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TOPIC: Are the movies dying?

Re: Are the movies dying? 14 Jul 2005 23:52 #11612

  • RoxyVaudeville
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I saw this article at baltimoresun.com. I thought it would be a good ad to this discussion.

From the Los Angeles Times
THE BIG PICTURE
Now playing: A glut of ads
Moviegoers are abandoning theaters this summer, and one of the reasons is over what happens before the movie even begins.

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."

You don't have to be an industry insider to be aggravated. Ads are one of the reasons why moviegoers, especially adults, are abandoning theaters this summer. When my favorite music biz blogger, Bob Lefsetz, wrote recently about being bombarded with ads before seeing "Crash" at a local theater, he was deluged with supportive mail from incensed ad-loathing readers. As Barry Ritholtz put it: "The commercials just add insult to an already declining experience."

It's only going to get worse. According to the Cinema Advertising Council, ads in theaters increased by 23% last year alone. The New York Times recently reported that Gillette aired its first in-theater ad, touting its new Pulsar toothbrush, convinced that a big-screen look at the toothbrush's new technology will "have amazing visual impact."

I can testify to the impact, though I'd call it more depressing than amazing. I saw the ad last week during an afternoon of theater ad watching. The Pulsar ad was just one of roughly two dozen ads, public-service spots and behind-the-scenes film and TV features that make up the 2wenty, a 20-minute package of ads that plays on 5,700 screens in Regal theaters around the country. Put together by National CineMedia, a joint venture between the Regal and AMC theater chains, the 2wenty represents, depending on your point of view, a new high or low in theater advertising.

Cliff Marks, National CineMedia's president of sales and chief marketing officer, says he isn't presenting commercials but "an entertaining content piece" in which nearly half the ads are created for or seen first in theaters. He's recruited four Big Media partners — Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, NBC and TBS — that produce behind-the-scenes features for the package. He insists moviegoers have no problems with well-presented ads. "Our research shows that the overwhelming majority of people like the 2wenty," he says. "Most importantly, we end our show at the designated show time — we're doing it on our time, not on your time."

No one will say how much theater owners are making from ads, but it seems clear that annual revenues are sizable — CineMedia's media partners alone are paying millions for their chunk of the Regal package. If I viewed it simply as an investor, I'd be impressed, especially by the shrewd foresight of real estate magnate Phil Anschutz, who has emerged as America's largest theater owner, combining his Regal chain with United Artists and Edwards Theaters.

Buying into the business when many chains were in bankruptcy, the reclusive billionaire has poured roughly $70 million into equipping Regal theaters with new digital video technology. But that technology isn't being used to show "War of the Worlds" on a hi-def digital video system. Theater owners are content to wait for the studios to pony up most of the conversion costs for digital projection. Anschutz put all that money into the theaters largely to sell more ads. The $70-million investment, which includes satellite delivery capability, allows Regal, via CineMedia, to play a new package of advertising each month, with custom-crafted versions of the 2wenty to run in front of PG, PG-13 or R-rated movies.

My first look at the 2wenty came at the Grand Palace theater in Calabasas, a sleek replica of a 1940s movie house that has a six-screen multiplex. The package is a big step up from the hodgepodge of slides and spots airing in most theaters. There were even two clever ads: a Nike "Friday Night Lights"-style look at high school football and a making-of feature on "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," a Universal comedy starring Steve Carell. Instead of just showing tedious interviews with the filmmakers, the feature cannily sold Carell himself, showing clips of him in "Bruce Almighty," "The Office" and on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

But the rest of the 2wenty was given over to routine spots you could see on TV; Fanta and Sony Ericsson ads I'd seen in other theaters I went to; a promo for a Regal MasterCard; an L.A. Times ad with bad techno music, and commercials for three TV shows, including NBC's "The Biggest Loser."

I've seen TV show ads in theaters before. But somehow the sheer absurdity of the idea didn't really register until watching the "Loser" spot. Imagine being a studio executive sitting in a movie theater — the once-sacred palace where we saw glorious dreams in the dark — being exhorted to stay home next Tuesday night to watch "The Biggest Loser." Wouldn't you fear for your future?

The studios have only themselves to blame. As ads began to creep into theaters years ago, virtually everyone turned a blind eye. The only studio to take a stand was Disney. In 1990, the studio said it wouldn't allow any ads in front of its films. The studio lifted the ban on Touchstone films a few years ago, but it still refuses to allow ads before its Disney-brand films. Says studio chief Dick Cook: "We felt theaters were the last bastion of a commercial-free environment and that ads simply weren't appropriate, especially in front of films playing to kids and families."

There are a few small theater chains that refuse ads. The Pacific theater chain's ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood is commercial free, charging moviegoers $14 in return for a more pristine environment. Jerry Pokorski, the chain's head film buyer, says ArcLight's strategy is a big success, but he's vague about how soon Pacific will extend its no-commercial policy to other theaters. "It's where we're going in the future, but we're still trying to understand the economics of the whole thing."

For the studios, the economics are simple. They're conglomerates now, meaning that advertising a cellphone in a theater may help Sony's bottom line as much as the profits from a new film. Even if an NBC ad sours a few people on seeing a Universal film, it evens out in the end. Still, it's not hard to connect the dots between the growth of in-theater advertising and the continuing box-office slump. At a time when virtually every technological innovation, from TiVo to the iPod to satellite radio, is geared to helping us escape advertising, movie theaters are subjecting us to more of it.

The studio marketers say they're caught between a rock and a hard place. As more consumers tune out commercial TV and radio, marketers have to grab eyeballs where they find them. "I'm just trying to keep our business alive," says Geoff Ammer, president of Sony worldwide marketing. "We get information every week about how many new [digital video recorders] there are. Three years ago, it was 750,000 homes. Now it's roughly 3 million. The day when it's 50 million homes is not far away."

Universal Pictures Vice Chairman Marc Shmuger insists that Universal's making-of features for CineMedia respect moviegoer sensibilities. "We find that people have enjoyed them," he says. "As a marketer, our challenge is to make a connection with people. If we can't find the consumer as easily on TV, then we have to go to the one place where you know the moviegoer is — in the theater."

The problem is that people who advertise in theaters — especially movie studios — have made a devil's bargain. The more polished the ads, the more they dilute the potency of the ads we actually enjoy — the coming attractions. We need someone who loves movies to take a stand.

If Steven Spielberg had decreed that he'd play "War of the Worlds" only in theaters that didn't run ads, the commercials would've vanished. George Lucas reportedly forced theaters to limit the amount of trailers before "Revenge of the Sith." If only he'd gone after the real villains — the ad-mongers — he would've been viewed as a hero.

If someone doesn't step up to the plate soon, movie theaters will soon find themselves in a one-quadrant business, catering to restless teenagers. The rest of us will happily watch DVDs on our giant plasma TVs, no longer able to remember the last time we felt the need to make that woeful trek to a multiplex that looks more like an ad-plastered NASCAR track with every passing day.
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Re: Are the movies dying? 15 Jul 2005 12:09 #11613

  • outaframe
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Very thought provoking article ROXY, which further points to how much ALIKE the moviegoing experience and watching TV have become... Like I have long contended, the studios sold out to the "enemy" many years ago, and this is just PART of the fallout...

I do run pre-show slides featuring local scenes and events mixed in with paid ad slides (all of which I produce)... These, along with pre-show music AND the theater ambience and lighting are an "extra" the early arrivals seem to actually enjoy... At the advertized start time, no more than two trailers preceed the start of the feature... Whenever possible, I use teaser trailers, and have been known to edit trailers down to manageable length and content... I have long felt that MOST trailers are too long and tell too much of the picture's story... They are intended to create interest, NOT as a condensed version of the movie...

Product placement in movies is another bone of contention, but there is little or nothing we can do about it... However we CAN control what's on screen before the feature, and I believe the ticket buying customer has every right to expect that he won't be assaulted with an advertizing blitz as part of what he paid for... Just the thoughts of an old time theater guy!..

[This message has been edited by outaframe (edited July 15, 2005).]
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Re: Are the movies dying? 15 Jul 2005 16:28 #11614

Ads in theatres will never dissapear.. Well, yah, they will, with the theatres.
Since 1987
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Re: Are the movies dying? 24 Jul 2005 20:06 #11615

  • jacker5
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Hi,

Just came back from Orlando Fl from vacationand was at the theatre in Universal studios a multiplex. I was there over two weekends and both days the theatre was dead. The parks are doing tremendous business whiel the theatres are dying. This was a 20 screen theatre and new movies like The Island and Bad News Bears played all weekend to empty screens atrend that has been one weekend afte another.
Surprsingly the bext feature that played was the Rocky Horror show that played Fri and Sat at midnight!
Can't understand but you must agree the movies this summer with the exception of Famtastic Four and Batman are really bad and lack luster.
Whiel I enjoyed Bad news bears it was almost word by word remake of the original with the exception of the cippled kid and and a few minor changes, but the script was word by word form the original!!!!!

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Re: Are the movies dying? 24 Jul 2005 20:45 #11616

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went island 16 fri night Devels Reject was sold out so i went to wedding crasher 90% full on 2nd week .. went sundat 7o5 show of devil 1/2 full . theaters on longisland are BUSY.
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Re: Are the movies dying? 25 Jul 2005 02:43 #11617

  • rodeojack
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We are pretty much even with last year. Considering the crummy weather we had up here this spring, that's probably amazing.

"The Island" didn't do it for our crowd... it was the first show I've run on the break to come in dead last.

An interesting comment from one customer tonight... something I'd been thinking, but hadn't wondered if anyone else had noticed... the comparison between "Island" and "Logan's Run".
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Re: Are the movies dying? 25 Jul 2005 09:31 #11618

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We're still doing well with Charlie...good weather this weekend meant a drop in business though.

We run only 5 ads or so, all for local businesses. I produce...and mix with pictures of local events, scanned antique postcards of the area, birthday announcements, upcoming feature titile, sometimes pictures of the audience...they seem to enjoy that a lot! I get a lot of compliments on it. And the ad revenue has helped me through tight spots. I think it's a good balance.
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Re: Are the movies dying? 26 Jul 2005 22:39 #11619

  • dadehayes
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As a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly, I'm really glad to see this discussion here because we're preparing a major cover story that will appear in two weeks about the good and the bad about the moviegoing experience. It'll have a list of the top 20 theaters in America and also some proposals for how things might be improved (and yes, better movies would help).

We're making an extra effort to not just gripe about stuff, which is what much of the reporting on the "slump" is fixated on. We really want to find what IS working this summer -- why do you think certain theaters (maybe your own) have connected with the local community? Or are there broader challenges (the DVD window, costs, potential digital conversion) that are tougher than ever to overcome? Feel free to respond here, or, if you prefer, email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Thanks and lotsa legs ...
Dade

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Re: Are the movies dying? 05 Aug 2005 03:34 #11620

  • jacker5
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Hi,

Here is some good news and signs that the professionals see the industry coming out of its slump.
A local 3 screen theater owned By Regal went out of business recently. It was in a prime spot near a train station and a big transfer point by buses. In other words a very populated desired area. The theater did very well, that is what had everyone scratching there heads wondering why.
Of course it did need some updates but was a fun place to go and had lots of memories for it had once been a singles screen and over the years been chopped up to 3 screens.
Well, now I was told about 3 miles down there putting up a 14-16 plex to replace that theater.
Now if things were in such despair would they be doing this?
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Re: Are the movies dying? 17 Aug 2005 19:12 #11621

  • RonOne50
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I don't think that movies are dying now anymore than they died in the 50's or the 80's. They are in a transition period! It will take time to get use to the proper delay from big screen to small but they will get down.

In truth, only movie’s that flop make more on video release than on theatrical run and only films that can’t possible make money in theatrical release go straight to video. The idea of doing all venues at the same time and the film maker sharing with the theaters the other venues profits will not happen or if it does by the time they funnel down to us our 0.0001% they will give us a $35.00 credit on the next film. Besides that once they do a few and find out 5 to 20 people are watching the DVD or pay for view and not buying tickets and they aren’t making near the money as the old way. Well enough said on that they would go back to the old way at that point!

Like I said I don’t see movies dying but if anyone offers you more than you think the theater is worth take the money and run!

Quentin: Of course a woman is going to kill me. I wouldn't have it any other way!
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Re: Are the movies dying? 10 Oct 2005 22:58 #11622

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http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/10/10/051010215252.pirx7x44.html

Young men lead audience flight from struggling US cinemas: survey Oct 10 5:52 PM US/Eastern

Teenage boys and young men lead disillusioned US movie-goers in staying away from cinemas as ticket prices rise and the quality of home entertainment soars, a new survey showed.

As Hollywood wages an epic battle against falling ticket sales, the poll revealed that one of the industry's most crucial audience groups, males aged between 13 and 24, are opting to stay home to watch DVD and play video games.

Boys and young men in the key demographic group reported watching a whopping 24 percent fewer films in the all-important summer cinema season in 2005 than they did over the same period in 2003, consumer research firm Online Testing eXchange (OTX) said.

"The perception among young male moviegoers that there wasn't much to see his year was a difficult barrier to overcome, regardless of price," said Vincent Bruzzese of OTX.

"This demographic, more acutely than any other, is weighing the value of the in-theatre movie experience compared to many other lower cost, more immediate and convenient entertainment options. And increasingly, young males are deciding to grab a DVD or video game to watch or play at home," he said.

The survey of 2,000 movie-goers who said they had seen at least six movies in the past 12 months revealed that males aged between 13-24 watched 56 percent more videos or digital video disc (DVD) movies this year than they did two years ago.

In 2003, the same demographic group reported watching an average of 30 videos or DVDs a year, while the figure had jumped to 47 for this year.

Young men also complained there was a lack of appealing content on cinema screens, with just 35 percent saying they were satisfied with the choice compared to 60 percent two years ago.

In addition, a growing number of the young men polled -- 53 percent -- said they played video games on platforms including Playstation, Xbox and Gamecube, while 62 percent surfed the Internet regularly.

Overall, some 35 percent of American moviegoers reported seeing fewer films in 2003 compared to 2004, compared to only 27 percent who reported seeing more, as movie ticket prices rise and the lag time between theatrical release and DVD release becomes shorter, the survey showed.

Hollywood studios are fighting a bitter battle against falling box office returns in North America as ticket receipts dropped by around 10 percent in 2005 compared to the first nine months of 2004, box office figures show.

"Consumers are saying that when they get to the theatre what they see there is as good as it's ever been," said Shelley Zalis, co-Founder of OTX.

"But the rising cost of tickets, gas and babysitters, combined with the improving nature of the in-home media experience are major factors keeping consumers from leaving the living room," she added.
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Re: Are the movies dying? 11 Oct 2005 09:12 #11623

  • sevstar
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And yet another way to boost DVD sales, a makeover.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20051011/en_usatoday/advddoovercanboostaflopssales

For DVDs, studios "get the opportunity to capitalize on everything that's been learned from the theatrical run - reviews, exit polling, blogging."


An extreme case is The Honeymooners, an urban-comedy remake of the classic TV sitcom that cost $27 million and took in just $13 million when it came out in June.


For the DVD, which comes out Nov. 22, the film - originally rated PG-13 for "some innuendo and rude humor" - was trimmed to make it a family-friendlier PG.


Studio research showed the film had more appeal to families than to teens, the initial target audience, says Paramount's Meagan Burrows.

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Re: Are the movies dying? 11 Oct 2005 14:20 #11624

  • jacker5
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I know again the ticket sales has been less than last year. But this is pretty much the chains. I know alot of small town cinemas and there saying there doing about the saem if not better from last year.
The multiplexes have alot of overhead and keep over uilding which is a cost factor, the little guys are playing product from there small town theatres and doing very well.
I think we should compare small town theatres revenues compare to the multiplexes and i think they will be the only ones crying and not the small town cinemas!
What do you think?
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Re: Are the movies dying? 11 Oct 2005 15:23 #11625

  • sevstar
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I agree. We are doing about the same as last year, maybe a little less. If there would have been more and better product. I know we would have been doing better than last year.
The video store in town has also been saying they are a little down from last year also. So I really blame it on the product out there to sell.
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Re: Are the movies dying? 11 Oct 2005 16:06 #11626

  • Mike
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We had a great weekend. I guess no one heard that they're supposed to stay home and not watch movies like Wallace and G, Murderball, Proof, and Grizzly Man. I like the movie business. Are there changes underway: yep. Are the movies dying: nope. Time will tell.

Michael Hurley
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Michael Hurley
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