Theaters Boycott New Film Over Simultaneous DVD Release

from the you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me dept

It’s really amazing how badly movie theaters are being run these days. We’ve already discussed to death the many, many, many reasons why people are avoiding the theaters. It’s got almost everything to do with the overall experience (that includes everything from price to movie quality to overwhelming ads to theater noise to uncomfortable seats to being treated like criminals and so on and so on). These are all things that the theaters have some control over — but they refuse to do anything about it, preferring to blame just about anything else. The latest move is especially ridiculous. Steven Soderbergh announced his plans last year to release new movies and DVDs simultaneously. Instead of looking for ways to leverage that, now that the release is happening, major movie theater chains have decided to boycott the film and they will not show it. In other words, because of their own misguided fear that it could take away from revenue, they won’t even give people the choice of watching it in a theater — instead making more people go get it on DVD. The whole point of simultaneous release is to give people a choice of where and how to watch it. The theaters should embrace this. They should recognize that going to the movies is a social experience along with the ability to watch it the film on a big screen in a theater setting. If they played up the social experience and made it more enjoyable they could attract a lot of people. In other words, make it a choice worth making. They could even do something (gasp!) creative, like offering discounts to buy the DVD right as you come out of the theater (or a combined ticket that gets you both the DVD and an in-theater screening). Imagine the additional sales from anyone who really liked the film. Instead, by refusing to show the film, these theaters are more or less admitting that they don’t think they have anything special to offer movie watchers other than the movie. If they really believe that, then they deserve to go out of business. Update: Mark Cuban, who backed the Soderbergh film, rips into the theater owners and gives plenty of other examples that fit with what we said above about the theater owners not understanding what business they’re in.

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Comments on “Theaters Boycott New Film Over Simultaneous DVD Release”

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Matt (user link) says:

No Subject Given

I think going to the theater is a horrible experience. The guy in front of you has an itch on the back of his neck and when he scratches it, his arm gets in your way. The person behind you can’t keep their feet off the back of your seat. Then, once you get up to move, you realize your feet are stuck to the floor. Did I mention the woman two rows up who thinks everything is just so hilarious?

DVD all the way.

Blake (user link) says:

Re: No Subject Given

I still enjoy my movie experience – Even if it means paying about half the shelf price of a new release DVD. I pay about AUD$14 for my ticket, compared to $30 for a new release DVD or $10-15 for one thats been out a while.

The main reason I still pay theatre prices is because I like seeing them on a huge screen, and because they are out much sooner.

However if they did start doing simultaneous releases out here in Australia. I would seriously think about upgrading my home theatre, then vastly expanding my dvd collection.

negtive says:

No Subject Given

If they were smart, they’d (like you said) take a tip from the way concerts operate; sell the goods (DVDs or whatever) at the same time as the show. To anyone that thinks that they will NOT make money on something like this obviously doesn’t realize the extent to which instant gratification drives a large majority of purchases.

The crowd is already starting to behave like movies are concerts (clapping, cheering etc….which really annoys me because it’s pre-scripted, but I digress….) so this almost seems like a logical extension.

Taylor says:

No Subject Given

Agreed, but I still enjoy going to the movies for the sake of doing something with my friends. I think we’re a long way from being able to say “Lets go to so-and-so’s house, he got the DVD of that new Ben Stiller movie” and still get the same socialisation out of it. However, I think we will get there eventually.

Taylor says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Just saying its different. I have a feeling theres something psychological about going to the movies with friends that watching a DVD cant provide. Something about going somewhere. Though I do like the idea of couches and a walled off room, if it can be at least a little soundproof. Maybe glass on the side facing the screen, with a speaker inside.

Just one guy says:

And good riddance

So, Sodenbergh will loose what, 20%? 25%? of his expected viewers because they won’t show the movie in theaters, but theaters owner will give up to 100% of their earning out of that movie.

And good riddance.

There is no keeping people from committing suicide. If theaters want to become increasingly irrelevant as an output for movies, this is exactly the way they should behave.

The answer is, guys: let’s all go and buy or rent or whatever the DVD as soon as it gets out, so that the lack of theaters’ exposure won’t matter a little bit in terms of overall incomes for the movie.

EasyJim says:

Theaters Boycott New Film Over Simultaneous DV

Mike, I love ya man, but you’re off base on this one. Movie theaters add plenty to a movie viewing experience, and they know it. You know it too – just think of the difference in quality between your local second run “dollar theater” and the local magapaplex…

Theater seats are a product that must be constantly re-sold, like like hotel rooms or airline tickets. The ‘average’ American attends a movie in the theater about 6 times each year, but under 25’s go about twice the average rate and over 50’s go at less than half the average rate.

As a movie buff, I want DVDs sooner. However, since I don’t expect an airline to give me a free ticket when I purchase a premium ticket, why should I expect theaters to support a distribution plan that would cannablize their best customers?

? says:

Re: Theaters Boycott New Film Over Simultaneous DV

Do you really think that the people who patronize movies on a regular basis these days would really stop going if the DVD came out same day as the theater release?

I think those who enjoy the theater experience (and there are tons of people out there who do) are going to go to the theater even if the DVD comes out same day. Others (and I would be one), might watch the DVD first, then decide that the movie ought to be seen on the big screen (there have been several flicks that I have seen recently that I enjoyed enough to see again, and would have gone to see in the theaters if given the opportunity).

The real problem is the movie theaters are loosing money because there aren’t enough people populating those seats. A large portion of those who don’t populate the seats are telling movie companies (theaters and studios) why, but they aren’t listening. Instead, what they are doing is assuming that the problem lies in criminal acts (or acts that ought to be criminalized — okay, that might be a stretch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some movie theater employee at some point thought that you should see the movie in the theater before you would be allowed to buy or rent the DVD/VHS/Beta).

Movies are going to go the way that many other in the entertainment industry have gone. And that is, instead of putting out something that I would like to see and giving me the option of paying for it, they are going to put out something that I?m not interested in, and then they are going to take the money from me.

How are they going to do that you say? Taxes! That is what many people in the classical and stage theaters do (and for the snobs out there, I?m well aware of theaters that exist solely on revenues generated in house, oh, and I do attend shows at those theaters). There isn?t enough of an audience in many places to support those kinds of endeavors, so they end up taxing the population. I can?t tell you how many times I have voted no on taxes to support ?art? that I?m not interested in supporting because some organization figured that it would better my life. Heck, I can?t tell you how many times I have voted no on taxes that would support ?art? that I enjoy, simply because I don?t believe in taxing an uninterested population.

Movie theaters are only going to appeal to a limited demographic, the higher the prices, the more difficult they are going to make it for people to get there (again, they need to review the economic theory of ?utility?). My prediction is that they are going to follow other models that less popular forms of art have, and they are going to take our money from us.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Theaters Boycott New Film Over Simultaneous DV

Movie theaters add plenty to a movie viewing experience, and they know it. You know it too – just think of the difference in quality between your local second run “dollar theater” and the local magapaplex…

Er, that’s exactly my point. OF COURSE they add plenty to the movie going experience. So why are they acting like they don’t by not showing this film? If they really know it’s true then they would show the film and people would still come, since it’s that added value that makes it worth it.

C Duckworth says:

Re: Theaters Boycott New Film Over Simultaneous DV

The theater experience is usually good, yes you do have the rude people, but just the screen and the sound. It’s nice to have a change, get out of the house! How about the popcorn? Too much money. I however do not go to the movies anymore because of the prices, even the manite price is till too much. My nearest theater is 25 miles away, so more expense.

? says:


I’m long winded tonight, sorry. That is what happens when you work at nights and have run out of real work to do.

I have to wonder if the movie theaters are longing for the golden years again. There was a time when the only place to get news and entertainment was in the theater. It seems like in those days, EVERYBODY went to the theater.

Of course, since those times, technology has offered more options for receiving those same goods. Since ?options? were at the turning point for the plunge in theater attendance, it would make since that movie theaters want to limit our options. Of course, the net result in this case, is they completely eliminated themselves as an option – which will only serve to drive less people into their seats.

How interesting is that? I would have loved to be a fly on the wall of that committee’s meeting (“Meetings! None Of Us Is As Dumb As All Of Us.” {?}).

shocked onlooker says:

movie theatres are anarchy

I haven’t been to a movie theatre since I saw a guy get half killed. A bunch of loudmouthed teenagers were misbehaving and so this guy turns around and asks them real nice to be quiet. The kids just started taking the piss and in a flash this guy gets up, walks over 4 seats, roundhouse kicks one of them in the head then picks him up by his hair, drags him by his hair over about 8 rows of seats and then punches him very hard in the face. I heard the kids nose break. Meanwhile the kids mates and girlfriends are all screaming “stop it! stop it!” but the other members of the audience are all screaming “Yeah ! Kill the little shit!” I think everyone there finaly had enough and was overjoyed to see some justice dealt out. I found the whole thing so sad, that adult people just can’t behave themselves anymore, there is no mutual respect amongst people. Worse I found my own reaction quite shocking, I really wanted to punch the annoying little shit in the face too and was kinda glad to see it happen. Safer just to get a DVD than risk having to get into violence just to get the necessary respect to watch a movie in peace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

“As an avid movie fan – I think this is ridiculous. There is a certain flair to watching a movie on the ‘big screen’ and I’m not referring to the 50″ at home.

There is no reason why home viewers can’t wait the 2-3 months for DVD release…get a grip!”

The point is the fact that the theatres DO have something to offer thats Different from the DVD so they shouldn’t be worried about it. But like Mike said I’m much more likely to by the movie right after seeing it than i am to get it 2-6 months down the road when i have to remember if i liked it or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

“As an avid movie fan – I think this is ridiculous. There is a certain flair to watching a movie on the ‘big screen’ and I’m not referring to the 50” at home.
There is no reason why home viewers can’t wait the 2-3 months for DVD release…get a grip!”
The point is the fact that the theatres DO have something to offer thats Different from the DVD so they shouldn’t be worried about it. But like Mike said I’m much more likely to by the movie right after seeing it than i am to get it 2-6 months down the road when i have to remember if i liked it or not.

Rikko says:

Re: No Subject Given

As an avid movie fan – I think this is ridiculous. There is a certain flair to watching a movie on the ‘big screen’ and I’m not referring to the 50″ at home.

There is no reason why home viewers can’t wait the 2-3 months for DVD release…get a grip!

And what if the “big screen” has big globs of crap stuck to it from some kids that threw things A YEAR AGO? What about the seats that feel like they’re broken and you’re afraid the move. What about that sticky armrest? What about the volume level that’s just too high for enjoyment? The 18 degree “room temperature”? Coughers? People who laugh loudly at things that aren’t funny, but laugh at simple jokes that don’t deserve a laugh? Why is it they can’t get a simple mop and some bleach and run it along the floor every couple nights? Why does this $7 popcorn taste like.. meat? The guy in the row behind me with the loud crinkly packing of his gummy bears? The little kid who keeps asking questions because he’s too young to understand the movie? That dude who keeps clearing his sinuses by sniffling something very large and wet sounding back through his head – every thirty seconds?

Why did all this cost me 10 bucks to get in the door and another 10 if I were stupid enough to buy their food?

Flair? Flair?!

That argument is stupid. They should release the DVDs first and then if people buy it and like it enough, they can wait and see it in theaters in 2-3 months! And all the while they can see the trailers for the DVD sales!

See, it’s a completely arbitrary tactic at this point.

The Indigo Kid says:

Cold feet

When the theater in my area was built it was promoted as “the largest east of the Mississippi!”…They turn the heat off after the previews end incorrectly assuming viewers will be so engrossed with the experience that they won’t notice. When I watch a movie at home I can at least stay warm during these cold winter months. Since when is it standard practice to cheat your customers of what would otherwise be considered an obvious necessity?

look forward not backward says:

No Subject Given

I think most of the people commenting are stuck on the traditional movie model and are therefore only predicitng the impact in that very narrow context. I recently read a report about a Florida chain that is foccussed on offering a differnt movie experience where friends can watch in a walled off room (except for the side facing the screen on couches, etc…

Personally, I think there will be far more innvoation surrounding the theater experience once this happens. For example think about restaurants having release parties with themed menus and decorations. With the cost of quality video and audio reltively inexpensive and the ability to digitally stream these movies the infrastructure investment is minimal and the revenue upside tremendous.

I for one welcome the downfall of the local theater for the reasons highlighted in the main write up and in some of the prior replies.

Dam says:

And here's my .02 worth

Other posts have said a lot of what I’d have said, but let me add this. In the US, being in business allows one to be as smart or as stupid as one sees fit.
Movie theaters were once a great place to socialize, but there are other ways to watch entertainment now. Just like the music industry that refused to embrace and capitalize on the new technology, theaters will begin to fade away, like the dinosaurs of 65 million years ago. They died because their brains were too small to adapt.
Seems like a good metaphor (or is it similie?)

Newob says:

Re: And here's my .02 worth

Actually, the dinosaurs didn’t fade away so much as burn out; they couldn’t take it anymore, what with all the falling meteors; and the ash blocking out the sun for years, and starving all the big herbivores. It wasn’t their small brains that killed them, nor our big brains that gave us the edge — it was walking upright that did it for us!

Movie theaters are not good places to socialize. Who has time to socialize, when you are in the dark and trying to pay attention to this movie you just paid $11 to see? Perhaps, back when the movie theater was the major source of news, attending a theater had more of a social aspect to it. But despite the fact that we call them ‘moving pictures,’ movies are typically presented on a stationary screen, their contents are usually invariant from one showing to the next, and the movie audience almost always play the role of passive observer to the events of a film.

Entertaiment used to be more interactive! The audience was part of the show! Plays are vibrant because they change every time you see them, because every performance is at least slightly different. For entertainment people didn’t just sit in front of the drama, or comedy, or action; they watched from all around it, each person from a different perspective. Theaters were once oriented around the stage, like a sports arena is today.

We humans have got so used to seeing two-dimensional video recordings that we don’t even miss the third dimension anymore. That is, we didn’t, for a certain amount of time during the 20th century when movies became the most popular form of entertainment, or at least the most lucrative, in Western countries.

But that is all going to change soon (and perhaps not soon enough!) when recordings break out of the two dimensions we are used to and we will be able to watch movies from around them in an arena, and interact with them too. And then we will look back at our fussing over the popularity of this movie or that movie and consider it as shallow as the image of a movie. Recording and transferring two-dimensional images will be such a trivial feat that every three year old will have made a library of films, and probably a more profound library than most of what we have seen in the past century.

Movies don’t have ideas, people have ideas, and a movie without characters who have ideas, or a movie that is all about one idea or one neat thing, is a shallow reflection of real life. Maybe when people finally get over the novelty of near-instant transmission, they will remember that what they really like are stories, not half-witted explanations masquerading as event films, which is what Hollywood usually subjects us to, and expects us to accept as stories.

CheekyMonkey says:

I agree, however...

Most of what has been said here I agree with. Without changing to fit the times, theaters are shooting themselves in the foot, or at least about to be.

I don’t go to the movies very often, but when I do there is a theater down the road here in South Jersey called the “Ritz 16.” Awesome theater. They show indie and foreign films as well as blockbusters. My favorite quality? NO CHILDREN UNDER 8 YEARS OLD ALLOWED. Awesome. Don’t get me wrong, kids are great, but it’s nice to get away and not worry about hearing some crying kid. And because of some of the films they show, the teenage population is very minimal (unlike the Loews Megaplex across town). They have a nice coffee bar with couches, newspapers and magazines. Quite a nice experience.

Max says:

The Theater Experience - My 2 Cents

There are two major movie theaters in my area. We only go to one, but we do that rarely. It does get expensive to take myself, my wife and the kids to the movies, mostly because of the WAY OVERPRICED food there.

The experience is pretty good, we have a pretty well-behaved crowd all the time, the seats are comfortable, there’s enough space so nobody feels crowded, the heat stays on in the winter, although it can get cold in the summer. So, yes, I guess I’m bragging about the theater here, but the experience tends to be very good, if expensive. We don’t go to all the shows, but the ones we do go to, we end up buying on DVD. If the Extended Version of the DVDs came out at the same time or maybe 1 or 2 months lates, that would be great, but it seems like we end up having to wait 3/4 of the year for the DVD to come out.

I would actually pay extra for a theater that had couches and real food.

DVD Dude says:

DVD > Theatre

I will be the first to admit that I only go to the movies because the DVD is not out yet. If the DVD came out the same day/time as on the big screen, I would never go to the movies again. To brag, I have a very nice 60″ TV and nice 7.1 surround sound system. There is not much the theatre can offer me, other then overpriced consessions.
DVD offers so much more then a movie ticket could ever hope for. We all have had mother nature call during a movie, in a theatre you either hold it or miss a potential segment of the movie. DVD you push pause. Plus the replayability of DVD sells itself. I have bought DVDs just for the ‘special content’.
Theatre are dead, unless they learn to adapt to the times, and promote a more enjoyable atmosphere for thier CUSTOMERS. Is it really necessary for them to charge 5 bucks for a bucket of stale popcorn? Or 3.50 for a box of candy I can get for .89 cents at the local quickie mart?
I would like to have seen the lines for StarWars EP 1, 2 or 3 if the DVD had come out the same day.
Ponder over this and get back to me.

DVD Dude

Jeremy says:

Re: No Subject Given

It also makes a difference if it is in a small town theatre and like a big megaplex!! I know this because I’ve been to plenty of both. In the small town, if there is someone talking or just being noisy or there is annoying kids, and you tell the movie theatre owner or workers they will go down and fix it, but with a bigger one, they generally don’t do that. QUALITY is a small town theatre if you have a good owner.

Scott says:

Theaters offering unique experiences

I don’t typically comment on things here, but as others have mentioned the majority of people responding are locked into a traditional view on movie theaters. I’ve been out with friends in Atlanta to a theater in Buckhead that is somewhat smaller than most theaters, but has booths that are comfortable and you can order beer, food, etc during the film. It sounds like the movie would get ruined in the process, but in reality it better supports the sociable experience of the movie. This may not be the theater for the guy who goes to see 40Yo Virgin by himself, but for me (I rarely go to a movie in the theater) its been the most fun place to see a movie I’ve been.

Sandbomb says:


Okay, im sure everyone is aware of movie and music piracy and the attempt by

movie and audio labels to stop it. every year millions are brought to court to

pay huge loads of money just to compinsate for “illegally” viewing a small

movie or playing a song that might not even popularly last for a month. But

this year…2006, it will all change, a boycott of original movie and music

products (DVDS, VHS and CDs) etc will be boycotted by who ever wishes to do so

to prove to movie studios and music labels that WE are the customers and WE

make them who they are. it shall start on the 4th of July and hopefully end on

4th of August. i sure hope you participate in this (hoped to be) global event.

for more send or add this email “”. thank you for your

time and i hope you spread the word.

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