Theater Owners Still Oblivious To The Fact That They Can Compete With Home Viewing

from the sad dept

We’ve been arguing for nearly a decade that movie theater owners were overreacting to the threat of people viewing movies at home eating into theater revenue. After all, they’ve been complaining about this for decades. As we talked about last year, back in 1959, Mary Pickford, who was a Hollywood star (or, rather, at the time, the Hollywood star) who also cofounded studio giant United Artists and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the folks who put on the Oscars), claimed that cable TV would kill theaters. Then, of course, Jack Valenti famously said the VCR would be the “Boston strangler” to the movie business.

Yet, now, with home theaters, video on demand, streaming services and (yes) infringement, the theaters are once again insisting that this time theaters are really in trouble.

The BBC has a good article discussing the details of the fears of theater owners, and even mentions both the Pickford and Valenti quotes. It talks up how theater windows are decreasing, and the theater owners are decrying how that’s just going to make things worse and worse.

But what’s amazing is that not once in the article does anyone mention that theaters compete on more than just the content. This is the core blindness that seems to effect most (but certainly not all) folks in the theater business. They keep whining about how they can’t compete with the ability to watch movies at home. But what they’re really admitting is that their theaters suck. Yes, the movie itself is a key part of deciding to go out to the theater, but it’s the overall theater-going experience that really drives people. Lots of people decide they want to “go out to the movies” before they even decide what movie to see.

Going out to the movies is a social experience, and the problem that theaters are facing isn’t that home theaters get the content too early, but that the big theaters have made the theater-going experience suck. The theaters are cramped, uncomfortable, noisy. The food prices are ridiculous. The sound quality or video quality sucks. But that’s not the fault of home theaters. That’s the fault of theater owners not making the experience good.

There certainly are some who recognize that making the theater experience better is the strategy that will work, but they’re in the minority. The big theaters just keep worrying about windows and online streaming and “piracy,” and don’t seem to make any effort to give people reasons to go to the theater. People want to “go out.” People want to have a special experience and enjoy being out with friends. That’s what theaters should be capitalizing on. People can stay home and eat, but restaurants still do fine business, because people want that better experience of going out to eat. The same is true of going to the movies, but only if the theaters recognize that they have to make that an experience worth going out to.

And, yet, oddly, none of that makes it into the BBC article. Even worse, the theater owners in the article seem to want to blame everyone else. Check out this discussion, where a top lobbyist for theater owners seems to pretend that theaters are helpless here and at the whims of everyone else:

“Our concern is people won’t go for this eight-week window,” says Patrick Corcoran, California operations chief of the National Association of Theatre Owners.

“If [studios] are really intent on making this sort of thing work, they have two options: one is to shorten the window, the other is to put it at a lower price, or both.

“The closer it gets to the theatrical release and the lower price it gets, you start to get into this self-competition market that already affects the home entertainment market.

“The theatre business is a fairly marginal business so a few percentage points loss in admissions will end up closing some theatres.

“And if film companies do focus on [home entertainment more], they won’t be able to justify current budgets so you will just end up with a lesser film.”

Or, you know, the theaters you represent could spend some time focusing on improving the experience so that even if they have options at home with the identical content, it’s still worth going out to the movies. But, apparently, that line of thought just hasn’t occurred to many theater owners yet.

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Comments on “Theater Owners Still Oblivious To The Fact That They Can Compete With Home Viewing”

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Anonymous Coward says:

You have to remember that theaters often don’t make much money on ticket sales, at least in the opening week(s). They are working on volume to sell popcorn and such.

If the window for theater release to home cinema release is shortened, the potential is that people just decide to wait. That means that not only are they working with the question of “do I go to the movies”, but now they would be competing against all the other ways that a movie could get delivered, and all inside that initial hype window.

They are correct – if the theaterical window gets too short, they will likely need the movie companies to take a hit on ticket prices to keep them competitive. Just as cheapie tuesdays (in these parts half price for the two tuesday night shows) packs the theaters, dropping ticket prices would certainly bring more people in. However, unless you double the number of people in the seats, cutting half off your ticket price isn’t really a good business move.

They are looking at supply and demand, and worrying that supply is going to wipe them out.

rooben (profile) says:

Re: More to it


This is what theatres are doing to counteract the home theatre. Far too many theatres are doing exactly what you are saying- stacking people in the smallest screen possible (200 inch screens…really? And they wonder why people stay home?), and no focus on the experience.

Look at the austin drafthouse, or the arclight in hollywood, for theatres who are concerned about the overall experience. Arclight even charges a premium, but their theatre is full.

ClarkeyBalboa (profile) says:

Re: Re: More to it

I’ve noticed in the last few years that the theatres in my city have been re-investing in themselves by putting in better audio systems, seats and projectors. It is by far the best way for them to earn my dollars, and even though my closest theatre is undergoing major construction in the lobby now, they refitted all the theatres with new seats first and i’ve seen more movies in the last 2 months than i have in the last year because the experience is more enjoyable.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

They’re using the wrong business model then. Maybe they need a liquor license.

The last several movies I’ve seen were at pub theaters. I paid $4 a ticket on the opening weekend of the movie with a sub-quality screen and speakers (in comparison to the mega-cineplex places), but I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I would have at the cineplex. I also spent a lot more on concessions ($8 for a beer or two and $5 for a slice of pizza) than I would at the cineplex ($4 for a small bottled water and $5 for a reheated hotdog in a stale bun).

Restaurant and pub theaters are the better business models. I never understood why cinemas insisted on having just popcorn and candy and soda. When they did introduce “real food,” it was like they chose the worst quality products with the highest possible markup. I want a beer or Starbucks and good pizza or even a hamburger. I also want the theater to zealously kick out the assholes who talk on their phones or even pull out their cellphones during the movie.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Let’s see, why would one go to the movies now instead of waiting till it came out on DVD. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Big ass screen
22.2 surround sound
Social event

expensive ticket
expensive and disgusting food
loud ass people
cramped and uncomfortable seats
nasty smell
uncaring if not dickish employes
Crappy video
Crappy audio

Looks to me like they have room to improve and compete. Hell, people here have already pointed out ways to add value to the theaters above and beyond what people already complain about. Have a showing that serves beer and is adults only is the first thing that comes to mind. Make it an event, don’t just throw a movie up and pray people come.

So, to all the theater owners out there that say they can’t compete with something that doesn’t exist for a month, screw you. Your lazy asses are the reason I don’t go to the theater even if it is a move I’m looking forward to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Add to the cons:

excessively loud audio
meat locker air conditioning
forcibly imposed advertising
forcibly imposed previews
worthless gimmicks like 3D
lack of intermission (yeah, sell me a 32 oz drink and then
let’s see if my bladder can make it 2:37)
crappy content (“Transformers”? REALLY??)
surly, illiterate, stupid teenager staff

Over the last 15 years, I’ve gone from “movies at least once a month” to “movies once a year — maybe”. Theater owners are largely responsible for that: they’ve made it a crappy experience.

On the other hand, my local brewpub has steadily worked on providing a quality experience: quality food and drink, witty and attentive staff, fun events (like trivia night), great music, respect for loyal patrons — as in, they greet me *by name* because they took the time to learn it after I kept showing up, participation in the community, and everything else that makes me want to bypass grabbing a beer out of the fridge, and instead drive over there and pay them more for the exact same thing.

Theater owners — modulo the ones who own the places mentioned in this thread and ones similar — are greedy, lazy, stupid assholes. Their businesses DESERVE to fail, and they deserve to go bankrupt. The sooner the better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Let’s say all of what you said is true. Let’s say that it is entirely impossible for theaters to compete with home viewing. That’s 100% okay. That means that as a society, we just don’t need theaters.

There are no drive-ins around here. I don’t even notice. I think a drive-in was something my parents did. Going to the movies might be something your kids wonder about one day.

Wait, you guys had to get in the car and drive somewhere to sit in a giant room to see a movie? Why would you do that? What kept other people from yelling out spoilers? How did you pause it to go to the restroom? Wait, you had to miss part of the movie? I thought you paid $15 to get in? And I thought that hollywood only made comic book sequels after 2013?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If the window for theater release to home cinema release is shortened, the potential is that people just decide to wait.

Congratulations on regurgitating the BBC article and completely missing everything that Mike had to say.

Perhaps you could read the stuff that Mike wrote, and then you might understand that this isn’t a problem.

They are correct – if the theaterical window gets too short, they will likely need the movie companies to take a hit on ticket prices to keep them competitive.

This is only true if you (like the people quoted) believe that your theater sucks. If you try to understand what you’re actually selling, it’s not such a big deal.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They are working on volume to sell popcorn and such.

They’d probably sell more popcorn and soda if they lowered their prices.

Just as cheapie tuesdays (in these parts half price for the two tuesday night shows) packs the theaters, dropping ticket prices would certainly bring more people in. However, unless you double the number of people in the seats, cutting half off your ticket price isn’t really a good business move.

How can you say its not a good business move unless X happens when you just finished saying that X already has happened?

They are looking at supply and demand, and worrying that supply is going to wipe them out.

If their business model entirely depends on huge margins from a good that becomes commoditized, then they deserve to go out of business when people realize they can get it for cheaper (and in some cases, better AND cheaper). Its simple economics.

Scote (profile) says:

Theaters are still blowing it

Last time I went to a theater (brand new high end multi-plex) the projection was so bad that the only the horizontal middle of the screen was in focus, leaving the top and bottom of the screen fuzzy with no way to make the entire screen in focus at the same time. So even with the big screen I would have gotten a clearer picture on a standard definition tv screen at home. What a waste.

If it had been just me I would have walked out and demanded a refund, but I was with friends and it was a social outing. But I’ve stopped going to the movies as often based on the realization that theater owners just aren’t doing enough to make sure I get a good experience. Instead, they are counting on their exclusive distribution window to bring me in. Well, that just isn’t good enough anymore.

A.R.M. (profile) says:

Theaters are killing themselves. They don't need VoD to blame.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to see Super 8, which was our first movie since the second Pirates movie.

Greeting me right off the bat was a ticket price of $8 for matinee, for which I needed two.

Entering, two large popcorns (because it was stupid to buy anything smaller to save a buck or two, literally) required a payment of another $16.

Total price: $32 for less than two hours of “content” which was preceded by advertising, and I’m not talking about previews (which took a staggering 1/2 hour to run through).

Needless to say, our last experience was so dreadful we will not be heading to any theater in our future. We passed at the chance to go through all this again for Pirates 4.

VoD wins this round because:
Popcorn costs $2 for a box, movies are $3.99, and I have pleasure of watching without any annoyances such as talking teens.

As far as I’m concerned, the theater “experience” has become worse, not better.

If they’re truly worried, perhaps they fix this and they can start by telling those who dictate ticket prices to knock it off.

out_of_the_blue says:

So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

“The theaters are … noisy.” — Just how do you propose to reduce that?

“The food prices are ridiculous.” –THAT from you, after all the talk about making money off other the “zero” cost item! As I said previously, your advice is logically: FREE admission and make money entirely off concessions!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

i think you secretly agree with everything mike says but your hippy friends would ostricize you for even pretending to take that stance that all you can do is read every word mike writes obsessivly in impotent rage that you can’t just say yes to common sense.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

Just how do you propose to reduce that?

Like any other business that doesn’t allow a customer to shout, throw food, and disrupt the experience for everyone else? How about booting out and blacklisting the assholes who talk on their phone the whole movie? I’d certainly go back to a theater after seeing some self-important jackass get chucked out the front doors. (The last movie I watched in a theater, someone’s alarm on their phone went off . . . for twenty minutes.)

You really have to stretch to come up with complaints, don’t you?

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

I should have checked this thread again yesterday. Hope you’ve the notify box checked.

You don’t even stretch, just pick the easy item and dodge the tough one of the two I mention.

Mike mentions problems without offering solutions: that’s EASY too.

If keeping order is so easy and obvious why isn’t it done? In practice you’d find it’s a good way to lose big money from lawsuits, particularly if literally chucked someone out the door. In practice, if were usher-Nazis running around, you wouldn’t like that either, and it’s an expense on what are claimed already thin margins.

Take the next philosophically, because I’m with you up to a point: sounds like to you, some level of violence is the solution to all problems, and especially that your notions must be the rule. But, it’s likely that the those you mention /enjoy/ their version of the movie experience, probably /more/ if know that they annoy you, and that gets into complex conflicts indeed. You and I may wish to sit quietly and enjoy the movie, but you’re essentially saying that some people enjoy too much freedom. See how slippery it gets?

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

> If keeping order is so easy and obvious why isn’t it done?
> In practice you’d find it’s a good way to lose big money from lawsuits,

Look, this is kindergarten stuff.

Ask the jerk(s) to leave. If they don’t then call the police and press charges for trespassing. Wanna bet the entire theater would break out in applause?

If the jerk is a big enough jerk and sues, then you countersue. You’ve got witnesses, employees, the police, and possibly people who were in attendance who might step forward as soon as the suit becomes local news. You make sure that a message is sent to future jerks that they are not welcome in your theater.

That is how you make your theater a more inviting place for people who are there to watch a movie.

> some level of violence is the solution to all problems

To some problems perhaps. Some jerks will leave when asked. If violence is required, leave that to the police.

The fact that you can’t understand this reinforces that theater owners want to keep jerks coming back to ruin the experience. Thanks for the info! I think I’ll stay home.

James says:

Re: So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

Wow. Generalize much? Mike’s right, theatre’s are hurting themselves. Its $11.50 now to see a film, I can tolerate the price, what I cannot tolerate is the people who talk or answering their phone/text during the film. Why would I pay $11.50 for that? THAT in and of itself makes me want to not go.

I have been going to IMAX, because even though its $17, it tends to weed out the idiots who won’t pay the price, those are usually the ones more interested in some random text message than the film.

There is much theatres can do to improve the experience, and surely some creative options, removing the rude idiots would be a great start, though.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

Here we go again, this never fails to amuse me “tell us how to fix our industry! We don’t know anything!”… Weren’t you here last week demanding that Mike provide easy solutions to the music industry as well?

“after all the talk about making money off other the “zero” cost item!”

Well, I suppose it does help if you know what the product you’re trying to sell actually is.

Mike’s mentioned this, but let’s try and go through slowly for those who haven’t caught up. I presume from this comment that you’re assuming this is the same situation as, say, DVD vs. illegal downloads – i.e. you can get the exact same for free. But, the theatres aren’t trying to sell that product. What they are trying to sell is a “performance” or an “experience”. Yes, this includes the movie but it also involves a large number of other factors – the quality of sound & video projection, screen size, seating comfort, the social experience, and so on. None of these is zero cost, and they cannot be replicated by most people without a significant financial outlay. The quality of this experience is at least as important to most as the title of the most they watch, perhaps more so.

Mike’s criticism of the concessions is that they are truly overpriced and may have a negative effect on sales (e.g. most people know that the coke and popcorn they’re selling for over $10 cost only a few cents so they don’t bother buying it at all). That is, they seem to be shifting all of their hopes on clawing back revenue on concessions when they should really be looking at making the whole experience more inviting. If windowing truly affects attendence, it’s because people don’t want to go to the cinema unless they really have to.

In other words, the theatre owners are offering an unattractive service and it’s this that’s losing them business, not “piracy” or artificial restrictions being lifted. As with the music & other industries, they can compete fine with “free” and cheaper home experiences. They just have to make their product worth paying for rather than depending on aritfical restrictions, overbearing laws and the like.

“As I said previously, your advice is logically: FREE admission and make money entirely off concessions!”

Only if you think that’s there’s only two parties involved (the theatre and the customer) and only 2 products (the seat and concessions). Neither of these is true. The studios place a lot of controls over what the theatres can charge and the level of revenue thet they can take from a screening, while there’s a huge number of products they can sell if they chose to. You just have to have some imagination, something that most cinema owners (and studio owners, and label heads, etc.) seem to lack.

Jeni (profile) says:

Re: So let's have the Masnick solutions to a couple problems.

Theaters are noisy now? Grief. I haven’t been to a theater in at least 15 years, but we used to have ushers who booted anyone out who made too much noise if a “shush” warning didn’t work. Everyone actually watched the movie – quietly. Because that’s what they went to see.

Well, except for Friday the 13th horror nights – they let us gals screech our faces off ’til we lost our voices. And the boys could laugh themselves silly at our foolishness. It was an innocent blast. No sex. No drugs, No guns. Just plain, silly kid-style fun.

If I’m behind the times, I think I’d like to stay there. We used to practice respect; it was a good thing.

Restaurant shill says:


People can stay home and eat

Oh my god…. We have to stop this! the fact that you freetards think you can just make food at home is whats wrong with this country. How are these hardworking restaurant owners supposed to make any money, when every meal you make at home = one lost sale for every restaurant in a 50 mile radius!

These ‘grocery stores'(more like infringment stores amirite?) are just as bad as google is to music about aiding and abetting these clear and present dangers to restaurants.

I think we need to get legislation where restaurat owners can tell the government who they catch making food in their homes and have their electricity/gas stoves cut off(whoever thought those would be a good idea, they are clearly made to defeat restaurant DRM)don’t even get me started on grills…

Donnicton says:

Re: infringement

Don’t forget those people that think they can actually grow their own food from seeds in backyard gardens, they’re the worst kind of job killing monsters, and need to be profoundly punished with the most punitive civil damages possible with existing laws(and any new laws that can be lobbied in before the verdict).

And god help those people if that particular plant strain is copyrighted. You’re looking at some serious jail time when ICE suddenly seizes their gardens.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Film critic James Berardinelli recently wrote on his blog about this problem. He basically tells the theaters to shut up, man up, and compete.

And on this topic, I’ve said it once and I’ve said it twice, the copyright industry simply does not know how to compete. When your “job” is collecting government granted monopoly rents, making your customers happy is not a major concern. You don’t have customers, you have people legally obligated to pay you.

New Mexico Mark says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wow, he wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

“And if film companies do focus on [home entertainment more], they won’t be able to justify current budgets so you will just end up with a lesser film.”

If a lesser film means more $5 million gems like “Moon” and fewer $500 million monsters like “Transformers 3” then please please please Hollywood give me a lesser film.

Budget has absolutely nothing to do with quality.

Anonymous Coward says:

I no longer go out to movies. I totally see why they would be complaining.

My theaters don’t suck. They are usually quiet. The advertising got grating, so I started to show up 5 minutes after the films started.

But ultimately what happened is the quality of the films I was seeing went down, and the prices kept rising, (do I pay ~40 for a family of 4 or just “rent” it for $0-$1 for all of us in a month? gee, I wonder.) and home viewing just is so much more convenient and cheap. There’s probably nothing a theater could do to entice me back.


Re: A Vorlon Demon

This situation is like a Vorlon. Everyone sees something different when they look at it. Everyone sees their own little personal demon or pet peeve. The industry seems to be annoying pretty much EVERY one. Every thing they do seems to drive away some part of their target market.

Bad screens. Obnoxious patrons. Absurd concessions. Annoying ads. The entire thing seems to be a mess.

Adam (profile) says:

More than the movie

Some theaters are realizing people go to their locations for more than just the movie they are showing. One of our local cinemas recently showed the extended cut for all three Lord of the Rings movies over three weeks (one each week).

They showed the movies in their largest and newest theater (the seats are actually really comfortable). I went even though I own the complete extended cut of the movies and have watched them. Many of my friends also went with me even though many of them also own the movies. We went because this was a rare chance to see the full extended cut on a huge screen with a great sound system with a dozen friends.

It looked like they did pretty good for the turnout as well, the theater was also close to full.

Anonymous Coward says:

Did anyone clue in the theater owners that there is a depression going on? That not many have discretionary income and those that do are now weighing the bang for the buck?

I was dis-satisfied years ago with the theater experience. One I promised myself I would never put myself through again. This was long before commercials, ads, night vision goggles, and cell phones, made it worse.

Hollydud can jack the prices all they want. The theater owners can run it as trashy as they will. I will not be back. I’ve simply had it with paying for poor quality experiences at premium prices.

There are other forms of entertainment that doesn’t require putting up with bad experiences. I have a choice and am exercising that option continually. It has nothing to do with home theater.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

During the depression going to movies was one of the cheapest forms of entertainment available. Plus the theatres were air conditioned – a big selling point in the summer when most people didn’t have that at home. Nor did they have TV. People went to movies every week, and adult women were the target audience, not 17 year old boys. It was a very different world. Comparing the 1930s to today doesn’t work.

Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

The problem theater owners have is essentially the same as nearly everyone in the content business. They over value the content and undervalue delivery to the consumer. And by everyone I mean all the way from the beginning of the creative process until you reach the consumer.

Content does not have any intrinsic value. If the complete works of William Shakespeare had stayed in his mind or been written down but never performed, their value would be exactly nothing. Performances of his plays by actors just sitting around a table reciting lines would be worth slightly more. Take the same works and make them into productions by a company of skilled, classically trained actors and the value skyrockets.

The point is, people don’t value content. They value consuming content. A movie, no matter how good, is worth nothing to you if you don’t watch it. Likewise, the more satisfying the experience of consuming it is, the more it is worth.

For most movies, nothing a theater could add would enhance my enjoyment enough to justify paying their prices. For a small minority it will. Which category a movie falls into has nothing to do with whether I have other options for consuming it. It has everything to do with whether my enjoyment of the movie will be increased significantly by seeing it in a theater.

The enjoyment factor will also vary from one theater to another. For many years, there was a local theater where you could buy drinks and food and even smoke while you were watching a movie. They were essentially a discount theater, which in their later years meant they were showing movies you could already buy or rent on DVD.

A couple years ago Billy Joes closed their doors, but it had nothing to do with competition from home video. In fact it was entirely due to a state smoking ban. The value of the Billy Joes experience dropped to the point where they could no longer attract enough business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually, they don’t over value the content. People value the content greatly and are willing to go to great lengths to get it.

How else would you explain people who would pay for an internet connection, a computer, and spend hours scouring around looking for torrents of the latest movie, taking sometimes a day or more to download, just so they can see the latest movie? They value the content highly. They have just been taught not to pay for it.

Your example of Billy Joes is pretty much right on. The value was gone when they no longer had a unique product on offer. When they are showing movies that are already on DVD and PPV, who wants to show up? You can smoke and eat at home.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

you must be new to the whole 2011 thing… A) everyone has computer B) everyone has internet C) everyone hs HIGHSPEED internet, which meansdl’ing a torrent movie takes about 30 minutes with a decent seed. D), take about 30 seconds to find the movie you want. you are either a troglydyte or are being intentionally obtuse on the subject.

so no they do NOT value it highly, it’s in fact so low valued that a lot o peple refuse to pay even redbox or netflix prices for it.

go fuck shill

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

spend hours scouring around looking for torrents

Hours? Takes me approximately one minute to find anything I’m looking for.

Heck, part of the reason piracy is so popular is because of how darned fast and convenient it is compared to most traditional channels. That’s also why Steam is so popular for games; With two clicks you can buy a game and have instant access to it from any computer, anywhere you go, and it sets everything up for your platform and updates automatically.

Jim says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Steam! This! A thousand times this! My game piracy dropped to zero. Literally. It is more hassle for me to find a game with a crack than it is for me to pay Steam to handle it all for me. I simply refuse to pirate games anymore. If it’s a game I’m only somewhat interested in, I just wait for the inevitable sale and snatch it up. If it’s one I want to play badly enough, buy immediately when it’s on Steam and start playing 20 minutes later after the entire thing has downloaded & installed. It is the perfect example of “convenient, cheap, and easy” that other media based industries can learn from.

Prisoner 201 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I echo this sentiment. Also you can immediately jump into a game with friends (you can even send the actual game to friends if you are feeling generous and/or desperate).

Only grudge I have with Steam is that they still charge as if the game just shipped half across the world in a cardboard box and took up valuable shelf space in a high-rent game store in central Stockholm until I bought it. I mean whut? Whut whut whaaat?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Exactly why they can’t compete with piracy, they absolutely refuse to service the customer. Right or wrong, good or bad, it’s the sad truth.

I absolutely love steam btw… I’ve won’t even buy a game unless it’s on steam.. sure it takes away your ability to access the secondary market, but they are giving you the ability to (like you said) access it from any computer, anywhere. I’m willing to make that trade.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Not only that, when you need room for another game, you can delete it and install the new one. If you get an itch (or a bigger hard drive) and want to play that one again, you can just download it any time you like. That is something worth paying for. Free storage of your purchased games and infinite downloads. If only more studios were putting their games on Steam.

Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

People could always smoke, drink, and eat in their living rooms, and yet they were making money from people paying to do those things at the theater. Likewise, they made plenty of money from movies people could also see at home. It wasn’t until they lost one of the key attractions to their overall experience (smoking) that they ran into problems.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re:

“People value the content greatly and are willing to go to great lengths to get it.”

This is so unbelievably wrong. The only reason movie and music “piracy” is so common is because it’s so easy. This is particularly true if you’re not even downloading but just swapping files via a flash drive or portable hard drive.

Movie fans use reviews and trailers to determine the “value” of a movie to them, and decide how to see that movie based on that perceived value. Some movies I will make an effort to see at a theatre because I want the big screen, big sound social experience. Some I will not bother with until I can see it for free (could be a download, could be on TV).

“How else would you explain people who would pay for an internet connection, a computer…”

People don’t buy a computer and pay for an internet connection just so they can download movies and music, they have these things for a multitude of other reasons. So this reasoning is nonsense.


Re: Re: Bogus Argument

> who would pay for an internet connection, a computer, and
> spend hours scouring around looking for torrents of the
> latest movie, taking sometimes a day or more to download,

The Internet connection is already paid for. It was bought for other reasons.

The computer is already paid for. It was bought for other reasons.

One simply doesn’t need to “spend hours” or “scour” the Internet. They invented this thing back in the 90s called a search engine. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

A day to download? It takes a few days to get something shipped from Amazon or Netflix. You don’t have to babysit either process. It’s not “work”.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Some theatres are doing quite well

The last movie I went to see was at the newest theatre in OKC. The Warren. One of the things they decided to do to make theatre going more appealing was to roll the whole date experience into a single location.

People would normally go out to eat, go see a movie and then go for dessert. At the Warren, you can do all that in one place, in balcony seating.

It is a great idea and the people here love it.

While other theatres in the area are struggling, this one is booming with business every weekend.

Darryl Brashier (profile) says:

Re: Some theatres are doing quite well

I was going to mention the Warren in Wichita. You could get drinks and real food delivered in comfortable seating. There was one in Wichita’s Old Town area that I thought missed the boat because the whole theater was food service – in fact, there was almost no snack bar at all – and as a result, there were servers going through the theater delivering stuff while the movie was showing. Probably great for a date where you were more interested in your partner than the movie, but not so much if you really wanted to see the show.

The balcony experience at the east-side theater, on the other hand, was much more controlled.

Oh, and both of them, for obvious reasons, had really wide spacing between rows. That was a real benefit all by itself!

Chris says:

Re: Some theatres are doing quite well

I also live in OKC and I’ll 2nd what Mr. Knight said about The Warren. Prior to The Warren, I had sworn off going to theaters for movies for all the obvious reasons, overcrowding, expensive food, crappy quality, etc.

After visiting The Warren and making use of their balcony seating, it has made moving going a much more enjoyable experience. With assigned seating, food service at your chair, reasonable prices on food and great quality of the picture and sound, I finally have a reason to go see movies in the theater again.

New Mexico Mark says:

Re: Some theatres are doing quite well

Great idea! Of course this will be short lived for two (no, three!) reasons. The restaurants will pressure public health agencies and other regulatory agencies to inspect them out of existence. The other theaters will lobby to prevent this unfair competition. And finally, someone has probably patented the idea of dinner and a movie in the same venue and will be suing them any day now.

ECA (profile) says:

WE can add tons

We also can add tons of reasons theaters SUCK..
The prices go up, and its not just the theaters fault.
The movie industry has raised prices many times.
Seating Sucks..Iv been to a few OLD time theaters, and you had ARM AND LEG ROOM, and a padded seat(REALLY PADDED), and some had rocking seats you could lean back in.

With the average citizen weighing 20-30lbs over..a GOOD seat is hard to find.

NOW, lets look at something else. THE MOVIE.. MOST recent ones SUCK.. Many are re-makes.. And in the WHOLE industry or releases, per year there have been, 300-700 releases of DVD/theater/online/VOD/… And if you can go to the theater more then 1 time per month…you are Rich.
I would rather buy a Collection of DVD at $50 then to go sit in a theater..

WHO here has seen OLD release DVD at a store? the $5-10 bin??
Can you Pass that up? NOT ME.
Even the DVD companies are starting to have problems. sales are down for Current releases.
WHO wants to pay $20-30 for a NEW movie? and you dont even know, if you will like it.
Its better to pick up an older release at $5-10, and take your chances.

If you have $20-50 you REALLY dont care about..I have some empty pocket you could stuff it into..

GunSheep (profile) says:

Theater Experience....

If they can’t be bothered to improve the experience then I can’t be bothered to visit them. We went to Super 8 this weekend and this was our experience.

Arrived 5 minutes before the movie was scheduled to start.

Theater smells like old popcorn and butter…floor is sticky.

Sat through 10 minutes of slide show ad’s with the most irritating music playing the whole time. Seriously…strangling cat bad.

Sat through another 10 minutes of previews which I don’t mind…but each preview was followed by an ad that of course had the volume noticeably louder than preview.

Finally got to the movie. We were lucky this time…the theater was mostly empty so no ringing phones or idiot texters…

Jesse (profile) says:

Here's what I WANT to pay for:

I would pay a heck of a lot more if theatres considered something like this:

Instead of the typical sardine approach to movie seating, the theatres could arrange the seating more like a restaurant. You are seated around a table, so that you can still see your friends as your watch. Either, the table would be more like a semi circle, so that you can still see the screen, or else there could be multiple screens so that you can watch the one that is most convenient (like when you watch the game at a bar). Rather than crappy food, you could actually order some decent restaurant food before the movie started. There could also be an intermission for pee breaks and ordering more food or drinks, like back in old country.

Alternatively, it could be set up more like a bar and lounge, where instead of full course meals, it’s appetizers and drinks. Tables are spread out enough that you can have light discussion and not disrupt others, and waiters bringing food/drinks would not get in the way. There could also be an on-site non-movie lounge to hang around afterwards (rather than simply see a movie and split to somewhere else.)

I think that would be a lot more enjoyable, and I think a lot of people would pay a lot more for that (considering it could be like dinner and a movie all in one.)

Desco (profile) says:

Re: You hoping for something like this?
Honestly I’ve never been but they always look busy when I drive by.

Hollywood Blvd is very cool! The seating is leather office chairs around tables, the food is actually good and reasonably priced, and the adult beverages are strong. They also do all sorts of promos and have guests in.

Funny thing was this theater (the Woodridge location) was THE ONLY MOVIE THEATER around when I was growing up. It was small, dark, stinky and sticky, and closed when all the megaplexes started being built. Whoever transformed that crappy theater into what it is today is a genius.

Now you’ve got Movieco ( kinda doing the same thing– they’re a little more traditional seating, but the chairs are huge and comfy.

Jay (profile) says:

A quick overview of the theater business

Just so I can cut down on my rant on the movie theater business, let’s just start up by saying there’s a LOT of problems that I’ve noted over the past few decades.

The movie theaters cater to Hollywood explicitly, not understanding that the puck is about to move away from them. In the days of Hollywood owning all methods of distribution, it made sense that most made their money with food items. But did people also know that the licensing for every detail of the movie experience is also expensive and in need of an overhaul as well? Think about what it costs for Sony to protect against pirating a lens or putting out a movie on a cell phone while being paid.

But there are few indie movie releases in smaller areas. There are fewer people that are repeat customers of a movie theater, instead catering to the three day release window, hurting the people in the system.

So here’s a few proposals that could reinvigorate the movie theater business (IMHO):

1) Better food – Everyone that doesn’t like popcorn or sweets should be able to get a choice of ham or steak dinner. Put that in the $20 price and give people refills of soda, some veggies (health nuts love that option) and make it better for people to enjoy the movie

2) Babysitting/ smaller movie theater for children – Yes, people have kids. Sometimes you want to see one thing, they want another. Fine, let there be a smaller kids section where they can either play around with a chaperone or get a “kids experience” theater with their friends. It’s not hard to allow the kids to learn how to self serve popcorn with adult supervision and keep them quiet during Toy Story 4 (coming soon on Valve Time).

3) Diversification – You go to the movies for one thing, then you leave. Wouldn’t the biggest idea to hit people is to have a DVD of their movie right then and there? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a game to play at the same time? Wouldn’t you want to go there to be entertained by the service? There are plenty of options here, and I’m sure anyone can have these ideas and expand on them. The problem is that the entire movie industry is looking at one issue, neglecting everything else and making all evidence fit into a very specific narrative.

But hey, if they don’t want money, the scapegoat of piracy has been around since the 80s and Jack Valenti.

Keep kicking that dead horse while the world moves forward.

Lord Binky says:

I love theaters that serve drinks and make it all-around a nice experience especially before/after the movie. Hell, I was in san-antonio tx the other week at saw a movie at a chain called Palladium or something, It was big, nice sound system, properly CALIBRATED projector, and most of all, actually clean. They also had Imax screens, and the moving seats that are actually entertaining since they don’t do more than enhance the movie rather than draw attention to themselves. I think I payed something like $18 a ticket, and it was completely worth it.

It isn’t something I would replace my streaming netflix habits, but that isn’t the same as a favorite movie playing in the background during whatever I’m working on. I don’t have nice theaters like that in my area, but I am certain I would go to a better experience than my normal decision to to pass on the half-assed screening (lopsided, unfocused, image smaller than the screen size) at the local 3 screen theater for 5 bucks. They even show 3D, but it still isn’t set up right *rolls eyes*

trish says:

why make an effort?

The sense of entitlement. They won’t think about making the experience better, because that’s like, work. Much better to try to make it so that you have no other choice but to go to the theater. They freak out about torrents. About VCRs. About TVs probably, when those came out. I’m sure theaters (not movie theaters, but real people-show theatres) freaked out about the movie reel. And travelling lute-playing troupes freaked out about the theatre. Artists believe that the key to profit is a math equation going like this: art exists + you have eyes/ears = Give me money.

SIlverBlade says:

I have so many problems with theaters, I’m surprised I even go anymore.

1) Have ‘adult’ only showings for ALL films, regardless if it’s G or 18A. Sometimes I enjoy G or PG films like Shrek but I do not want to see them with a bunch of noisy 8 yr olds.

2) Lower the prices on the drinks and popcorn. They charge $5 for 25 cents worth of Pepsi and $6 for 10 cents worth of popcorn. Ridiculous. I do not buy anything there because of this.

3) More food selection. My theaters seem to only serve popcorn, soda/pop, and chocolate bars. What about potato chips? what about ice cream? what about some healthy options like rice chips? Also, I can make way better popcorn at home as I can ‘layer’ the flavor and the popcorn so that I can get flavor all throughout the bowl – The flavor on the popcorn is only on the top, it’s like eating pure salt/other flavoring on top.

4) Please get special licenses/permission to use cell phone blocking technology within the theaters. The lights are distracting. Maybe people who use their cell phones while the movie is running should be escorted out without refund: You are there to watch a movie, not carry on a conversation on the phone.

5) I would really love intermission about half way through so we can go to the bathroom or refill our drinks if needed. I can do that at home any time.

6) Assigned Seating!. Sports events have been doing this for *ages*. This would also solve the problem of people coming in late and looking for available seating for 5 people and making people move just to accommodate them.

7) Get rid of the 3D. This isn’t innovation, this is a gimmick just to charge more and I avoid 3D movies.

8) Stadium Seating: Good innovation, but doesn’t happen nearly often enough. I will refuse to go to a theater which doesn’t have this. Nothing says ‘I just wasted money’ then a 7 foot monster in front of me and I can’t see a damned thing.

9) Give us an option to buy some ‘exclusive’ merchandise if we see a movie within the first week or two, like an advanced version of the DVD/Blu-Ray without the crap advertising before the movie.

Paul (user link) says:

Here in Portland, Oregon we have a theater that does ‘get it’. It is called Cinetopia, and they like to say “why see a movie in coach when you can see it in first class.”

They offer extra wide ultra leather seating with extra wide rows – 1 to 3 extra feet. They have 50% steeper stadium seating, digital super high definition projection in every theater with the finest Dolby / Klipsch sound system on a giant curved screen up to 50 feet wide. They have special living room theaters with private box seating & footrests.

Their concessions serve gourmet popcorn and they have a five star restaurant and world class wine bar that you can take with you into the theater, or order from within their living room theater and your meal will be delivered to you at your seat.

Needless to say, Cinetopia is not worried about competition from either home viewers or the local chain cinemas. They are doing well enough that they are opening new locations as fast as they can build them.

Alex (profile) says:

Agree but your argument is flawed

Mike, I generally agree with the point you are making but the comparison you use to make your point is flawed in this example.

A movie theater is showing the exact same movie we can (eventually) see on our home theaters. The core product is exactly the same. Yes, going out to the movies is a social experience, and in a best case scenario a great movie seen on a big screen with a great sound system will surpass most home theaters. But the core product, the movie, is exactly the same.

A restaurant experience can and often includes food we could not duplicate at home. Better or harder to find ingredients. Skill, originality and artistry that non-professionals cannot match. Not to mention the convenience of not having to cook and clean and the ambiance.

Your comparison doesn’t work.

But at the end of day, there is no doubt home theaters, DVDs, streaming movies and, yes, VCRs, do and can impact box office. But you can’t stop progress.

Does it spell the end of the theater business? No. Can theaters do a better job of making the theater experience better. Yes, of course, and some are doing that not only by tackling the low hanging fruit (cleaner, better service, reserve seating) but also through different models like serving meals and alcohol, and/or showing live concerts.


Re: Food vs. Movie

The comparison is perfectly valid.

There is nothing special about most restaurants or what food they serve.

In fact, they are even MORE replaceable than a movie theatre. Most cheap restaurants get their stuff out of a box like a dressed up TV dinner. Of those restaurants that actually cook their own food for real, most of those serve things that are easy to replicate at home with better quality ingredients for one forth the price.

A well designed projection space is much harder and more expensive to faithfully replicate in a private home.

Although anyone can play a movie on their phone if they don’t otherwise care much about “experience”.

herbert says:

as in every other instance, it is easier to blame something, anything, else, (usually piracy because it is an easy opt out!) for a failing business rather than stand up, be counted, admit what the real failings are and do something positive about them! why would anyone in their right mind spend $30 minimum when they can watch the same thing at home for a fraction of that cost? no one! unless the whole experience is really made worth your while!

McBeese says:

It's better in Texas


New cinemas
Comfortable stadium seats
Large digital screens
Awesome sound
Online ticket purchase
Wine and beer in some cinemas


$10 for 1 popcorn and 1 water (cost about $0.50)
Fat women and teenage girls who can’t shut their mouths
Ads. NO sympathy for cinemas that are charging me $60 for 3 tickets and 3 snacks and then make me watch cheesy local ads. That really, really bites.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve recently started going to the Theater again after many years of rare outings. There are simply some movies I desire to see on the big screen (Thor, X-Men: First Class, Pirates 4, and soon the new Transformers movie).

The theaters suffer from a few problems, though.

First, not all movies are “theater worthy” for me. A movie like American Pie is awesome, but not the sort of movie I’d desire to pay a premium for. Theater movies for me are big action affairs like The Matrix or Star Wars.

Secondly, I understand movie theaters, like gas stations these days, don’t really make much from there main commodity but from the sale of consumables. Still, I’m not going to pay $5 for some watered down syrup (especially when they almost always get the mixture wrong in the first place) that passes for pop, and $8 for a popcorn that tends to taste like rubber.

And lastly, to be most profitable, a theater needs to fill as many seats as possible for a showing. Here is where they REALLY lose me. I hate crowds. I tend to wait 3-5 weeks before I go see a movie so I can have a theater with maybe a dozen people and nobody within 20 feet of me (unless I go with other people). Not to mention the noise factor. Just breathing and occasional body movement alone from 100-200 people is going to generate a fair amount of background noise.

Paul Keating (profile) says:

movie theater economics

There is some very interesting reading out there. A friend of mine worked in the theater industry years ago when the rage was to split the big theater into many small ones. She claimed that theaters made a profit with a 40$ attendance because of the profits on concessions. This may or may not be true today. However, at interesting read of some of the economic arguments is found at

And a study by Stanford Business is discussed at

ECA (profile) says:

Biggest problem with article and comments

I could comment on many things from your comment.

Let me say it this way.

I am the END USER, and it was 50+ years ago that companies and corps, WANTED the end product to be fully enjoyable.
That has changed. In this industry, we are SARDINES.

Our thoughts and ideas dont mater to you, Our comfort is not paramount and you throw popcorn to us, to feed us.

Going to the theater used to be fun, and an event..I could get shoved into an Airplane for 8 hours and get more.

Anonymous Coward says:

i AM A sENIOR AND HAVE SPOKE TO MANY sENIORS QUESTIONING WHY THE mOVIE tHEATERS DON’T ADVERTISE ANYMORE IN nEWAPAPERS. mOst seniors don’t have computers, but they like to go to movies!!! Your theaters are not filled, and I’ll bet you would go back to having more patrons, and it would more than pay for the advertising. Also, why pull a good movie after two to three weeks. It takes time for “Word of Mouth” gets around. Also, maintain prices for seniors at matinees, seniors don’t like being out after dark. Also, consider the family 0f 3 or more. They are the ones to buy at your confection counters. Cann’t you promote special priced packages for them. Why should a family of five be forced to spend $100.00 for a two hour movie session? Please reapraise your “MARKETING VENUE”

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