant that college students could afford).

    Bah! Humbug! To think I have lived to see this kind of drivel!

  43. Randolph Pterson commented on Jul 21

    Yes indeed!
    but at home it is not as fun when you poke a hole in middle of the popcorn bucket and sneak a suprise into the bucket for your friend sitting next to you

  44. Waldorph McMurphy commented on Jul 21

    Yes indeed!
    but at home it is not as fun when you poke a hole in middle of the popcorn bucket and sneak a suprise into the bucket for your friend sitting next to you

  45. Derek commented on Jul 21

    Commercials in movie theatres killed my father.

  46. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jul 21

    well, they hurt him real bad. Hurt his feelings . . .

  47. Erik Schmidt commented on Jul 21

    Right on the money! I made essentially the same point (with less supporting evidence) here. The more people write about this, the more the movie industry will be forced to examine just how badly they treat their customers. Maybe they’ll figure a way out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, which would certainly help moviegoers as well as the movie industry.

  48. JungleG Blog – Jorge Escobar’s Diary commented on Jul 21

    Movie Box Office declining

    Although there’s been an upbeat on the previous weeks, studios are really nervous about the ongoing decline in box office compared to last year.

    Barry Ritholtz has a very good posting about the possible reasons this is happening.

    Just last weeken…

  49. Piece O’ Freedom commented on Jul 21

    Tips for the Movie Industry – Redux

    A couple of weeks ago I posted that the movie industry needs to stop treating its customers like lab rats. There’s a great article about this topic over at The Big Picture. Hopefully the Powers That Be in the movie…

  50. Matt Rolak commented on Jul 21

    Very interesting… I also made nearly the same points a while back (linked as the URL on my name here).

    It seems many, many people are of increasingly similar thoughts about movies. They are fun but perhaps going to the theatre itself just isn’t the way of the future anymore…. Hollywood just needs to figure out a better way to consider their revenue perhaps.

  51. Geek News Central commented on Jul 22

    So why are people staying away from Movie Theaters

    Personally have you ever went with your spouse, and four kids to the movies and saw the entrance fee (I…

  52. w commented on Jul 23

    one word, IMAX. Differentes with pricing power.

  53. a. fish commented on Jul 23

    Try to see it in the theater

    Last night I was in the Mission district talking with some clients about an upcoming project. Somehow the subject of racism surfaced. One woman named Michelle said she was exploring all the variations of racism within the hispanic community. Being

  54. DiVERSiONZ commented on Jul 23

    The Big Picture

    Why are movie revenues going down? Well, let’s see, maybe it’s because A)They are overpriced B) The movies aren’t very good for the most part and C) There are too many other annoying people in these facilities that aren’t really…

  55. DiVERSiONZ commented on Jul 24

    The Big Picture

    Why are movie revenues going down? Well, let’s see, maybe it’s because A)They are overpriced B) The movies aren’t very good for the most part and C) There are way too many other annoying people in these facilities that aren’t…

  56. Ed commented on Jul 25

    I actually think it is this:

    – Movies offer a lower-quality experience than they once did. It is an uncontrolled environment; people are noisy, disrespectful. No one at theaters takes responsibility, it is just hoped they will behave.

    – Home theaters aren’t great, but they’re “good enough.” I’d rather watch in the privacy of my home than risk an experience ruined by inconsiderate people.

    I don’t care about the price point, I don’t care about the ads.

    If a theater took care to ensure people were quiet, enforced order, etc, I would pay double my ticket price for a guaranteed quality experience.

    If Starbucks can teach us anything, it is that experience matters. – Ed

  57. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jul 25

    thats the money quote! Thanks for posting

  58. BruceC commented on Jul 26

    I’m another fan of the Alamo Drafthouse theaters in Austin. I don’t live there anymore, but back when I did, they were the only theater I would visit. Why? From the time I walked in the doors to the time I left, I felt like I was in a place that ~cared~ about movies. They were not just selling me a product, they were sharing something they were passionate about with me. Instead of gigantic cardboard billboards for a movie that was months away from release all over the lobbies, there were posters from classic movies. And this sensibility pervaded the moviegoing experience there. Buying food during the movie was novel enough to get me to try the place (and the food was really good), but it was the overall quality of the experience that kept me coming back. Instead of ads before the movies, they’d show trailers for the actors’ previous works (trailers for Losin’ It and Risky Business preceded Minority Report), or some other clips that related to the feature. When I went there, I didn’t feel like some conglomerate was just shovelling so much product at me. I felt like people who “got” what made movies, and the moviegoing experience, special were wanting me to enjoy what it was all about, the FEATURE. The downtown location was constantly hosting a festival of some sort or other, or a screening with the stars of the movie (I saw Shaun of the Dead hosted by the director and leads), or just something interesting (I experienced Dark Side of the Rainbow at the drafthouse). All that, and the ticket prices were the same as the big chains (probably subsidized by the food sales). I hear they are branching out beyond Austin, and I sincerely hope they can maintain the feel that made it such a unique place as they grow.

    So, maybe there’s a future for theaters that actually focus on letting customers experience the movie, rather than making us feel like we’re being gouged to increase somebody else’s bottom line. Make no mistake, I expect a business to make money, but there’s a value point past which I no longer feel a transaction is equitable. And standard theaters have long since passed that point for me.

  59. a. fish commented on Jul 26

    Slate: Hollywood shortens theatrical release window

    This Slate article, Hollywood’s Death Spiral,confirms my theory that the race to sell movies on DVD is creating a decline in theater ticket sales:The [Hollywood death] spiral begins with a shortening of the delay, or window, that separates a movie’s

  60. a. fish commented on Jul 26

    Slate: Hollywood shortens theatrical release window

    This Slate article, Hollywood’s Death Spiral,confirms my theory that the race to sell movies on DVD is creating a decline in theater ticket sales:The [Hollywood death] spiral begins with a shortening of the delay, or window, that separates a movie’s

  61. Steve commented on Jul 29

    I disagree with a couple of your reasons. People have been talking in movies since the days of silent pix. And it’s always been irritating. Ushers? I don’t every remember ushers, even when I was a kid in the 60’s.

    Important factors are low quality films and the wonderful home entertainment systems. However, the biggest factor of all is demographic: that big bulge in the population, the boomers, are simply no longer movie going age. I know, I’m one.

    Obviously, when you’re 50, you’re not as excited about going out as when you’re 20. However, more important is the ‘seen it all’ syndrome. When I was 20, I was excited about every new hyped film that came out. But after seeing 500-1000 movies, how many stories are going to really be new to me? Do I really want to see Tom Cruise & co save the world one more time?

    At the same time, a really well put together, high-quality show like Deadwood absolutely mesmerizes me. But that’s a high standard that few movies or TV shows reach. And I really think that’s it – when you’re older, seen that, been there – the standard is a lot higher.

  62. Double-oh-steven commented on Aug 12

    It is directly related to quality- no question. The quality of the theater experience, but more so, the movies themselves.

  63. Piece O’ Freedom commented on Aug 14

    Tips for the Movie Industry – Redux

    A couple of weeks ago I posted that the movie industry needs to stop treating its customers like lab rats. There’s a great article about this topic over at The Big Picture. Hopefully the Powers That Be in the movie…

  64. jim commented on Aug 15

    I do not buy music or movies or go to the theatre anymore. Since the RIAA and the MPAA likes to sue 12

    year old girls, 85 year old women who don’t even have computers, and plus even dead people.. They are

    going to have to get their next Lamborgini without my help…

    Before anyone says that not buying their products will hurt the little guy, remember that the entertainment

    industry loves to call for a boycott against any industry that doesn’t fit their view of how the world should

    be and they do not care how many “little people” get ran over in the process…..Besides, my life is not

    dependant on the entertainment industry, but their’s is dependant on people such as me…..

  65. Greg commented on Aug 19

    I didn’t even know this message board existed until last night when I was doing research online concerning opening a movie theater. I’ve been a movie buff since I was 14 (I’m 45 now) and used to manage a theater in Northern CA. I too have almost stopped going to the theater because of the overall bad experience, the high admission prices, and the crap retreads that we’re being shamelessly charged nine and ten dollars to see by mainstream Hollywood.

    That said, I wanted to say that part of why we pay so much for “food” at the snack bar is because that is really the sole place the theater has any chance to make money. The vast majority of all the dollars coming into the box office go directly to the film distributor. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the high snack bar prices too, but I do understand why they exist. The whole system needs to be revamped before we’ll see snack bar prices reasonable again.

    I have two close friends who along with me are looking into opening a theater in Phoenix along the lines of the Alamo Drafthouse theaters. It was amazing to read about all the great stuff they do there because those are exactly the types of things we plan to do. This theater would exist simply by and for those who LOVE film. For a short list, there would be no commercials, mainly independent films (with a few exceptions) no crying babies (old theaters used to have a cry room where mom’s could go if their baby got fussy. We would re-instate that), ushers to handle disruptive customers, projectionists who pay attention to the picture and sound, and maintain a comfortable temperature. People shouldn’t have to pay 10 bucks to freeze while watching their movie. And that would be just for starters.

    At this point, we’re just starting the process but if you are from Phoenix and you happen to read this, we’d love to know how much support there is out there for what we would call “Independent Cinema”. Thanks!

  66. dave speirs commented on Aug 20

    read with much interest all these comments im a chief technician of a 3 screen cinema here in england uk much of whatswritten here is same in uk however adverts are limmited to max 13 min [still too long ] but thetre chains get a LOT of revenue from adverts [can save cinemas closing then we show a few trailers of forth coming movies max agan 3 or 4total time alotted is 20 min i can sugest you find out actual movie start time not start of programe [poster outside our cinema states actuall movie starts 20 min after prog stars as for poor quality presentation ie picture /sound it just should not be happening [ive done it 40 yrs so know what im saying here ok lol on in plexes 1 guy running up to 20 screens cant check sound n focus 100 % its hard sometines wityh my 3 and things can /do go wrong hope you enjoyed my comments feel free to e mail me ok[I LOVE AMERICA ] OH STOP THE ILLEGAL VIEWING .COPYING OF MOVIES B4 U CLOSE ALL CINEMAS OK dave s

  67. DAVE SPEIRS commented on Aug 21

    hi greg [letter above mine i think u have the right ideas greg especially good pic /sound write to me sometime ok DAVE S england uk

  68. dave speirs commented on Aug 22

    i forgot to add my e mail addresss [DAVE S

  69. Still Falling Down commented on Sep 21

    Busy over in the City Council, aren’t they?

    The members of the New York City Council obviously need a hobby.
    Introduction No. 563 of the New York City Council attempts to regulate the times at which movies can start.

    Council Members Brewer, Gerson, James, Koppell, Liu, Nelson, Palma, Perkins,

  70. Brett Glass commented on Oct 2

    I go once a week. But the difference between my experience and yours (with annoying ads, long lines, etc.) is that I am not going to a chain theater. I’m going to a small, local one which hosts films personally selected by the owner in cooperation with the local film society (which I helped to found several years ago). There are no commercials, and there are only trailers when they have especially high production values or are entertaining by themselves.

    You can’t buy tickets online, but that’s not a problem because the line — which is served by several local students who work for the owner — moves quickly. And you get a 20% discount off the already reasonable admission charge if you are a member of the Film Society.

    In short, while the studios can be blamed for the limited number of good films that are available (thank goodness for the small, independent filmmakers), they aren’t to blame for the annoyances you experienced. The owners of the theaters have a tremendous amount of control over the experience — and could have eliminated every one of the distractions and delays you experienced.

  71. Tim commented on Oct 3

    There has been much tea-leaf reading in an attempt to explain “the summer that audiences stayed home,” including movie studio executives actually acknowledging that some of the films they released were less than brilliant. But I’d like to add a modest number of my own observations.

    * Every new film being released competes with every other film that the studios have produced. There has never before been a time in film history when audiences have had so much choice, including the ability to see almost any film ever produced, via the boom in DVD releases, and unprecedented numbers of cable and satellite channels (multiple HBOs, Cinemaxes, Showtimes, Turner Classics, et al) devoted to film. Even though cable and home video have been widely available since the late 1970s, there’s never been such a glut of moviegoing opportunities. It is a buyer’s market.

    * The so-called hundred-channel universe is now finally real, and the number of homes with access to them has never been higher, with multiple iterations of high-viewership networks for news, sports and entertainment. There have never been greater reasons to stay home and see what’s on TV. The cinema business may be impacted by stay-at-home audiences and theater owners lose, but the movie studios win, since they own and operate the broadcast and cable networks.

    * Audience tastes are changing, and the younger, Internet-aware audiences are less attracted to traditional fare. More young people are sharing self-made media — digital “movies,” music, photographs, etc. — than ever before, and much of this kind of programming is higher quality than ever before, due to the availability of digital video and editing systems, digital audio recording and editing, etc. It’s never been easier for individuals to express themselves in words, sounds and pictures, and all of this is small but steadily growing competition for the studio fare.

    * Media companies are cranking out record amounts of product — TV series and other network fare, feature films, home videos — but time to consume these products isn’t expanding nearly enough for audiences to take advantage of the boom. Competition, not just for moviegoing dollars, but for sheer attention among various divisions of the Big Six media companies — Sony/Columbia, Viacom/Paramount, Fax, Warners, Disney/ABC and NBC-Universal — is almost cannibalistic. For example, Time-Warner’s film division wants you to leave the house and go to a movie, but CNN, Warner Home Video and AOL wants you to stay home and devote yourself to their offerings.

    Everybody’s making more movies. Nobody’s making more time in which to see them.

  72. dave speirs commented on Oct 8

    a lot of good points there tim DAVE S–ENGLAND UK

  73. Lainie Turner commented on Oct 14

    My husband and I operate two art cinemas we built ourselves, here in Corvallis, Oregon–a university town of about 50K people when school is in session. The Avalon Cinema has one screen and holds 110 theater-goers. The Darkside Cinema is a four-plex with each room holding 49. It’s built on the second floor of a former department store: renovated to reuse cool downtown space.

    Links to both are here:

    Although we’re a university town, most of our clientele are not students; they’re young working singles and couples, aging boomers whose kids are old enough they don’t need a babysitter, and retired seniors.

    It’s been interesting to watch the major studios whine about the decline in attendance. By contrast, we’ve been enjoying steady and even increasing attendance, and we think it’s due to several factors:

    – The films we play are not Hollywood crap. We play a wide variety of “indie,” alternative, foreign, documentary films, rated anywhere from G (Penguins, Millions…) to NC-17 (Bad Education, The Dreamers…).

    – Our prices are well below the cineplexes–both for tickets and snack bar items.

    – Our popcorn is infinitely refillable.

    – People can bring in their own food and beverages (even beer if they don’t get crazy), as long as they pack out the trash they brought in.

    – We have a well publicized policy of (good-natured) harassment for anyone who leaves their cell phone on.

    – We’re a visible part of the community, hosting benefits non-profits, and participating in civic issues to keep the downtown alive and thriving.

    – We hire staff who bring their human-ness to the job. They interact with patrons in a friendly manner, not as corporate automatons. They know can make independent decisions about how to handle issues that come up.

    – Customers can talk to the owner(s) face to face. We are not hiding in a 9-to-5 corporate office outside the area. Each week, we send an email to subscribers, listing upcoming shows and including a brief topical essay.

    – We DON’T show commercials. Previews of coming attractions, yes. But never commercials.

    So, even though we don’t have stadium seating complete with cupholders, we have a loyal following in the Mid-Willamette Valley, which grows each year as more people settle in the area. And cushy, old-fashioned seats. Plus a sofa.

    We’re not perfect; we have business issues similar to any locally owned, independent, on-a-shoestring business. But we feel pretty good about bringing quality film–without the BS–to a wide range of local cinephiles who show their appreciation every week.

    Thanks for the opp’ty to share,

  74. Mark Powalisz commented on Nov 7

    I am a resident in Winter Park, FL. I recently went to the movie theater to see Saw II. I really liked the movie and I would recommend it to people. The problem I had is the fact that on opening night they showed the movie with clips missing from the reel. I think roughly four scenes of the movie were missing. The theater explained that they had this problem with every reel they had recieved and that we could recieve a ticket to see it later. My question is what kind of asshole running the theater allowed the film to show, knowing that the reels were incomplete.

  75. Jim and Lynnette’s Fun Times Guide commented on Nov 29

    Movie Nostalgia: Drive-In Theaters Plus A List Of Tennessee Drive-Ins

    We went to a drive-in movie the other night and had a blast. We learned a few things about drive-in movie theaters at the same time! If your idea of a drive-in is SONIC, then you need to read this. It’s time to take a step back in time.

  76. joseph barnes commented on Dec 8

    You know what I think is that the people that run these movies theatres just need to wake up and realise that theyre blaming the wrong people. they sit there and say its piracy and then jack the prices up 5 bucks just to go see a matinee its retarted. they need to realise if they lower the prices theyll get more people to go to the movies and probably make just as much money. but price aint the only thing i mean i hate going just because u sit there and have some jerk behind wording the entire movie or yelling it out or you have people who get bored during the movie and instead of leaving they decide to ruin the experience for everyone else.

  77. Sam commented on Jan 17

    We have a family of three. I have a movie pass which allows us to get in for free. We get two large drinks, two nachos and a large popcorn. I still ended up paying $25. I am not justifying boot-leg movies, movie goers are my meal ticket, however, If you have 4 or more people in your family, you are spending over $80 for a movie that not everyone is guaranteed to enjoy. I hadn’t been to a movie theatre in a few years and would not have gone if it wasn’t for the pass. I like waiting for the DVD and enjoying it (or not) in the comfort of my own peaceful home.

  78. Sam commented on Jan 17

    We have a family of three. I have a movie pass which allows us to get in for free. We get two large drinks, two nachos and a large popcorn. I still ended up paying $25. I am not justifying boot-leg movies, movie goers are my meal ticket, however, If you have 4 or more people in your family, you are spending over $80 for a movie that not everyone is guaranteed to enjoy. I hadn’t been to a movie theatre in a few years and would not have gone if it wasn’t for the pass. I like waiting for the DVD and enjoying it (or not) in the comfort of my own peaceful home.

  79. White American commented on Jan 19

    There are three reasons for declining movie attendance:

    1. Black themed movies/token characters
    2. Gay themed movies
    3. Treating these types of movies/characters as what white mainstream audiences want to see.

    Hollywood needs a reality check. These types of movies have a relatively small target audience, and adding token minorities to movies and portraying them as wise, noble, and smarter than they are in reality, or portraying gay as “normal,” is advancing an agenda, not art imitating life. People want to see films with characters they can identify with, not films with people they’d like to forget exist for a couple of hours.

    Look at the revenue generated by Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Narnia, and any of their sequels. Gay undertones, token actors and “color-blind casting” HURT films, and if Hollywood would figure this out, attendance might actually rise.

    I’ve actually been standing in theater lobbies and heard people discuss films while looking at coming attraction posters. On more than one occasion, I’ve overheard, “Looks good, but I wonder how they’re going to work a ________ into that one?”

  80. Bruce Raffel commented on Feb 21

    I am over 50 now, and only occassionally go to the movies any longer. When I was a child, I loved to go. Now, I find the experience much less rewarding. I agree with the above comments…I hate the commercials, popcorn no longer has lots of salt and real butter, cell phones aren’t turned off, people talk, and so forth. But what gets my goat also is that the movies of the last few years aren’t nearly what they were….Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Star Wars, The Exorcist, Jaws…these type films are all from 25 years ago or so. Nothing is worse in the theater experience than to go to something that looks interesting, only to discover you can write the ending about 1/3 of the way into the movie. Or, it is so boring, you and your significant other leave to find something else to do. The last movie I went to see “Firewall” with Harrison Ford….Bruce Willis did the same movie better a few years ago, and Harrison looks like he can barely run…..STUNT DOUBLE PLEASE

  81. Steven Gomez commented on Mar 8

    My biggest problem is that you have people talking during the film, baby’s crying and cell phones being used. I mean how disrespectful people in movie theaters are. I mean I am only in my early 30’s and some people somehow forget that other people paid to see the movie not hear them rant and rave with their friends or dates. When are the theater owner’s going to take more action.

  82. rita scholl commented on Mar 13

    I had not been to a movie theatre since I saw “Chicago” at a matinee in NYC. But my daughter and I went to see “Mrs. Henderson Presents” on Saturday at a small theatre in Red Bank, NJ. The room was filled with older people who KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE at the movies. No cell phones, no talking. It was a delight.

    The advertising is annoying, as everyone agrees. But the movie was very good. I was happy to have had a pleasant experience when I expected the worst.

  83. Dana commented on Mar 26

    Remember when the parking lot at
    the movies used to be packed on a

  84. Yssa commented on Apr 18

    I really REALLY want to own a movie theatre with an arcade and restaraunt on the side. If I were to fix these problems, do you think I would be successful??

  85. Peter commented on Jul 3

    the decline of movie attendence is most certainly due to the fact that the people who commission films are generally a committy of unimaginative fat cats who merit films on their profitability rather than their artistic content. one shining example of this is the recent film big mommas house 2 i mean come on, who thought of that. there are way too many sequills, prequills and remakes which just repeat the same tired old story lines and exploit the preexisting development of aleady two dimensional characters. this is not to say that there are no good mainstream films for example the lord of the rings, the new star wars`, king kong and batman begins. but these are generally very high buget epics which are a guarenteed success. there are other good films but these are often spoiled by sparse funding and therefore poor acting, twenty eight days later, serenty. my reconmendations are to watch as much asian cinema as possible and stay away from things like the remake of the planet of the apes remake that was so poor it tarnished the name of the brilliant film that didnt need messing with.

  86. Geek News Central commented on Dec 30

    So why are people staying away from Movie Theaters

    Personally have you ever went with your spouse, and four kids to the movies and saw the entrance fee (I swear it’s like half my car payment). Never fails though you herd them all into the bathroom away from the…

  87. wayne commented on Feb 10

    As more and more of the large theatres (4 – 20 screens & and running the movies 2 – 4 weeks are built the smaller theatres are forced to closed. It’s like a big retail store building several stores (with lower prices) in one town the smaller stores are unable to keep up. The theatre prices prices have gone through the ceiling an example: admissions and concession stand prices go up up and away. $9.00 or more for admission, $2.50 or more for a drink and $3.50 or more for popcorn really now who’s putting who out of business. The movie industry hasn’t helpeither releasing the movies on DVD after just 6 months in the theatre, it should be at least a year wait.

  88. Paul commented on Feb 28

    EVERYBODY! See “This Film is Not Yet Rated”.

  89. Thomas commented on Mar 5

    Hollywood will always be on the decline. this is a great thing. i believe it is showing the human race to show more signs of brain power.it takes more than a poorly written movie to entertain people now. people are starting to realize that these overpaid pre madonna actors are not worth a dime. nobady wants to support these big dheaded ego maniacs

  90. mike commented on May 24

    what the fuck

  91. joan commented on Jun 6

    I used to go to the movies once a week. Now, you can’t go, unless you want to punish yourself.

    High ticket prices
    Popcorn/candy/soda costs more than ticket

    This is just for starters.

    Sit down and get for your money:

    Repetitive vile movie violence
    Extra loud explosions
    Neverending sloppy wet kisses
    Naked and more naked in one way or another
    Sex of one kind or the other
    Cursing, Cursing… plus…
    Lousy storylines

    … and I am going to “pay” to be put through this?
    … and they wonder why the revenue is down?

    Anyone that wonders why movie-goers don’t go to the movies anymore – does not “pay” to go to the movies themselves, or they would know, “why.”

    I come out of the theatre, cursing my loss of entertainment more than the money. It’s not the money as, “WHERES THE STORY?”

  92. jackcrow commented on Jul 16

    Yes the commercials suck, they’re annoying, there’s too many of them.

    Yes, there are people with cellphones who can’t understand the (at least) 3 or 4 reminders to turn them to vibrate or turn them off.

    Yes, the prices for movies are incredibly high, especially here in NYC.

    But you can’t blame hollywood for any of these… here’s why I stopped going to the movies, simply because the 95% of the movies suck.

    We all know who the bad guys are.. the government, white racist facists men, the military (especially officers in the military), big business, … who am I missing? The plotlines are unimaginative and silly.

    Why bother going to see a movie when we all know the story already?

  93. tia commented on Nov 2

    i think this is all bullshit!

  94. tia commented on Nov 2

    i think this is all bullshit!

  95. nicole commented on Dec 3

    I personally think it is a rip off to go to the movie theatre’s. I can watch 10 movies a month through netflix for the same price you pay to see one movie!

  96. SMR commented on Jan 6

    We know it!

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