European Movie Theaters Say They're So Bad That They Can't Compete Without Exclusivity

from the foot-stuck-to-the-floor dept

The debate over windowed movie releases — releasing to theaters on one date, then video on demand later, then DVDs later and so on — has been going on for some time. Despite the advantages and opportunities simultaneous releases would create, theater owners condemn the idea, basically because they can’t provide a movie-going experience that can compete with watching movies on DVD at home. The debate is kicking off in Europe again, where some theater chains in Germany and the UK are refusing to show a major-studio film because it will be released on DVD “just” 13 weeks after it’s out in theaters. Theater owners say such a short window will keep people out of their theaters, and they need a long period of exclusivity to ensure they’ll sell some tickets — a pretty clear admission that they’re doing such a poor job of giving customers a good experience that they can’t compete any other way. The German movie-theater association says that with a release window of less than four months, its members starts losing customers. Their theaters must be pretty awful if they’ll drive people to wait up to four months to watch something at home. It’s pretty amazing to see these companies basically admit their theaters are so bad, and it also shows a complete and utter misunderstanding of their business. Instead of trying to succeed by being the only place new movies can be seen, why not work to make movie theaters a place people want to see movies?

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Comments on “European Movie Theaters Say They're So Bad That They Can't Compete Without Exclusivity”

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Jesper says:

Narrow it down

Talking broadly about european movie theatres might be generalising a little too much.

Danish theatres have lots of customers, usually provide a great experience (seating, sound, picture quality etc.) and is generally considered the superior experience to watching it on DVD.

Dont know about german movies theatres, but my experience with swedish, finnish and icelandic theatres are also top of the line.

dorpus says:

Retail Apartheid

Maybe they should imitate the US system, where every city has cineplexes for the gansta crowd and the suburban white crowd. Silicon Valley had the AMC Mercado 20, which attracted the hordes of ethnic teens in their cars with tinted windows and gold chains. Century Cinemas 16 in Mountain View attracted the White and Asian nerds in their preppy clothes.

In Alabama, there’s the same system — the gansta crowd goes to Carmike Wynnsong 20, the white suburbanites go to Rave Patton Creek 15.

Robert says:

Re: Retail Apartheid

“Maybe they should imitate the US system, where every city has cineplexes for the gansta crowd and the suburban white crowd.”-dorpus

That is so freagin’ asinine. People choose the theaters they frequent. Carmike, AMC nor Century Cinemas decides “We’re going to have a latino emphasis” or “We want mostly WASPs.”

I detest willfully ignorant remarks that spread more ignorance and prejudice. There is no “US system” for segregating movie-going populations…asshole. People choose where they want to go and who they want to be around.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Retail Apartheid

Same here in Las Vegas. Poor ghetto crowd usually goes to Neonopolis 11 while the comparatively rich, white suburbanites go to the Regals in the Station Casinos.

Maybe not the best analogy as the Regals have Casino funding to help add quality while Neonopolis is family owned and doesn’t have the same cash flow..

ScytheNoire (profile) says:

Theatres are dead

I have a hard time believing any move going experience at any theatre can be better than at home. Paying as much as the cost of the DVD for a one-time viewing for just two people. Then having to deal with loud, obnoxious people, children, traffic, expensive snacks, etc.

I’m sorry, but the theatre experience is dead unless they come up with some way for it to be better than at home. They would need 3D Holographics in order to accomplish that, and I can’t see theatres actually investing money, they just want to continue to rape the publics wallets.

Karl says:

Re: Theatres are dead

I watch most of my film experiences on DVD because I work in a cinema and hate to go in on my days off. Bu when I do I find the experience fantastic. I agree with you other people are annoying. Especially assholes checking their texts, and messages. At the same time though, go midweek in the afternoon and you will not get disturbed, and there is no way in hell your home cinema can beat the experience…Please!

Enrico Suarve says:

Overpriced and anti social

I take the family occasionally to movies in the UK (incidentally coward is right – we don’t comprise the entire of Europe)

I would like to go a lot more as I like the big screen itself but when we do its completely overpriced and frankly not much of an ‘experience’

There are two cinema multiplexes within 10miles of my house; both have been built within the last 5 years…

You go in and stand in a queue to buy tickets
You stand in a queue to buy amazingly overpriced confectionary (not allowed to take your own in obviously – this is a monopoly we are running)
You sit through 30mins worth of adverts and finally the movie starts – you get to enjoy sitting in a room with minimal legroom, unruly kids, arseholes on mobile phones etc etc

Cinemas make no attempt to throw out even the worst offenders meaning it goes on disrupting you throughout the movie and that they will do the same next time

When the movie ends you are quickly shown to the exit doors making the whole thing kind of a crapulent conveyor belt – joy

On the whole it’s not worth the money to watch most of the trash films so I only go for the genuinely cinematic films where the screen really enhances the film. Pay ?30+ to go watch ‘Snakes on a Plane’? Nah I’ll wait for the DVD thanks (I do like cheesy action films but they aren’t worth the added expense)

Would my movie attendance change if they shortened the time between release and DVD? No not really – they lost me as a regular customer years ago and I have enough patience

Suggestions for improvement

Show occasional reruns of classics
Stop charging ?3 for watered down Coke and expecting me to smile
Throw out people who talk/shout/throw stuff all the time
Discounts for families
Create areas which are actually nice to be in while waiting in line (the entire building doesn’t have to be dark for Crissake)
Create areas for the entire family to stop and have drinks/chill in after the movie, I don’t always feel like driving back *immediately* after a film and the kids need to unwind a little (at least to the point where they stop diving over everything and shouting)
Build some cinemas somewhere near the houses rather than 10miles out of town (somewhere with bus links so the kids can go unescorted might be a good idea)

I could go on but basically stop doing the absolute bare minimum and still expecting loyal customers

Bruce A. Knack says:

Re: Overpriced and anti social

I like the ideas presented so far.

As I read thru the list I couldn’t help but think that if the theater allowed patrons to join a sort of “VIP club” with perks etc. they could charge a monthly fee for the club and give the perks while ensuring a stream of payments.

The patrons would benefit from the extra services and sense of being special. The monthly fee would entitle them to “free” movies, popcorn etc. as well as the VIP experience.

Having said all this, the local cinemas here (Guelph, near Toronto, Canada) have excellent stadium seating so no one’s head gets in anyone elses way. They offer excellent surround sound and clean theaters. The food is overpriced but good including pizza, pretzels etc. etc.

I don’t know what happens to folks with cell phones. The management makes it clear that they are to be turned off before the film but since I’ve never heard anyone use one during a film, I’m not sure what would happen.

I must say that although I’ve certainly visited these theaters, I don’t go often. Unless I have a friend who wants to go I find it much more relaxing and enjoyable to wait and see the film in the comfort of my home. If the cinemas were as horrible as some described in these posts I doubt I would ever go!

Nasty Old Geezer says:

Re: Overpriced and anti social

Very good summary Enrico. I don’t go to cinemas here in the US for reasons you describe.

One question — is the UK really safe enough to let children too young to drive go to the movie unescorted? Too many perps and pervs around for me to be confortable with that.

Back on topic — I will wait a full year for a movie to get to DVD. Long enough to get a good set of reviews, and for the price to drop from the market skimming level. I am NOT in Hollywood’s target market, LOL.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Overpriced and anti social

Re the kids unescorted – yeah to be honest I am not truly happy at the idea of them going out alone but since they usually want to go to the cinema in groups anyway its not that much of an issue

I think its safe enough and my opinion has always been that the number of pervs are grossly exagerated (in that there are no more percentage-wise than 50 years ago)

Thats not to say I don’t bite my nails from time to time and yes I am worse with our daughter [sorry sweetheart] but at some point you have to give them their own freedom?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Overpriced and anti social

Off topic but thank you Enrico for being a reasonable parent. So many people seem to overestimate the dangers to their children that they end up inflicting a worse fate upon them: setting them up to be totally unprepared to cope in the real world. Suburban kids have it worst because they often have no way to get anywhere without a car.

My parents starting letting me take the bus/trains with friends when I was 13 – short distances only, and I had to call when I arrived. Then they started letting me go further afield, and eventually I was taking the train by myself. These experiences gave me a strong sense of self-reliance and – more importantly – a sense of community that is often missing in areas where the only connection you have with your neighbors is hurtling past them in your separate vehicles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Overpriced and anti social

Brilliant ideas Enrico, I’d definitely enjoy a theater experience a lot more if those kinds of features and improvements were made.

As for my feelings on theaters… I haven’t been in 2 years, nor am I sad about it. I see movies on DVD anyways, so it’s no real loss waiting on them. I usually forget the existence of the movie until its DVD release anyways.

Karl says:

Re: Overpriced and anti social

I sympathise. I work in the busiest cinema in Britain and I hate arseholes who ruin other peoples films. I have however to point out a small problem we have dealing with this. We have to be careful when throwing people out as regularly customers identify the wrong people ( I personally acosted an elderly getleman in the dark of the screen who I was told was a group of chattering teenageers!). Also although I am a manager now and should not say this, I worked as a Team Member in a cinema for 4 years and was treated with at best anonymity no matter how much I smiled and tried to engage our customers. Ironically, we had a ‘phase’ were we rebuked everyone in our screns for a month and had more complaints that month that the rest of the year put together. Disturbances, especially due to the intense sound are normally locall (ie a couple of seats away) and very hard for staff to single out and in the vast majority of cases no-one will pint out offenders as it is ‘not there job’.
I myself am not happy with this attitude. I work in a cinema to show films and solve film related problems. I am quite happy to solve any problems related to that but I am puzzled by the general attitude that we should act like police. I can say in reality that our intervention usually makes things worse as idiotic patrons are wanting a scene.

PS. I never removed a custom who was guilty of anything (Out of the thousands!) and have met many mums and dads who were not there but agree!

Sorry, Haven’t really convinced you back to the Theatre – Go on a Tuesday afternoon, you’ll be fine!

Anonymous of Course says:


I used to go to the theater regularly when I was a child.
It was a great experience. They played music before
the movie (the sound system was awsome,) the movie
was bright, in focus and the lens was clean. The soda
was heavy with syrup and the popcorn was hot and fresh.
There was music after the movie as well and we left at a
leisurely pace.

Today, it’s a stark contrast. Endless advertisments instead
of music, the movie was out of focus, dim and there was
dust on the lens. The soda was watery and the popcorn
stale. When the movie ended the house lights came up
to a painfully bright level as if to drive us out as soon as
possible after the shearing.

The only reason for me to enter a movie theater again
would be failure of the air conditioner at home on a hot day.

fuse5k says:


In the UK for 2 people to go to the cinema, including popcorn etc it would probably cost more to go to the cinema to watch a movie than to buy it on DVD

You also cannot smoke in theatres, or drink alcohol.

I would rather buy a dvd and be able to enjoy it the way i like in the comfort of my home, smoking a joint and drinking a beer.Or better still, download the movie for free, and hopefully encourage hollywood to stom making such dribble.

If the movie is worth seeing in the movies then i will still go to see it in the cinema, but i will usually have read about it on IMDB first to see if its all its cracked up to be.

Dancebob_1980 says:

So expensive!

When my partner and I go to the cinema (in the UK), it will cost £6 + each per ticket, and then another £6 + for popcorn and a drink. That’s £18 + for watching a film once, not including car parking charges.

If we wait 4 months, then we can buy the DVD for (normally) less than £10, enjoy all the extra features, and watch it /pause it etc as often as we like. There are _very_ few films for which we won’t want to wait 4 months to see them – in fact the time normally flies so fast that before you know it you can get it on DVD. So I guess they have a point about shortening DVD release times taking their custom…

Actually, in the end we decided to join a DVD-rental by post company instead of visiting the cinema at all. For the same cost as visiting a cinema once a month, we can have three movies out at a time with unlimited exchanges for different films, and postage is included so we don’t even have to leave the house to receive a new film.

May be the cinemas should just price competitively and accept that the the “hey day” of cinema viewing is over. You want me to visit? Then offer me a price that I don’t consider a rip off!

Karl says:

Re: So expensive!

By special features you mean the 120 decibel sound, 70 foot screen….

PS as a cinema manager I understand your frustration. It seems overpriced, until you compare the experience…go to a club for example or MacDonalds… If you rent a shit DVD you won’t get your money back… And, most importantly many people claim the best cinema experience is a home cinema, nonsense,. How can even the biggest LCD (I ommit plasma for obvious reasons) compete with a run from a master on a 70 foot screen with 3d dolby.
I will admit I am happy to watch Hugh Grant’s latest stuttrering pyjama mve with my belobed wife on DVD but fuck al that when it comes to Spiderman 3!

Sanguine Dream says:


I live about 1 1/2hr. from the nearest theater so that’s out of the question until one is built closer to me. And even if there was on closer I’ve already joined Blockbuster Online. $20/month for up to 3 movies at a time. And when I’m on a real movie watching mood I can clear 3 movies a week. Up to (ususally around 7-10) 12 movies a month for $20. Blockbuster’s own brick and mortar stores can’t beat that. I dare movie theaters to beat that.

frankthetank says:


Let me see…..

60 inch plasma widescreen 1080p HD TV $6000
all accessories for above TV about $750
Home Theater System (Receiver, speakers, etc) $2500
HD/Bluray DVD player $1200
Movies $15/each

i’ll pay my 8 bucks to see it at a movie theater on a 16×9 foot (192 x 108 inch) screen

but then again, they each have advantages. you don’t need the high end line stuff to watch most movies, nor does it make them any better. but still…

kaptainkonan says:

US isn't any better

Theaters in the US are also overpriced. It can cost over 50 dollars for a family to spend the night out. They are run by a staff of kids who have anything on their minds except customer satisfaction.
The main problems these days is that the advertised movie start times actually mean the start of a LONG advertising segment, not when the movie starts. And that cell phones totally distroy the experience.
Netflix costs me 10 dollars a month for as many DVDs as I can move back and forth in the mail, my home theater is paid for, has a refridgerator just around the corner, popcorn is 25 cents (actually, I don’t eat the stuff), I have a pause button, a clean bathroom, and the cell phone is turned off.
It would appear that theaters are going the same route as the drive in. i.e. ancient history.
By the way, did Europe have a drive-in theater in every town like the US did back in the 50/s and 60’s? Just curious and I ask because I noticed the bones of an old one just yesterday on a rural road. Had a lot of fun in those, once.

Kaptain Konan

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: US isn't any better

Good point – I actually forgot to mention the crap customer service

Re the Drive ins – I can’t speak for all Europe (we already established the UK isn’t even half of Europe) but no, we never did the drive in thing. We perhaps had the odd one here and there but not many at all – perhaps its the weather?

The Drive-in/thru/everywhere thing is a particularly US thing in my experience. Personally I can’t see the point of a drive thru but I would have loved drive-ins ;0)

Hans-Georg Michna (user link) says:

The home cinema is always very much better

I don’t see how the movie theaters will ever be able to compete with a good home cinema, which is so much better in each and every aspect.

* Better picture quality due to higher contrast (no emergency exit lights)

* Better picture and sound quality due to optimal seating position

* Ability to pause at will (for questions, discussion, bathroom, drinks)

* Ability to abort a bad movie and start a new one

* Ability to watch a series until you feel you want to stop

* Freedom from noisy people

* No hulk in front of you, blocking the picture

I could go on and on.

The movie theaters are doomed to provide a poor service to poor people.


Overcast says:

Yeah, last time I went to a Theater, it was stuffy, dirty, and had a funky smell.

The Customer Service sucked, and the concessions are completely out of control.

I can watch a….. 12!!!! Month old movie I haven’t seen yet, in the comfort of my own home, order pizza, smoke (yes, I’m an EVIL smoker, MUWHAHAH)…

For far less money, and it’s much cleaner.

The reason I go to the movies is for the ‘environment’ – if it’s not clean and the service sucks, forget it.

And I’m SOOOO very tired of listening to these businesses whine because **cry** we can’t compete.

Well, you know what – there’s an element of capitalism to business period, can’t escape that, even in the biggest socialist countries… well at least until the government ‘mandates’ it.

Oh, wouldn’t that be beautiful – yes… *tears of joy* why doesn’t a socialist country just MANDATE people go spend their money at the Theaters to help these poor struggling businesses…

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

/sarcasm off

Anonymous Coward says:

the theater system listed is over $10,000. that means youl’d have to watch 1000 movies (saying that a cinema costs $10 a pop) to recover the cost. but don’t forget about the electric bill, cost of housing the theater system, plus the cost of your furnature to use while watching the movie, cost of food/beverage as well. and unless you have a “private theather room” (one iwht no windows and a nice sealing door, you’ll still get contrast from outside light sources.

plus if you want to watch the greatest action flick and your partner wants to sleep, there goes the soound… 😉

anyway, yeah most theaters suck today, but there is something romantic about the cinema (and i don’t mean getting your jollies in a theater) i mean, star wars in a theater? come on. i remember seeing the “updated 4-6) when they were released when i was in Jr. High. that was cool.

and for the record, i drive past 2 drive in theaters on my way to work (44 mile drive) and there are about 6 drive-ins within a 25 mile radius of my house. so no, the drive ins are a dying bread….

Sanguine Dream says:

Re: Re:

the theater system listed is over $10,000. that means youl’d have to watch 1000 movies (saying that a cinema costs $10 a pop) to recover the cost. but don’t forget about the electric bill, cost of housing the theater system, plus the cost of your furnature to use while watching the movie, cost of food/beverage as well. and unless you have a “private theather room” (one iwht no windows and a nice sealing door, you’ll still get contrast from outside light sources.

True but bare in mind that that 10k home theater is doing more than playing movies. It can also play tv shows and music and games depending on the setup.

You do have a point that for people that can’t afford the fancy spreads like that (I’m one of those people) then the movie theater is offering a convienence. The problem with that movie theaters took that advantage for granted. Overall quality of theaters has fallen and now people have decided to put together a home setup. And if they spend a few thousand on it or just a few hundred for a simple tv and basic speaker setup they now have a choice between supbar service at the theater or put together their own home theater. And those home theaters are getting cheaper and cheaper.

LionXL says:

Its been forever since I’ve been to a theater. I still send my kids with their friends, because for them it’s just a social event. But ever since I purchased my Projector, and THX ssytem, the theaters can’t compete. I am sure their sound and video quality are way above mine, but I win in the convenience factor. Takes no time to get there, the snacks are cheaper, and I can invite 1 or 100 people to join me and price barely changes.

lk;asdf says:

lion said it best

movies are a social event. when i was younger, we’d all gather up and go see a movie, then goof off before/during/ after the movie. why? it was the only thing to do. get 12 of us in someone’s home? that’s problem. no other entertainment for the weekends. so we walked the mall, hit the cinema and had dinner. we didn’t go to the movie to “watch” it. we went for the social time. plus it was cooler than the skating rinks…

The Dukeman (profile) says:

Theatres have always been a tough business.

Why else would there be so many failed ones across the country? That’s why only large companies can operate them. The ‘New Media’ ways to watch movies have made the business even tougher. In my town there is an old ‘Art’ theatre that was finally going to be destroyed. If a billionaire (Mark Cuban) hadn’t bought into the company it would have closed for sure. As an experiment, it was renovated with very posh leatherette lounge type chairs and has nice built in tables. The 3 screens are small like those in the cineplexes, but still bigger than your average home theater setup. It is the best theatre experience I’ve ever had. Sadly, the company’s newest theatre is modeled after the standard ‘stadium” (meaning small, slim, and uncomfortable) seating arrangement of the big cineplexes. If more venues would operate like that experimental one, they wouldn’t lose so many customers. Unfortunately for consumers the cineplex companies crowd small, uncomfortable seats together trying to maximize per viewing capacity. Instead, people stay home where they can sit in comfort and watch their films. So more and more cineplex seats remain empty. Kudos to Mark Cuban for the experiment, but too bad he didn’t continue expanding it. The question is…can anyone but a billionaire afford to make theatres this way?

Karl says:


As a manager of the busiest cinema in Britain I can see where you are coming from but there are 3 important things to realise. This move about early DVD releases is crucial. It is the first step to distributors saying what film plays when. Do you really want that?
Secondly any movie-goer knows that the fact is your home cinema cannot in any way replocate the big screen, and never will, so the DVD debate is thin.
Compare the cost of a cinema tcket with other forms of entertainment…PS I work in a cinema, I dont own one. My own chain lets you see as many fims in a month as you want for £11 or 15 euros and we may have a sticky floor at midnight but guess who made that mess?

Dee says:

Debate over EU theaters

I was in Germany in May/April. And several times before that. My movie-going experience has always been enjoyable. The theaters are clean, they have an intermission in the middle of the movie (yes…as in stopping the movie) so that people may got to the bathroom, get more food/drink or have a cigarette without missing any of the movie. Some of the theaters have small tables to put your food and drink on (not a cup holder in the arm of your chair or trying to use your lap as a tray. So…I don’t understand why Germany is being knocked as a bad movie-going experience. Maybe you’re going to the wrong theaters. And as far as one comment about “Europeans showing their loyalty to the Fatherland”…I don’t know where that came from. All the countries I’ve been to in Europe have shown “Hollywood” movies. Especially those countries that house a lot of American military bases. Germany has screens in both English and German. Thank goodness. Who wants to miss half the movie because you’re too busy trying to read subtitles.

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