Biggest Box Office Summer Ever… And Yet All We Hear About Is Piracy?

from the let's-rethink-this,-okay? dept

With the MPAA constantly screaming about how piracy is killing the movie industry, putting poor stagehands and grips out of work, you’d be hard pressed to see the problem when you hear that the box office take this summer passed $4 billion for the first time ever. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that movies are a social experience. People like going out to the movies if the experience is fun and good. If there are good movies, people will go out and see them, even if they’re available as a free download online. Just imagine what would happen if the movie industry stopped freaking out, stopped treating everyone as if they were a criminal and (gasp!) actually made the movie-going experience more enjoyable? It seems quite likely that dumb movie industry policies are costing the industry a hell of a lot more than piracy ever has or ever will have.

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Comments on “Biggest Box Office Summer Ever… And Yet All We Hear About Is Piracy?”

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Tack says:

Take a lesson from 1990

I’ve watched pulp fiction a few times more than I care to count. Amongst many other cool things in that movie, the opening scene has Vincent Vega and (Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s name here) in a car going to do a hit, and Vincent is talking about his recent trip to Amsterdam. Amongst the other cool stuff (like the “Royale with Cheese”) he notes that one of the big differences between the US and Europe is that in Europe, you can buy a beer at the movie theater.

Personally, I don’t even know if that’s true, but I do know that the last time I visited a movie theater, all the food and drinks there were vastly overpriced and yet they had no beer. Now personally, I’m just 20 years old, and have no plans on drinking alcohol – ever – but I can certainly see how a 5% profit boost could be had simply by selling beer at movie theaters. I know many people who can’t make it 2 hours without a drink (and yet after 20 they’re barely even buzzed) who would visit a movie theater if they could get a beer during intermission. I mean, I’m not really promoting the idea, but if you want a way to improve the movie experience, I think this would work.

So MPAA, take note: one of your most money-grossing films got it right the first time. Stick a few cold ones in the lobby and you’ll be amazed at how many you’ll sell.

(And FYI, personally, I’d only allow them to be sold for movies rated R so as to prevent drunks being disruptive in the middle of Shrek, etc, but I still think it’s a good idea.)

Mike C. says:

Re: Take a lesson from 1990

While I think it’s a neat idea, given that a lot of people need to drive to get to a theater AND the obsession in the US with drinking and driving, I have my doubts it would ever happen. If for no other reason, the big theater chains would be too afraid of lawsuits (yes, another major US problem) to be brave enough to try this.

That being said, I, for one, would be happy to pay standard bar prices for a cup of brew at the next R movie I go see. Of course, since the theater experience is usually such a bad one, that may be a while… 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Take a lesson from 1990

Funny, I walk to the theater here in San Francisco, and I can get beer at a couple of movie theaters here in the city.

However, nothing comes close to the Parkside Theater in Oakland, CA, where you get beer, pizza, popcorn, and all of it delivered to your seat just before the movie begins (and all movies are $5. That place is incredible.)

Poomer says:

Re: Take a lesson from 1990

“…if they could get a beer during intermission.”

Just FYI, only Bollywood movies have the so-called intermissions because they are 3+ hours long. 🙂

So may be by making the english movie a little bit longer they could include an intermission thereby increasing food/beverage sale?! what a novel idea!

Belegmalcu says:

Re: Take a lesson from 1990

By the way, MPAA and movie theaters are two different entities. The reason that all the food and drinks are vastly overpriced is because the movie theater have to make up for the raping that the MPAA gives them. Movie theaters get a very small percentage of the ticket price while the MPAA rakes in the majority. This is why you see overpriced food and a crap load of senseless advertisements.

Sten says:

Re: Take a lesson from 1990

From my time stationed in Germany, I found that beer was available everywhere from McDonald’s to the movie theatre. On the other hand, it tended to be treated more responsibly than in the US as well. All of that said, I can get a brew with my movie here in Austin, TX, at Alamo Drafthuse, so it isn’t unheard of.

James says:

Lack of beer... not the problem

Its been noted too many times, the main problem the movie industry is having isn’t piracy, or a lack of beer at the concession stand but an overall poorer experience.

We have people have answering their phones DURING the movie, a lackluster bunch of movies (mostly sequels now) to watch, and concessions that you need financing to afford. Perhaps we could all be anally raped to in an attempt to make the experience that much better?

Personally the best movie going experience I’ve found so far is the IMAX. It costs more, yes, but I’ve found the audience less distracting (ie less talking and less cell phone bs), but also the seats are bigger and better spaced apart so the audience becomes less of an issue, and of course the screen and sound speak for themselves.

Monarch says:

My father lived in the Netherlands when I was in College. I visited him for a month one summer. I went to movies in the Netherlands, Germany, and Paris. Every movie I went to, there was an intermission in the middle of the movie, everyone got up and went to the lobby. There people would buy food and beverages, mostly beers in glass mugs (However soda was in paper cups), and many would go outside for a smoke. The intermission was 10 minutes. Threw me off the first time I saw a movie, but later, I realized I appreciated the ability to get up and stretch, use the bathroom and get a cool refreshing drink.
Came back to the U.S. and haven’t appreciated a visit to a megaplex cinema since that time.

That Guy says:

It's to easy

I think its to easy to say that its “social experience” because I think a lot more factors go into it, and with time technology will continue to overcome the barriers.

What the theater brings to the table

1. Social Experience: It’s nice to go out with other people, and get out of the house.
2. Premium visual experience: Extremely large screens with great picture quality.
3. Premium audio experience: Leading edge audio surround sound systems
4. First exposure: Provides the first chance to see a movie that you want to see

So you look at those four main points and you quickly see the differences.

Points 2 & 3 will quickly be lost as the technology to deliver bootleg video increases and as home theaters improve and get cheaper, point 4 will be lost if it becomes easier to get the movies, and point 1 will be lost because points 2 – 4 will dillute the value of the social experience.

We complain that movie companies are cracking down on having their IP stolen, and we complain that they make to much money. But let’s not just toss business logic out the window, because if movie studios couldn’t make 100’s of millions on a 150 million budget movie, the big dollar movies would disapear.

Movie Non-goer says:

Major issues at the theater

Like other people have and will probably say over and over. The problem is the quality of both the movies ( I would argue that there are very few true films anymore ) and the theaters.

Why pay 10 to 14 dollar ( NYC prices ) to sit in a theater with a sticky floor surrounded by people who pick up their cell phones ( it almost always happens especially on an opening weekend ) when I can just wait for the DVD or blu-ray or hd-dvd and watch it at home in surround in HD with dinner for the same (relative) price. Imax becomes the only real worth while option and even then you are paying up to 15 dollars to see a very few select movies.
Maybe they made so much money because the movies released were actually worth seeing. The simpsons , Transformers Etc.
If movies are actually good people will go see them. But I am more and more adverse to doing it because the act of going to the movies is one of playing Russian Roulette with my patients. If I am shelling out 20 to 45 dollars ( 2 tickets and after food) then I expect a certain level of both civility and atmosphere from my movie theater. Blasting the sound system til my ears bleed surrounded by inconsiderate douche-nozzles is not my idea of going to the movies.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a Theater in Northeast Wisconsin that sells beer during the movie. They have a neat lil table so you can have pizza and what ever else you want. So it’s not like the idea isn’t original. I’ve been going to that place for a long the better part of 15 years. With a drive-in that they own it’s kinda nice actually. So for the MPAA to say they are loosing so much money on piracy, I think they just want a reason to squeeze more money out of the rest of the world. 4 Billion in one summer. They are taking the customers and giving them the good old donkey punch while they are screwing us with steadily rising ticket prices. I’d like to take a length of hose or a tube sock with coins in it to beat the ever living shit out of these executives. Not only for the MPAA but the RIAA as well.

Kevin says:

Beer and movies

In most major cities in the US there are cinemas that also sell beer. A lot of them are smaller, “cafe cinema” types of places where you’re seated at a table in a theatre and served by a waiter/waitress, and most of them sell alcohol. But there’s also some big chains like AMC that sell beer too. At the AMC 24 at Easton (Columbus, OH) they have a separate bar for alcohol sales where they also sell bar-style food (chicken tenders, poppers, cheese sticks, etc).

mntndwlover says:

You Guys Don't Have Beer

In Austin you can go to any Alamo Draft House and buy food and many different types of beer WHILE watching your movie. A server comes and take your order before the movie and checks on you every so often throughout the movie by checking to see if you left an order on a slip of paper in front of your row. The rows of seats are separated by a space and a bar to place food and drinks directly in front of you. I prefer Harp Lager 😉

Matt Johnson says:

Re: You Guys Don't Have Beer

Agreed. I’m over in Houston, and we have two Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas here. I love the fact that my wife and I can do the “dinner and movie” thing simultaneously! Plus, the pre-movie entertainment is frequently worth catching, too. We’ve tried going back to other theatre chains like AMC, but we found that we were distracted too much by trying to figure out why the hell the waiter hadn’t been by for our drink order! Plus, their special events rock, as does the beer selection…

Anonymous Coward says:

I go to the theaters alot, minimum once a week. Want to know why I go ? Because you never know whats going to happen. Example, at the last harry potter film, there was a part that the whole movie was leading up to, theater got quiet, no musical score, it was ment to be dramatic, and it came right after the climatic fight scene. Whole audience is tense because of the pacing, and this one little girl in the back row shouts out a one liner, it just broke the tension and the whole theater roared in laughter from it. Was the absolute funniest moment in the entire movie, and hollywood didn’t do it, the audience did. Sure, there are some annoying people at theaters sometimes, they may overcharge for popcorn and drinks, but really. Its an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. At a good movie, at a theater, the audiences reaction to a film is just as important as the film itself, if not more so. Its something that can’t be recreated at home with a SuperUltraMegaHD setup, and 300.1 surround sound.

Nawtykitty says:

Beer and Movies

In San Antonio, we have four theaters that sell alcohol. Two are cinema bistros that are 21 and over, one is the Alamo Drafthouse (modeled after the original in Austin), and the fourth is a major cineplex called the Palladium. We are pretty lucky to have these. Its a cooler, better experience than going to a regular theater since it helps keep annoying kids and teenagers to a minimum. I refuse to go to any other theater in town now that we have all of these options available.

Gomorrah says:

Beer in Cinemas

Here in Texas it is harder to find a movie theater without a bar in it. Now most do not allow the alchohol into the theater itself, you can still enjoy the beer both before and after. There is also the newer theater’s that do allow you to drink in the theater and actually have a full service bar, and many of the screen rooms have servers inside of them to bring you more drinks, or food as you prefer. Gotta love Santiko’s theaters.

Movie Non-goer says:

# 19

I’ll take an “inferior” movie watching experience over hearing anyone say anything no matter how apparently funny it is. Crowd reaction is meaningless and takes away from the movie by the fact that you said it broke the tension. That is not for the crowd to do it’s for the movie makers to do, So what was a good thing for you is a very very bad thing for me. Don’t forget to go see blow-em up car chase blow em up 7 – Hero is back
I’ll be waiting for it to be released on dvd/blu-ray.

Side note : I am obviously a nazi about watching movies but thats only because I want to see a return of quality and respect for both the art and the people (us) who give both time and money to keeping an industry that treats us like criminals alive.

Matt says:

forget about food; the movies are overpriced

Maybe sales topped $4 billion because tickets cost $10+. I remember when the Galaxy 6 theater opened in/near Monterey, CA, in 1990 and I was shocked to see a $6 ticket cost! These days matinée showings cost more, and there are less of them. So, duh, movies gross more. Let’s see the number of ticket sales and the actual profit figures. I’d also be very interested to see a breakdown of what leading characters are making compared to prior years.
Something tells me we are being screwed (I know, another “duh” should be added to that sentence).

John M says:

You know, even if the movie theatre had every desire you could possibly want, I don’t think that the theatre should be at blame here. Sure there are some crappy ones, but there are plenty of nice, clean, full-service, low priced concession theatres out there to choose from – movies still suffer low sales.

The main problem is that there are very few movies that are “must see” flicks these days. They do exist, but they do not come out as often as they used to.

I also think that there are other issues at hand as well – gasoline prices being so high that it’s not really worth going anywhere but work/school and home, for example.

Is there some other reason they can be seeing a decline? Current “adults” not interested in the “kid movies” Hollywood has been flagshipping? Maybe the kids these days are more into their education and family than wasting money/time on a movie? I doubt those types of things are major causes, but I honestly think piracy has very little to do with the slump in income (even though they are setting new records still…)

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

. Sure there are some crappy ones, but there are plenty of nice, clean, full-service, low priced concession theatres out there to choose from – movies still suffer low sales.

John, did you read the story? They’re not suffering from low sales. They’re having record sales.

Is there some other reason they can be seeing a decline?

What decline? The story says they’re making record amounts of money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Troll, but...

I believe the implication you’re missing is that when the industry (which in case you had forgotten, is trying to criminalize its customers by default) isn’t losing anything, the theft becomes a victimless crime, which, while still technically illegal, is hard to call “wrong” since it’s not hurting anyone.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Once again, lame rationalizations on TechDirt

Yup, once again TechDirt implies that it must be okay to steal stuff if those you steal it from are still making money!

Wow. How many things can you get wrong in a single sentence?

Never said it was okay to “steal” anything. Never even said that it was okay to copy. Which brings up the point that you confuse copying with stealing. This has nothing to do with whether or not that’s ok. It’s illegal, so we are quite clear that it is NOT OKAY. It’s illegal and you could get in a lot of trouble for it.

The point we are making is that the industry is spending a lot of money going after the wrong thing and could be doing a lot better if they stopped worrying about piracy and focused on making piracy not matter.

It’s not *that* hard to follow this train of thought, you know.

TechDirtSux says:

Re: Re: Once again, lame rationalizations on TechD

>> Which brings up the point that you confuse copying with stealing.

No, I’m not confused. Too many people try to rationalize copying, trading and sharing of copywritten materials as not “stealing”, but everyone knows that’s all just rationalization.

>> The point we are making is that the industry is spending a lot of money going after the wrong thing and could be
>> doing a lot better if they stopped worrying about piracy and focused on making piracy not matter.

Oh, so that’s the point. Oh, I guessed that was just interference (running rimshot) on the whole “it should be okay to copy stuff” argument. If you don’t like it, lobby to get the IP and copyright laws changed, don’t just simply say “Hey, the illegal stuff we are doing isn’t hurting anyone” crap slogans that Techdirt so often does.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Once again, lame rationalizations on T

Oh, so that’s the point. Oh, I guessed that was just interference (running rimshot) on the whole “it should be okay to copy stuff” argument.

Again, you seem to be confusing what we write with someone else (or perhaps the commenters). We have never advocated copyright infringement. I, personally, do not download or upload unauthorized content and I do not encourage anyone else to do so. So I’m not sure why you think we’re making an argument we are not.

If you don’t like it, lobby to get the IP and copyright laws changed, don’t just simply say “Hey, the illegal stuff we are doing isn’t hurting anyone” crap slogans that Techdirt so often does.

Again, you seem to be quite confused. By presenting *factual* backed up and supported information about how companies can do better by ignoring copyright while at the same time showing that the Big Content industry’s arguments in favor of stronger copyright are wrong, we *are* helping to push the law and business in the right direction. I’m not sure why you think that we’re saying stuff that we have not, and I’m not sure why you think anything we say is unsupported, but you appear to be wrong on just about every account.

andrew head says:

beer in theatres...

Three words… Alamo Draft House.

Google it. It’s a chain of theaters in Texas that serves dinner and drinks along with the movie. Best movie experience of my life… Just saw Super Bad there this weekend. No one under 6 allowed period. No one under 18 allowed without a parent, regardless of the movie rating….

Some theaters just get it right…

sam says:

yo mike!!!

love the way you spin… keep it up!

while you hyped up the record sales… you left out the fact that it was/will be only the 6th hightest in terms of actual tickets sold… which means that there have been higher ticket prices….

the illusion that you paint that illegal copying/p2p networks has no effect isn’t solid….

but keep the spin going on.. gotta love it!


Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

while you hyped up the record sales… you left out the fact that it was/will be only the 6th hightest in terms of actual tickets sold… which means that there have been higher ticket prices….

I’m sorry, why is that “spin”? The MPAA is quite specifically claiming that they are losing *money*. I’m pointing out that’s not true. That’s not spin, it’s fact.

ken says:

I live here in St Louis and We have The Ronnie’s 12 Cine here. Stadium seating in every theater, with arm rests that can be lifted up, Nice range of food from pizza to hot dogs to burgers to wings. Beer is sold as well, but a limit on how many you can buy. IMAX theater on premises. and while you wait they show trailers, short stooges and baseball games on screen in the lobby. It may be a dollar more for ticket, but completely worth it in my opinion.

Andrew Wilson says:

Ticket sales are not the point

Yes they had a recored year at the box office. Films these days make the majority of their money in the DVD sales/rental market long after the film has gone from general circulation in the cinemas.

If P2P is costing the studios money it’s in this segment of the market, not in the theatres.

Of course the ususal not every copy represents a lost sale at full price argument still applies.

Oh and one more time copyright infringement isn’t stealing, it’s copyright infringement. Two very different “crimes”. Various bodies would like you to believe that it’s theft, it’s not. Theft has a clear legal definition, file sharing isn’t it.

Jason (user link) says:

Concern about movie piracy is shifting from black-market DVD copies made overseas to Internet users at home, and unions representing thousands of studio workers are pushing federal regulators to take a stronger stand. Modest calculations of the loss in residuals through piracy of all types is $100 million a year. Internet piracy, he said, is now about 4% of the overall problem.

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