Not Every Theater Owner Fears Competing With Your Home Theater System

from the ah,-the-alamo-drafthouse dept

We recently wrote about how various theater owners were freaking out about new plans by studios to release movies for video on demand ten weeks after they went into the theaters... though for the astoundingly ridiculous price of $30. We noted that the complaining theater owners were more or less admitting that their theaters and the theater-going experience they provided sucked. If you can't compete with a home theater, you don't really know what business you're in. It would be like restaurant owners complaining that people can buy fresh food to cook in their own kitchen, so they'll never go out to restaurants again. Going out to the movies is a social experience, and theaters can easily compete by providing a better experience. The only ones who have anything to fear are those who know they provide a terrible experience and therefore can't compete.

Thankfully, some theater owners who do provide a good experience recognize this. Carlo points us to some comments from the owner of the famed Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin, Texas, Tim League, in a blog post written by Caitlin Stevens (who, it should be noted, works for Tim):
He's not terribly worried. He's taking very much a wait and see attitude. "I think some of the charges that have been made [about premium VOD] are invalid and reactionary," he said. "It remains to be seen if this does impact theatrical. If you look back historically all the way to the 1950s everytime there has been a challenge -- from TV to VHS to DVD -- there has always been a component of the theatrical community that has said this will be the death of cinema."

Tim's also really skeptical of the claim that this VOD system will hurt smaller films that have platform releases, and points to distributors like Magnet, who have had great success with films they release on VOD before even hitting theaters. Those films tend to do well at the Alamo as well. "We've had good successes with those films even when they're playing VOD at the same time they're in the theater," he said.

Ultimately a lot of this comes down to the theatrical experience. Not to be a total shill here, but part of the reason people go to the Alamo is for the complete experience, which includes food and drink, high quality projection and a firm policy against talking and texting in movies. The big chains simply don't offer that -- not even protection from noisy patrons. "It's an industry that's vulnerable because if you give people the choice they won't choose a flawed option," Tim explained.
Exactly. Furthermore, he notes the key point that these complaining theater owners don't seem to grasp, despite their jobs running theaters:
"People -- especially on a Friday and a Saturday -- inherently want to get out of the house," he said. If theater owners can offer them a good option for getting out of the house at the movies, they'll take it.
Indeed. What stuns me is that theater owners who are complaining don't even recognize what they're telegraphing: that their theater experiences suck and they know you'd be better off staying at home. If that's the case, it's easy to decide to stay home, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. However, for theater owners who really do provide a great experience, they have nothing to worry about. Many years ago, theater owner Marcus Loew famously stated: "We sell tickets to theaters, not movies." It's really unfortunate that so few theater owners recognize that today, but it's always nice to be reminded of the few that do... such as Tim League and the Alamo Drafthouse.
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Filed Under: movies, theaters, tim league, vod, windows
Companies: alamo drafthouse


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  1. icon
    Squirrel Brains (profile), 27 Apr 2011 @ 9:06am

    I've been to the Alamo Drafthouse and I liked it. I would pay the few extra bucks to go again if I am in town. Of course, they offer an experience that is above and beyond the traditional theater going experience. They are probably not as worried because they add value.

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