Movie theaters have allegedly been under constant threat of ruin since the invention of the television. Every few years, there are articles published about the decline of originality in Hollywood, the growing ways to see movies in the privacy of the home, and the golden age of television. It’s a premature bell, however, as movie theaters are not going anywhere for a very long time. So we’re going to break down the common complaints about the cinema and, more importantly, why going to the theater is still worth your time.
First, we’ll tackle the lack of originality in movies, as people habitually complain that everything is a sequel or a reboot. Nearly every large studio is trying their hand at an extended universe or franchise opportunities, and audiences must be tired of having to pay to see the latest in a series right? Well, since the only franchise with significant legs is Marvel, we can’t be a hundred percent certain. If you examine the top films of 2016, 2015, and 2014, the numbers are largely dominated by sequels and franchise opportunities. Those films that previously weren’t in a franchise such as Deadpool, The LEGO Movie, and Maleficent became assimilated into future franchise opportunities. While some describe this as the death of creativity in the larger studios, that’s not entirely accurate either. The largest difference is movie theaters are no longer adhering to the summer blockbuster model, interspersing smaller films throughout the calendar and doing a more gradual rollout for moderately budgeted movies. This allows for awards contenders such as La La Land, Moonlight and Spotlight to make back their budgets among the crowded Christmas season.
The second argument that we’ll tackle is the larger and more central problem for the general moviegoer. There is always the stereotype about the worst audience in the world. Chattering kids, annoying teenagers, that one old couple that can’t follow the plot, it’s a living nightmare for anyone who loves film. So why bother going out to a showtime if the film will be on streaming soon anyways? Well, there are a variety of reasons. One is a respect for the craft, another is a desire to see more of this type of movie by voting with your money, but largely it’s a desire to see movies in their proper space. Movies are larger than life and the screen and sound system allow for total immersion into the film. Watching a movie isn’t completely about total immersion, it’s about a surrounding experience. A perfect film crowd is one that completely connects emotionally with a film, being played like a fiddle with a manipulative score and a captivating story. There is also a variety of options now for cinemas with IMAX, IMAX 3D and D-box becoming a larger deal for mainstream releases. Even companies such as Fathom Events are getting in on the action, working with chains in creating limited theatrical engagements of specific films and stage plays to help bring in audiences with special interests.
The final complaint that we’ll tackle is about theaters themselves. It’s an argument that is slowly becoming more out of date as time goes on. In many major areas, theaters are broadening concessions to accommodate food and liquor with some independent theaters designed around the blend of food, drink, and cinema. Larger chains are upgrading their seating options to become more luxurious and homey to evoke the sense of being in an oversized living room as opposed to a three hundred person auditorium. The concession prices are still seen as outrageous, but that’s what happens when audiences crave luxury but don’t want significant increases in ticket prices. As most people are aware, cinemas make a good portion of their profits off concessions, so once audiences want more from their experience there has to be some give and take.
2017 is going to be an interesting year for film. The market has multiple adaptations of preexisting media, sequels of previous years’ blockbusters, and some original films as well, slated for release. So what does this mean for theaters? As this graph demonstrates, ticket sales are indeed down from previous years, as the market hasn’t recovered from the crash of ticket sales in 2003. Box office returns are up, as is the average price of tickets, but the future is shockingly looking a lot brighter for Hollywood. Movie theaters aren’t dying they’re finally adapting to the changing times.