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TOPIC: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant?

What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 14 Sep 2004 16:01 #9049

  • Mike
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Our demise has always been predicted. Radio, TV, cable, VCR, DVD, Net Flix, DVD, home theatres, etc. etc. would all kill us off and we have not just survived but prospered.

I ask you this: what would it take to make our position in the marketing chain not as essential as it is today? Stars drive films, films drive theatres, theatres drive demand, demand creates sales for video-airplanes-2nd run, overseas, pay per view, etc. etc.

I do take the Jack Valenti approach that we are indispensible but still worry: what sea change in marketing-distribution-promotion could knock us down the stairs?

What combination of piracy-dvd-netflix-cable-internet can combine to really hurt us? How much is it already hurting us?

Your thoughts?

Michael Hurley
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 14 Sep 2004 18:20 #9050

  • outaframe
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Sorry MIKE, but I gotta disagree with PROSPERED.. Adjusted for inflation, today's theatrical grosses are much less than they were in the glory days!... And when you factor in the population growth, the % of theater goers continues to decrease... Everything you mentioned has played a part in the decline, but when the studios find a foolproof way to sell the pictures DIRECTLY to the consumer, you can bet the farm we will be kicked to the curb!... NOT a pretty picture for the future...
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 14 Sep 2004 18:52 #9051

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I too disagree that that theatres today have prospered. Survived would be a better way to phrase it.

The number of 'regular movie-goers' (which I define as those who go to more than one or two pictures a year) continues to shrink annually. There appears to be no reversal of this trend as everyone's lives get more and more hectic and complex.

Many of the pictures now released to theatres are simply to legitimize the video release.

One of these days theatres will become unecessary when there is a system to deliver first run product on simulaneous release to your home theatre.

There will always be a few cinemas around but the halcyon days are long since over.



[This message has been edited by muviebuf (edited September 14, 2004).]
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 14 Sep 2004 22:45 #9052

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Hi Guys,

Might I comment? Let’s see, today is the 14th – yep, 14 days ago a nice, modern 5-screen complex a few blocks away, in a suburb of L.A., closed its doors. It was only about 10 years old, originally built for GCC.

Although it did not have “stadium” seating, it was clean, with modern escalators that ran from the box-office to the auditoriums – tons of free “structure” parking and good acoustics. GCC sold it to an independent owner who tried to make a “go” of it, but when MANN built a 4-plex two blocks away from their existing 10-plex – and both of these were within restaurant row - all about 10 blocks away from the GCC theater, I guess the handwriting was on the wall.

As Disney was quoted as saying, (paraphrasing), “the secret to a successful business is location, location, location.” It may be that fewer and fewer theaters remain open, and those that do will need to relocate close to restaurants, coffeehouses, and shopping malls (all within walking distance of each other).

AMC has just completed construction of a 14-plex over in Burbank, two blocks away from their existing 6-screen complex, which is one block away from their 8-screen complex (inside a shopping mall). All of these theaters are surrounded by restaurants, coffeehouses, bookstores, specialty shops, and pedestrian shopping areas.

I wish someone would take over the 5-screen GCC complex, but no one would ever be able to make it profitable again, I fear it will soon become converted into office space rentals. What a shame…

Thanks for listening.
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 07:58 #9053

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I am always reminded of that giant 'view screen' in everyone's home in the movie version of George Orwell's "1984" and how its 8-foot-square image created a movie theatre in the home; how soon will 'everyone' have such and find the cinema just too inconvenient to go to since they can't just lounge around there in their underwear, as so many like to do at home with a video? When on-line, 'dial-up-a-movie' with many thousands of choices becomes really and instantly practical for First Runs for as much or less than ticket prices, then the cinema will probably fade away. There is already a glut of entertainment; 'who needs it?' they will say. By then the streets will be even more dangerous, gasoline prices astronomical, and more homes will have mini-parking lots for all the nearby friends coming over for movies, food and sex in front of the movies, which will be even more pornographic than today! Brave New World, indeed. I for one, will spend my millions (yeah, sure) on my own dinosaur of a movie palace (assuming one survives by then) and hole up in there and cocoon like everyone else with a dial-up flick, but it will have to be a classic non-porno that I can project on the giant video screen up on the stage; anyone care to join me then -- with their clothes on? Now, don't push; there will be seats for all.
Jim
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 08:29 #9054

  • Mike
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Oh geez. I didn't think it would sound that bad from you folks. I think you're scratching the surface and that your partially right but mostly wrong. The fact is that people still need a reason to go out and movies have provided that for nearly 100 uears. It hasn't changed yet. It's morphed and shifted but show me a mall or a real city that does not pivot on movie theatre drawing power. If you close the movies then your hurt the malls and the restaurants and the gas sales and, and, and. try Downtown Disney or City Walk without movie theatres.

The business climate, demands, ticket buyers experience and motivation are obviously different than it was in the 50-60's but exactly how could it be done to make us no longer neccessary?

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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 08:31 #9055

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Here's one model: a highly promoted dvd that has a set times of run feature: you buy it, push play, it shows one time (or 2-3-4), it is gone. You subscribe in advance and it arrives via Fed Ex or messenger or US Mail the day before the opening. It has a encoded password that is e mailed to you at 7:00 EST.

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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 13:20 #9056

  • BurneyFalls
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I live alone. I eat alone. I sleep alone. I don't like to watch movies alone--no matter how good my home theatre system is (which I don't even have). Even though I normally go to movies alone, I am not alone there, especially in a small community where everyone knows everybody. Home presentations can never compete with that.
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 13:55 #9057

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MIKE, you just listed yet ANOTHER attempt to circumvent theatrical showings by the studios... When they find the IDEAL method, whatever that may ultimately turn out to be, you can be sure they will not hesitate to deal us out of the loop!... Movies killed Vaudeville, and ALL that you previously mentioned has seriously weakened movie theaters AND legitimate stage productions... It WILL certainly come to pass; WHEN is the only question... I forsee a day in the none too distant future when you will be able to just kick back in your recliner, close your eyes, and pick up your remote to select a virtual movie in which YOU are the star, along with a virtual cast and story of your choosing... You and a virtual Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Ben Johnson starring in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, or To Kill a Mockingbird... The storyline, only one of thousands available, the cast, and your role programmable from your "Magic Box" which is supplied by Sony (who NOW owns all the old studios and their inventories)... No screen or projector or sound system required: everything transmitted via infared laser neurotransmitters directly to your optic and auditory nerve endings... No actors, writers, directors, camera men, sound mixers, etc, etc: everything done by computer, and linked by satellite... Does this sound ORWELLIAN, it sure does, but it is ALSO doable!... LONG before this comes about, movie theaters will be a memory as distant as the horse and buggy...
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 14:26 #9058

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I don't count theatres out as easily as that. I agree that distribs, etc. would deal us or anyone out if it saved money and made more money. The system, whatever it may be in the future, will have to be better than what works well now. I'm not saying they wouldn't do it I'm trying, and asking you also, what system do you imagine might be the poison pill.

But as Burney said: whatever it is that would kill off movies must not just take out the biz but the entire single most popular form of human entertainment. Watching movies alone is not a big thrill. And try to get a first date to come over to your house when you're 14.

Aside from the negative feelings about society, etc. I wonder what inadvertant poison pill could take us out. Ideas?

Michael Hurley
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 15:54 #9059

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THE SYSTEM that will be the coup de' grace to movies as we know them may not yet be available, but I SUSPECT that it will involve satellite transmission and some form of video projection, linked to a land line telephone signal to regulate access and collect payment... ALL of this is already in place, but the current systems are all more or less vulnerable to theft, and this is the current stumbling block... Video projection is under constant upgrading and refinement, and I'm sure that an equal amount of effort is going into the security end... Just as soon as they are satisfied that the system is theft proof, you can bet the onlsaught on theaters will begin in earnest... We are living under the pressure of having the other shoe drop... Where this will ultimately go, I have already speculated, but the rudimentary system I just described will be ENOUGH to ruin the movie exhibition business WHEN it is fully implemented and promoted... The poison pill has already been concocted...
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 18:22 #9060

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News of the death of cinema has been greatly exaggerated.

Are paintings dead?
Is sculpture dead?
Are plays dead?
Is Literature dead?

The business of presenting films or the Exhibition industry is dynamic and always in flux. People’s tastes change and people move. The exhibition industry has died many times. Movie palaces are gone. Neighborhood movie theatres went the way of the Dodo bird. Repertory cinema has given over to cable TV and cheap DVDs and is better for it.

Right now Art cinema is in its second ascendancy and will grow for the next 20-years. I believe that digital cinema may be a panacea for small town exhibitors. When equipment prices finally come down and you can automate a 6-plex and just sell concessions, perhaps the economics of a small town multiplex will work. Digital cinema is just a change, not the death of cinema. I’m not in any particular hurry, but I’m not afraid of it either.

The industry is very resistant to change. 6,000’ reels failed to take over in spite of it making a great deal of sense. It took 5-years longer to implement cyan soundtracks than anyone imagined. Film, the kind that runs through projectors, will be around for the rest of my life. It may migrate to specialty houses. It may migrate to museums. You may have to go to special cinemas just to see film, but it will be there, mark my words.

All of us have kitchens, yet most of us like to go out to eat. Why is that? Most of us have lawns yet we still go to parks. Making a cup of coffee is easy, but Starbucks is doing well. The doughnut shop is dead, but Krispy Kreme keeps growing. The exhibition industry may need to be re-imagined, but it isn’t dead.

Is your grandmother going to install a home cinema in her home? Are the small apartment dwellers in NYC going to install a home cinema in their 700 square foot apartments? People like to go out and they always will. Right now we have lost a certain segment of the populace, the parents. They are too busy and too tired to go to the cinema. But their parents are going and the grandchildren are going.

Hollywood has yet to have a blockbuster direct to video hit. Films must show in the cinema and do well for them to do well in video. There may come a time when Hollywood pays us, for the privilage of showing their films. As an Art Film exhibitor we have distributors begging for us to show their product.

Our job as theatre owners is to figure out what people want to see and give it to them. One of the problems right now is that we are forced to show whatever crap comes down the pike and people don’t like it. But then comes along an F 9/11, a Passion of the Christ or a Lord of the Rings and suddenly everybody discovers the cinema again.

Show the people what they want to see.
Don’t accept the crap Hollywood shoves down our throat.
Market to your community.
Promote your theatre.
Keep it clean, brightly lit, pleasant and up to date.
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 18:33 #9061

  • VoxSpectra
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Outaframe,

Although I am not officially "in the business" yet I would like to way in on this.

It ain't gonna happen for a very long time. The ONLY way it's going to happen is with computer technology and I can guarantee you that my 20 years experience in programming and networks SCREAMS bloddy murder that it ain't possible.

I'll tell you why.

The producers of Music and Movies and Software holler about the billion$ they lose each year to piracy. It's all false. OK not all false but they problem is really miniscule. Perfect example follows. I work with w young guy that knows ever bootleg media site in cyberspace. He sees every movie the night after it's first screening. He recently told me he downloaded Resident Evil 2. You want to know what he said? He said this right after telling me where he got the movie. He said, "I *GOTTA SEE THIS IN THE BIG SCREEN, JUST GOTTA!!!" he's been waiting for it to come out in the theater and he and I are going to see it tonight.

This is what really happens. The Distribs can all yell that RE2 was downloaded 1000 times last week and so we lost $7,000.00 because a ticket costs an average of $7.00. What they don't tell you is that 80-90% of these people go see the movie and PAY FOR IT! And that before they could download off the internet they let some else go and talked to someone who has similar tastes and still may not have gone.

I works the same way with music and software. the producers of those products scream they lose billions when what really happens is they gat at least millions more because it is FREE advertising. Most people I know with large software inventories or lots of neat programs on their pc's, and believe me I know a lot, being a computer geek myself, they get pirated copies, find out if they will actually use them andthen buy the dang thing. Same thing with music, it's a status symbol to have the freakin CD with the cover art. And you know the 500 DVD covers look great on top of the entertainment center.

Now let's look at the tech they have to devise to secure it. Since computer networks have been around they have been insecure and THAT will not change either. The truth is that these distributors do not want to spend the money to develop a secure means of transmission. Why because their computer guys are telling them how expensive it is. REAL security is VERY expensive. And even that security has been hacked and cracked months before it EVER hits the market. Bet you didn't know that. hehe So what do they have left. Let's whine about how much money we lose. Let prosecute a few peer-to-peer network companies which was a farce and let's scare a few tenagers by getting them convicted of a felony. Let's get some laws passed so we can scare the bejeezus out of the masses.

I DO NOT condone piracy! As a programmer who has had his code stolen and who watched the pernicious little so-and-so make good money from it, I know first hand it is wrong. But all this is to show that you guys are gonna be doing this as long as you want to.

There will never be a "fool proof" way to distribute movies directly to the consumer. Do you see how many releases get sent directly to video? Crappy sequels, B, C and F movies and some soppy little teen idol stars that are taking advantage of a profitable (for them) but tiny niche because they are the only ones doing it. It's been tried for longer than I have had a drivers license and it still hasn't taken off. That's more than 20% of how long the movie industry has been around.

And about the Home Theater. Big scren, for a home. Good sound period. But I have done network work for some of the Wealthiest people on the planet. They tell me I can bring the family by any time to see a movie in their home theater. These guys have the WORKS. I'm talking bowling alley in the basement billionaires here. And you know what? None of those theaters can hold a candle to what I have seen these last few month visiting Independent Theaters around the country trying to decide if this is what I really want to do. Some of you guys have FANTASTIC presentations. clean, well kept, great sound, great people working for you, flawless pictures and you can't beat the pure-d-old ATMOSPHERE!!

I think when we all have had all of our major organs replaced by cloned transplants 100 years from now we will all still be making a few bucks from those 12-24, 25-39, 40-59 and 60+ demographics.
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 22:04 #9062

  • outaframe
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Well, I sincerely HOPE your optimistic predictions are correct: I am fast approaching 40 years in this crazy business (which I love) and NOTHING would make me happier than to be able to put in another 20 years at it before I'm planted as worm food... I have witnessed a LOT of changes in those 40 years, and not ALL have been positive: it's not difficult to project those changes to an unhappy conclusion... Regardless, I plan to ride this old nag until either it is done for, or I am... You newer guys will have to decide for yourselves how far you want to ride... Rotsa ruck!... ;-}

[This message has been edited by outaframe (edited September 16, 2004).]
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Re: What would it take to make theatres irrelevant? 15 Sep 2004 22:53 #9063

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I'm not totally convinced that the demographic that's known to make up the majority of internet "pirates" would attend the local cinema, even IF they were somehow stopped from ripping it off the 'net.

That being said, I've noticed several influences over the current state of theatrical affairs:

First: The studios are no longer operated by "showmen". The notion of doing something for the sake of entertainment, with potential financial returns coming in as a result has vanished. Now, it's all about the money, and bean counters are running the companies.

Second: The major exhibition chains have increased national screen counts past the point where regional communities can/will support the infrastructure. New screen builds are not generating additional dollars... only fragmenting what's already in the market.

Third: The studios have finally discovered that they make most of their money in the first couple weeks of release, and the cost of prints is made up in the first couple of days, if that... therefore, national print releases of over 3,000 are becoming common. Where my county used to have only 3 prints of a picture at most, now it's common to see 8 or more. Multiple print bookings make it easy for the consumer to find a time that's convenient for him... no waits... no planning.

Fourth: Number 3 above has made the consumer accustomed to the "instant gratification" concept. He can see the picture conveniently as soon as it releases. Therefore, a picture taps out in 2 to 3 weeks... ironically, well within the top income producing weeks for the studios, but outside of the top producing weeks for many theatres.

Fifth: All of the above has decimated the sub-run and discount markets in many areas. A whole tier of exhibition is in the process of disappearing, making it easy to move up the release window for video, which puts additional pressure on the domestic theatrical industry.

So... I don't see that the industry is finished... only looking for a lesson. I'm not convinced the chains have learned their lesson from the bankruptcy days of a couple years ago. We're still oversaturated with screens, and closings are still all to common. The chains are still trying to force growth by building faster than the population is growing. Perhaps we'll see a new round of bankruptcies before they figure it out. Unfortunately, all this could result in companies like Regal and AMC becoming even larger than they are now. Like the broadcasting mergers of recent years, this can only result in fewer options for the consumer.

Just my .0002
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