If megaplexes were indeed a "better mousetrap" that goosed movie industry profits, as AMC's chief Peter Brown says in an AP story, then it's time to build another better one. On the occasion of the megaplex's 10-year anniversary (has it really only been that long?), the AP story tries to explain how the supersized movie houses started out so strong and are now coping with declining attendance and plummeting profits. Here the theaters are portrayed largely as victims of their own success. For example, whereas they originally boosted revenues with their ability to attract huge crowds, what they've really done is exhaust most of the potential audience in the first few weeks of a release. So the studio pulls the film from circulation and leaves some money on the table. This analysis is mixed with other typical reasons for their problems, such as competition from DVDs. What gets little attention is the inability of theater operators to fully understand the nature of moviegoing. Rather than recognize that the theater experience is really a social experience, they treat cinemas mostly as big airplanes where the public is herded in and out for a couple hours at a time. Theaters in China have caught on, making their venues more comfortable and conducive to socializing. Some chains are starting to create luxury theaters -- for a slight premium you get a much cushier experience. Why don't more theaters experiment with these ideas, or others, to make the overall experience more appealing? Probably because it's much easier to blame people who tape movies in theaters.
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