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TOPIC: Why do people go to the movies?

Why do people go to the movies? 11 Apr 2011 06:14 #35711

  • RoxyVaudeville
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After reading the post about the couple who own the State Theatre in Jackson, Minn. and how they face the same fate as we all do in having to convert to digital projection, I started thinking about what it takes to get people to come to the movies. Obviously if we can get enough people to come on a regular basis, the cost of converting would not be a problem. It would pay for itself.

Our patrons however, could care less if it’s film or digital. They for the most part don’t know the difference. They come to be entertained. How it gets on the screen isn’t important to them. As long as the picture and sound quality are good, and the seats are comfortable they are satisfied.

Advertising that we have digital projection won’t bring in enough extra patrons (if any at all) to contribute toward the cost of conversion. Advertising 3D may bring in some extra revenue, but still doesn’t add much to the bottom line. Figures for the industry for 2010 showed an increase in BO gross, but that was due only to the fact that ticket prices were higher due to the 3D surcharge. Actural admission figures were lower. After we pay the fee for the 3D and the regular film percentage on the 3D surcharge, very little is left for the exhibitor. After paying the 3D surcharge, our patrons have less money left to spend on refreshments where we get to keep a larger percentage of it.

In order to pay for this, all we need do is get more butts in our seats. In order to get more butts in our seats we need to figure out why people go to the movies. In order to do so, let’s step back and and take a look at what we probably already know. People go to the movies to be entertained. Today there are more choices then ever for people to select something to do during their free time. There is bowling, minature golf, sports of all sorts, concerts and plays, casino gambling, biking, hiking, going to clubs, museums, going out to eat at nice resturants or just visiting friends and family. The list goes on and on.

Movies are a form of entertainment that makes the viewer forget about the world around them, where they can become completely emersed in the experience of the story and the way that it is presented. During a good movie you for the most part forget that anything else exists as you become totally enraptured in the visual and audio adventure that is taking place before your eyes and ears. In addition to the enjoyment one gets from the movie going experience, it is also one of the most affordable forms of entertainment available.

We as exhibitors have little control over the product that is made for our theatre screens. We have to take what Hollywood (and other film makers) give. We can select what we want to show as we see fit, but only from what is produced by others. Since we’re not making the movies ourselves, we must be content with the product available to us and figure out how to better sell it to the public.

So therefore, what IS the public looking for? A clean comfortable facility, easy to find and access, convenient free parking, reasonable pricing, a curtious and helpful staff, good picture and sound presentation, and of course a good selection of movies to choose from.

Many here would argue that they are already giving their patrons all of this, so what can they do beyond this to entice more people to come? I wish I had the answer for everyone, but I do not. This is a question that we must all ask ourselves, and continue to ponder day after day. We must continue to try new things that might make our showplaces more desireable. At least while I don’t have the answer for everyone else, I believe that I did find the answer for myself. I posted it here already in the post: “How to operate a single screen theatre today”.

During the past 45 years that I have been in this business, I never really worried about how others did, but rather how well I did. I only concerned myself with comparing myself with other sub-run theatres throughout the state in order to see if I was doing as good as I should based upon what each picture produced on a statewide average sub-run. I found as the years went by, that my grosses continued to surpass the statewide average by a considerable margin. It has only been in recent years thanks to the convenience of available figures through Rentrack that I have been comparing myself to the first run theatres in my area. It was somewhat of a eye opener when I discovered that I outgross many first run theatres charging $10.00 while I’m only charging $3.00 and playing the product 6 to 10 weeks behind them. It was then that I realized that my attention to the details of oldtime showmanship must indeed have a major favorable impact on my gross potential. I had always operated my theatre that way because I felt that it was the proper way to run an historic theatre. I would have run it that way had it brought in more business or not. I had to ask the question of myself… why my theatre, why me?

I’m the first to admit that I’m not really a movie person. Don’t get me wrong, I like movies, but my real interest in life has always been architecture. Ever since I was a child I dreamed of becoming an architect. My favorite architectural treasures in my hometown were the downtown movie palaces. I went to the movies as much to look at the theatres as I did to see the movies. When I had the opportunity to get a job in one of those palaces, I took it just to be there. It didn’t take long before I realized that I found the operation of those theatres very interesting and enjoyable as well. When I went off to college to study architecture I continued to work in theatres in that city also. During those early years of theatre employment I had the privilege to work for several old time showman who taught me all about showmanship. While in college at the age of 19, I acquired my first theatre and soon I found that my love of theatres was even greater than that of architecture. After graduating from college I went into the theatre business full time and did some architectural work on the side.

Putting in place the old time management practices that I learned from those old showman, always seemed to be the only way to operate a theatre, especially an historic one.

It has taken me my entire life, but I have succeeded in restoring my theatre both architectually and as a profitable business venture. I am convinced that my business model has been responsible for that success. I am convinced not only by the business I do, but also by the response that I get from my patrons. Every day, every show, dozens of people come up to me on their way out and thank me for what I have done with the theatre, compliment me on the restoration, and beg me to never close it. I am humbled by it. I have to wonder if that happens at many other theatres. I really don’t know, but I doubt that it happens at the multi-plex.

So why do people go to the movies? Of course they go to see the movie. But the difference as to where they go to see movies is in the movie going experience.

That is the theatre itself and the way that it is operated.
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 11 Apr 2011 10:37 #35712

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My father was one of those old showman you speak of Roxy, he started in 1933 showing movies on walls of buildings and on sheets help up by 4/4 in small towns.

That is part of the passion I have today. In our theaters we agree with him and you, 'movies are magic'....and the magic starts at the door.

Without the magic, without the service, without the popcorn smell and clean theater, it is just in competition for the dollar amongst others.

One of our theaters in Oklahoma was built in 1917 and is one of the oldest continuing running theaters in the nation. It has gone from silent movies to digital/3D.

But service to the customer and the venue they enjoy is what keeps them coming. Movies come and go and have the lifespan of a banana.

If we keep caring about the customer, they will come. Have always been told about the S's....it is the screen, the seat, the sound and the service.

Business math, that is something else, but in some places in small towns it will still work.
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 11 Apr 2011 10:50 #35713

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Oh yes, forgot. My father was not into movies either, he just needed to eat and in the depression, the theaters saved his life and of his family as well. While I was born into it, I worked as an usher and sold my first bag of popcorn, 56 years ago. Hard to believe has been that long.
saw first Cinemascope 1954.
First sold popcorn 1955.
First film bying trip to Dallas 1971.
First Digital March 2009.

The movies and the technology have always changed, this is just another and some theaters will make it as before. The theater in Oklahoma had 3 theaters in the heyday of the 40's and one survived all these years, while the others closed. Small town theaters will survive this too, just not all of them.
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 11 Apr 2011 16:53 #35716

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Hey genedo:

I too am one of those "Old Showmen". My father started in the business in 1916 hand-cranking movies from a 6x8 "sweatbox" suspended from the ceiling of an opera house in northern Michigan. He remained in it as a projectionist until just before his death in '77. He saw the motorization of projectors, sound, Technicolor, CinemaScope, stereo sound, 3D and anything else producers threw at him. I entered the business in '46 as an usher and followed in my dad's footsteps owning and managing several theatres along the way. My father was fully employed throughout the entire depression making a whopping $20 a week in the '30s Except for the "Technogeeks" I believe people go to movies for good stories and to see their favorite actors. The delivery system and technology appeals primarily to those "geeks".
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Last Edit: 11 Apr 2011 16:54 by revrobor.
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 11 Apr 2011 21:30 #35717

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old projectionists never die..they just 'fade to black'..first
job made .50 an hour...home on back of thetar lot..
one theater we lived in apartment built into the screen tower..

:)
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 11 Apr 2011 21:32 #35718

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www.b-roll.net/tv/view_video.php?viewkey...iewtype=&category=mr

theater built in 1917 ...this story was before we converted to digital
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 12 Apr 2011 02:39 #35719

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VERY NICE!
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 18 Apr 2011 22:02 #35779

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I think far too many in the business forget the simple concepts that are raised in the original post.

My perspective is that of the moviegoer, for they are the ones that we hear from all the time. We are also big movie fans, so it's an easy perspective to have!

I think the question of why people go to the movies is answered very simply with: "to be entertained"

Just like going to a restaurant instead of staying at home, people want to have kick back and have the work done for them, and for the experience to be better than they could have at home.

The movie itself is part of that, but I think it's actually a small part of it. The aspects that are directly under the control of the theater operator (those that you mention) are exactly the kinds of things that people are looking for when they go out to the movies. Deliver on those items, and it won't matter so much if the movie wasn't very good.

If more theaters were operated by people that shared your approach to running a theater, they would be rewarded with the loyalty of their customers.
Scott Jentsch
The BigScreen Cinema Guide www.bigscreen.com
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 19 Apr 2011 05:01 #35781

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I'm not a theater owner yet, but this is one subject that seems to be fair game for anyone who's ever loved going to the movies.

I agree completely that people go to the movies to be entertained, but I'd take it a little farther. I think it's to get something that we can't get at home. There's the smell of the popcorn, the dark of the auditorium. Those things are familiar and comfortable, but there's something exciting about them, too. And they trigger memories for us. Of course, if a theater has a great style or design, great service or just a great vibe about it, those things add to the experience (sometimes in a huge way). Also, for whatever reason, people have a desire for the sort of communal experience that isn't there when you pop in a DVD at home.

I don't know if that would fit in a nutshell or not, but that's my take.
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Re: Why do people go to the movies? 01 Jul 2011 03:41 #36589

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:) _ I too am a hopeful theater (small ) owner/manager... appreciate the 4 S's; I was looking around for a 'designer' for theater seating actually. If you have any suggestions, please be so kind... sf
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