Theaters Boycott New Film Over Simultaneous DVD Release

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

It's really amazing how badly movie theaters are being run these days. We've already discussed to death the many, many, many reasons why people are avoiding the theaters. It's got almost everything to do with the overall experience (that includes everything from price to movie quality to overwhelming ads to theater noise to uncomfortable seats to being treated like criminals and so on and so on). These are all things that the theaters have some control over -- but they refuse to do anything about it, preferring to blame just about anything else. The latest move is especially ridiculous. Steven Soderbergh announced his plans last year to release new movies and DVDs simultaneously. Instead of looking for ways to leverage that, now that the release is happening, major movie theater chains have decided to boycott the film and they will not show it. In other words, because of their own misguided fear that it could take away from revenue, they won't even give people the choice of watching it in a theater -- instead making more people go get it on DVD. The whole point of simultaneous release is to give people a choice of where and how to watch it. The theaters should embrace this. They should recognize that going to the movies is a social experience along with the ability to watch it the film on a big screen in a theater setting. If they played up the social experience and made it more enjoyable they could attract a lot of people. In other words, make it a choice worth making. They could even do something (gasp!) creative, like offering discounts to buy the DVD right as you come out of the theater (or a combined ticket that gets you both the DVD and an in-theater screening). Imagine the additional sales from anyone who really liked the film. Instead, by refusing to show the film, these theaters are more or less admitting that they don't think they have anything special to offer movie watchers other than the movie. If they really believe that, then they deserve to go out of business. Update: Mark Cuban, who backed the Soderbergh film, rips into the theater owners and gives plenty of other examples that fit with what we said above about the theater owners not understanding what business they're in.
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  1. identicon
    Newob, 22 Jan 2006 @ 10:08am

    Re: And here's my .02 worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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