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Restoring luster to the silver screen


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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Joe_Pinney

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Posted March 11 2006 - 07:48 AM

From The Christian Science Monitor Blog -

Quote:
Posted March 09, 2006
Restoring luster to the silver screen
By Weekend staff

Last week we posed this question to our readers: How would you fix the theater-going experience? Boy, did we get an earful.

The background: For three years in a row, movie attendance has dropped, last year by nearly 9 percent. While some of this can be attributed to poor films (we'll save that topic for another day) and the rabbit-like proliferation of Netflix, going to the cinema these days feels like a sequel to "Scary Movie": Ticket and concession prices are sky high, talking during the movies has hit new decibel levels, and finding a seat on opening night is like negotiating a rugby scrum. Even the Monitor's movie critic agrees.

Next week, our entertainment writer, Gloria Goodale, will be attending ShoWest, the annual meeting of US theater owners. We thought it would be enlightening to bring them your comments/questions/suggestions to see how they might improve things. (Hire bouncers to eject the chatterboxes?) Here is some of what you had to say. We'll let you know the owners' responses in a future Monitor story.

The best thing that theater-owners can do is to take back control of their theaters. As it is, managers make little or no effort anymore to control the behavior of the audiences - which means that the movie-going experience deteriorates more every year. Cellphone use during the movie, yelling, talking, screaming infants, and out-of-control teens (and sometimes all of these at once in the same theater!) should not be tolerated. I used to go to the movies one to three times per week. In the past two years that has dwindled to once every couple of months. I can enjoy films far more if I just wait a couple of months until the DVD release and watch them on my big screen in peace.
- Susan Umpleby, Ontario, Calif.

How about these:

1. During the previews, enable voting. Show all possible previews and let viewers choose what looks interesting. Voting could take place by cellphone or special phones inside the theater.
2. Sell an appetizing dinner. Ask fast-food vendors to establish satellite stores in your foyer. Set up tables and chairs, or counters and chairs, and allow folks to enter 20 minutes before the show starts so they can finish eating during the previews and then settle back to enjoy the movie.
3. Alternatively, for those theaters in malls or near good restaurants, simply charge folks a low import tax to bring food in.
4. Provide mandatory courtesy training for all employees.
5. Make theaters available for private screenings of any movie during slack times. Allow smaller or local filmmakers the opportunity to screen their latest work during a slack time. Help them promote the showing.
6. Host a film-lovers club. Give them a theater to meet in monthly.

- Nathan Smith, Komono, Japan

Some ideas from the top of my head:

1. Family Night: Parent(s) pay full and kids pay $1.00 up to a set number.
2. Couples night: Buy one full-price ticket, second is 1/2 price.
3. Grandparent/seniors special: Bring two or more paying kids and grandparents get in free.
4. Group night: Groups of seven or more pay 1/2-price.

- Jim Dilling, Pennsylvania

I have to bring ear plugs to get through the previews and trailers before the feature. I have had people tell me they don't attend movies any more because of the volume.
- Elizabeth Tang, Anaheim, Calif.

More self-service ticket machines, open when the regular box office isn't. Give a discount for using them instead of the live vendor, or for buying well in advance. Make the tickets available more in advance, for that matter.
- Manny Olds, Silver Springs, Md.

1. Remove commercials from the beginning of the movies. I'm already paying a high price to get into the movie and completely insane prices for the snacks and pop. For what reason do they need to put in commercials?
2. Cellphone jammers.
3. Assigned seating.

- Derek, Canada

As digital movie distribution continues to make progress, the ability to manage the number of screens in a theater complex becomes easier. Local management of complexes should be allowed to adjust the number of screens and times showing well-attended films vs. declining films or special-interest films.
- Arthur Knadler, Santa Ana, Calif.

Bring back the old "double billing. Just think of showing the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein before a modern version. (Slight intermission between, of course.) Plus this could generate additional income for the studios and the theater if the old movie was sold on DVD in the lobby after the show.
- Stan Wood, Norfolk, Va.

The projection quality control is very poor. Put more money into projection quality, both image and sound.
- Scott McGraw, Centerville, Mass.

Theaters should go upscale to justify the soaring price of tickets. They should consider offering more options at the concession stands - items like cappuccino, pizza, brats, burgers, gourmet popcorn (like caramel and cinnamon), ice cream, etc. They should go back to having ushers who patrol the aisles and boot out raucous children or patrons immediately.
- Cindy Sheltmire

Sell something besides grease and sugar at the concession stand. Plain club soda, oil-free popcorn, candy without hardened oils would be a good start. Teach customer-service skills to the staff. How about a simple "thank you" at the sales counter? Routine maintenance. Fix the seats that are broken. Wash the restrooms occasionally. Stock paper towels.
- Kevin O'Brien, New Castle, Colo.

Why must quality movies run on one screen and for such a brief amount of time? The adult, college-educated professional with a spouse and two kids that would like see these films cannot just drop everything and head off to the cinema. I understand that these movies don't draw the revenue of yet another "American Pie," but the industry is growing an entire generation of mothers and fathers who, in turn, will teach their children that the movies are not a place to spend their time or money. Give theaters incentives to block out one or two screens on a slow night, like a Tuesday, and run "grown-up" films that are still showing in the cities.
- Chris Pons, Kingston, Penn.

Start the movie on time. If it's 7:30 let it be 7:30 and not the time that you start running 10 minutes of commercials before the feature starts. Become a place again where a men, women, kids and family will want to go and stay the day instead of feeling like a herd of cattle being fed on one movie and then herd them out after it is over.
- Jomo Uhuru-Adafo, Nashville, Tenn.

When I was younger my family frequented two theaters. One had matinee prices on Monday nights, one had matinee prices on Tuesday nights. We definitely utilized them, and I still would if that were an option, because I just can't afford as many movies as I would like right now.
- Chelsea Kearns, Seattle, Wash.

Instead of competing with NetFlix, TV, the Internet, and video games, which tend to be solitary or family experiences, theaters should target schools, community groups, and local companies that want to see special screenings. Attendees should be able to book screen times and seating by Internet or cellphones. Make theaters more of a social place celebrating holidays, rites of passage and big events.
- Sheridan Tatsuno, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Theaters could increase attendance by adding childcare facilities at the larger complexes.
- Mirth White, Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

Perhaps movies should offer the salon atmosphere where you could sit relax and talk about the film you saw or will see. Have a lingering atmosphere. A gathering place for coffee and dessert after the show. More of an exchange atmosphere.
- Barbara, Port Washington, N.Y.

Stephen Humphries and David S. Hauck

I like some of these suggestions and I agree that the onus is largely upon theater owners to increase moviegoing attendance, not the studios (granted, independent theater owners have a bit more leeway than the chains might, but I doubt that the chain corporate headquarters would be against anything that increased business). Naturally the studios and distribution companies shouldn't be getting in the way of the theater owners' ability to increase business (which they often tend to do since they still want to monopolize the entire experience like they once did) and should instead be working in conjunction with theater owners for mutual benefit.

Anyone else have any suggestions that could make theatergoing more enjoyable?

#2 of 10 OFFLINE   MattFini

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Posted March 11 2006 - 09:00 AM

I guess it's not so much of an additional idea as much as a re-emphasis on the first suggestion on the list. Theatre owners really need to take control of the theatres...hired bouncers or ushers who could police the individual theatres and get rid of talkers and rude people is the most important thing.

I can't even count how many movie experiences I've had ruined because of crappy people who don't know how to shut the hell up.
Universal, please release Streets of Fire on Blu-ray.

#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted March 11 2006 - 09:41 AM

Let me add my voice to the choir.

Reduce ticket prices.

Stop advertising pre-shows.
Stop advertising and commercials entirely.

Initiate NO TALKING policy with signs posted everywhere and a verbal reminder when you buy the ticket and another verbal reminder when the usher tears the ticket.

Initiate a NO CELL PHONES policy and enforce it, also include a cell phone scrambler in the building so that it doesn't work anyhow.

Get rid of the flat matte screens and re-install silver screens which give a brighter, more luminous picture. Silver screens only cost a few dollars more.

Designate a repatory auditorium in the multi-plexes so that restorations and old films can be routinely re-released. Designating one auditorium for old films, art films, foreign films, restorations and re-releases should be promoted so that the movie-going public makes a habit out of attending. Watching old flms on the big screen will also have the healthy effect of exposing how stupid new films are in comparison.

Another thing that would vastly improve the movie-going experience: fire all the studio executives and replace them with knowledgeable film buffs from Home Theater Forum. That would result in better movies being made and screened.

#4 of 10 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 11 2006 - 09:58 AM

Personally, I don't need an usher to help me to tell people to shut up during movies. I can do it myself. A good "Hey! Shut the hell up" will usually work. Posted Image

The real reason attendance is dropping is because ticket prices are percieved as being too high and because everyone knows that a movie will be out on DVD in under six months if they don't see it in a theater.

And studios are crying about attendance dropping, it's not like movie theaters are empty. Even on the most uneventful weekend, any big theater will always be crowded. They're not making as much as they used to but I doubt they're going on welfare anytime soon (especially when you consider their other sources of revenue such as DVD). Between their take on tickets and the concessions, theater chains aren't exactly destitute either. The business is changing but they're still an over billion dollar a year industry and that's just in the U.S.

#5 of 10 OFFLINE   PeterK

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Posted March 13 2006 - 03:33 AM

I dunno about a no tolerance policy. For some films I think it's important. but if a group of us are going to watch the 40 years old virgin, and I wanna make a hilarious sarcastic comment to the person next to me it should be perfectly acceptable. And I don't really mind if some kid shouts YEAHH or something, especially in a comedy.

Cell phones, I can't stand... especially the "time checkers" that are always looking every 10 minutes. Posted Image
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#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted March 13 2006 - 06:11 AM

Quote:
and I wanna make a hilarious sarcastic comment to the person next to me it should be perfectly acceptable.
The thing is, most people's hilarious sarcastic comments aren't nearly as hilarious as the commenter thinks.
Jay's Movie Blog - A movie-viewing diary.
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#7 of 10 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted March 13 2006 - 10:01 AM

These are all good ideas to bring people back. But one of the largest American chains just implemented a policy change which has driven me AWAY from their theaters. AMC has quietly changed the matinee cutoff time on weekends from 6 PM to 4 PM. Imagine my shock yesterday when I went to buy a ticket for the 4:25 showing of Transamerica and was charged a full $8.50!! This is a horrible, anti-consumer move. I see 60-70 movies a year in theaters, almost all at matinee price on Saturday/Sunday afternoons. I guess AMC just got cut off my list of theaters to frequent. I imagine some beancounter in corporate came up with this brilliant idea. Stupid, stupid bastards.

Quote:
Cell phones, I can't stand... especially the "time checkers" that are always looking every 10 minutes.

Ya know, I find the constant mobile checkers to be MUCH more annoying than the occasional phone that rings. I actually see a lot of folks these days turning their ringer off before the show. That message is getting out. But when someone opens their phone in the dark, the bright screen light draws your eye no matter where it is in the theater. I don't know if these people are checking the time, texting, or what. But geez, PUT THE F*&%IN' PHONES AWAY FOR TWO HOURS!!! You WILL survive, I promise!! (I personally NEVER take my cell phone into the theater)

Three truths about movies, as noted by Roger Ebert:

 

* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.

* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.


#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted March 14 2006 - 01:57 AM

Quote:
These are all good ideas to bring people back. But one of the largest American chains just implemented a policy change which has driven me AWAY from their theaters. AMC has quietly changed the matinee cutoff time on weekends from 6 PM to 4 PM.
I figure that's splitting the difference after acquiring Loews - I noticed that the matinee cutoff at the AMC/Loews Harvard Square theater went from 2pm to 4pm this weekend.

It also may just be that individual theater - I paid the $7.50 matinee price at the 5pm show of Failure to Launch at AMC Fenway this weekend, and I'm pretty sure that AMC/Loews Boston Common is still cutting off at 2pm.
Jay's Movie Blog - A movie-viewing diary.
Transplanted Life: Sci-fi soap opera about a man placed in a new body, updated two or three times a week.
Trading Post Inn - Another gender-bending soap, with different collaborators writing different points of view.

"What? Since when was this an energy...

#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted March 14 2006 - 02:18 AM

Quote:
It also may just be that individual theater...
No, I checked with another AMC house I occasionally visit. Apparently it's Houston-wide.

I guess I can't complain too much, considering you guys in Beantown are paying $7.50 for matinees. And for FtL to boot. My condolences. Posted Image

Three truths about movies, as noted by Roger Ebert:

 

* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.

* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.


#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted March 14 2006 - 04:48 AM

Hey, at least we're not New York. I used to get coupons for Loews that were good for one admission, except in NYC, where they wanted another $1.50.

Movie prices are kind of crazy here. The second-run houses cost $6.50 evenings and weekends.
Jay's Movie Blog - A movie-viewing diary.
Transplanted Life: Sci-fi soap opera about a man placed in a new body, updated two or three times a week.
Trading Post Inn - Another gender-bending soap, with different collaborators writing different points of view.

"What? Since when was this an energy...


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