Are films screened too many times a day?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mark Philp, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. Mark Philp

    Mark Philp Second Unit

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    Here's something to ponder. Do you think that theatres schedule too many showings a day of hit films? For example, I live in a medium-sized city with a population of about 160,000 and maybe another 100,000 in the suburbs.We have four major multiplexes with a total of 48 screens. Right now, between them there are 57 showing a day of "Shrek II". While weekend business is great, a lot of the weekday shows are running to empty or almost empty houses.

    My feeling is that running this many shows a day causes other films to delay opening because there isn't screen space available. If they didn't do well elsewhere, some never open here. Even when they do, they usually end up on the smaller screens. In peak movie seasons, it not unusual to find our biggest house, a 19-screener,showing as few as six films while there is a backlog of films waiting to come in.

    Don't tell me we need more screens. In the last few years we lost about 12, mostly in older malls that have been torn down, and it isn't likely anyone is going to build more.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Aaron Garman

    Aaron Garman Second Unit

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    It's because Hollywood just wants those huge opening weekends, and not too much else. It's really getting absurd. I work at a 14 plex and right now we have only 8 films. And those weekday shows don't do much at all. It's a total waste of resources on some days. Sure, it's convenient for the customer, but I think they'd rather see more variety. Art films and the like would be a great thing to see instead of 3 Days After Tomorrow or 4 Harry Potters (mind you I liked both films). Let's see some legs out of these films!

    AJG
     
  3. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    This used to be a problem at the UA 12 near me. A year and a half ago UA built a 16 plex theatre across the street from it. Now nearly every movie that is out, smaller movies as well, are shown. So in essense it turned it into a 28 plex since they won't show the same films in both theatres. When I lived and worked at Sony Lincoln Center they did the same thing with the theatre up on 84th street. Split the movies between the two theatres.

    I don't mind the multiple show times, but I do hate seeing a movie on opening day on the smallest screen. I always ask what times the movie is showing on the main screens.
     
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    A nearby 18-screen theater was only showing 9 different films. I found that a bit sad, but when you tie up half your screens with blockbusters, the smaller films do suffer from non-exposure, but the theaters are in it to make a profit, so having a blockbuster film on 3-4 screens opening week is going to be the norm for multiplexes given the "let's play nice" release schedule pattern of films nowadays among the different studios.
     
  5. Pete-D

    Pete-D Screenwriter

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    Honestly I have to say I don't mind. Then again, I live in a city with about a million people and I also have lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years.

    The thing is imagine trying to get tickets to a lot of these big openers (like Harry Potter or Spider-Man) if they were on even fewer screens.

    You'd have to show up several hours earlier and wait in line. Even with Harry Potter for instance, we had to wait in line for about 45 minutes and got only so-so seats. If there were fewer showings, it'd be a virtual mad-house.

    Maybe as digital projection becomes more and more commonplace though, theaters will have more flexibility in how they use their screens.
     
  6. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    Screen counts and house size are usually tied up in the exhibitor contract.

    I'd like to agree that theaters should use more screens for a greater variety of films, but Harry Potter was on a ridiculous amount of screens at the theater I saw it at today, and the two shows before, and the three after mine had sold out. So, I guess they're filling demand for the weekend.

    However, I think that the second screen being used for Raising Helen could have been devoted to another film.
     
  7. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    48 screens? That's it?

    The Burlington area, population about 35,000 in the City itself with a regional population of about 120,000, has 42 multiplex screens, plus a three screen drive-in, plus another 8-10 screen multiplex in the planning stages. That's approaching 55 screens for less than half the population of Syracuse.

    I think you need more screens! [​IMG]
     
  9. Kevin Grey

    Kevin Grey Cinematographer

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    In the days of online ticketing there's really not much need for standing in line.

    One side effect of showing the latest on so many screens is that if I miss a movie on opening weekend I'm likely to skip it altogether. At my local 18-screen plex, Harry Potter was playing in six of the major auditoriums and Shrek 2 had the other two. This meant that just a week a week after its release Day After Tomorrow is now playing exclusively in the smaller auditoriums. I really don't enjoy the smaller auditoriums so at this stage I'll just wait for the DVD release and likely get a better experience.
     
  10. BrionL

    BrionL Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm actually glad that theaters are using multiple screens to show the big movies. That way I can actually see the movie on opening day.

    Brion
     
  11. Matthew Chmiel

    Matthew Chmiel Cinematographer

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    Let's look at theaters near me in Vegas.

    Regal Village Square 18
    1. Harry Potter on six screens (seems about right).
    2. Day After Tomorrow on five screens (should be on three or four).
    3. Soul Plane on two screens (should be on one).
    4. Mean Girls on one.
    5. Man on Fire on one.
    6. Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself on one.
    7. The Seagull's Laughter on one.
    8. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring on one.

    If they took out a screen or two of DAT and a screen of Soul Plane, the theater could show one or two additional movies.

    Century Orleans 18
    1. Harry Potter on seven screens (should be on six).
    2. Raising Helen on two and a half screens (should be on one).
    3. Soul Plane on one and a half screens (should be on one).
    4. Shrek 2 on four screens (seems about right).
    5. Mean Girls on one screen.
    6. Man On Fire on one screen.
    7. Kill Bill and 13 Going On 30 sharing one screen.

    They should take Harry Potter off one screen and get rid of the two screens of Raising Helen, including the one that also shares showtimes with Soul Plane.

    Brendan Palms 14
    1. Day After Tomorrow on six screens (four or five).
    2. Troy on four screens (should be two).
    3. Van Helsing on three screens (should be one).
    4. NASCAR IMAX 3D on one screen.

    This theater could show at least eight movies, not four.

    Century Suncoast 16
    1. Raising Helen on three screens (should be one).
    2. Shrek 2 on five screens (should be four).
    3. Troy on three screens (should be two).
    4. Super Size Me on one screen.
    5. Van Helsing on one screen.
    6. 13 Going On 30 on one screen.
    7. Kill Bill on one screen.
    8. The Company and Monsieur Ibrahim share one screen.

    The Suncoast could easily sneak in another film or two.

    And next week, the theaters here will get even more crowded.

    The Orleans gets both Chronicles of Riddick and Stepford Wives.
    The Palms only gets Garfield: The Movie.
    Village Square gets a few more indies along with Chronicles of Riddick and Garfield: The Movie.
    Suncoast gets Stepford Wives and a few more indies.

    Grrr. At least I get some indies. [​IMG]
     
  12. RyanAn

    RyanAn Screenwriter

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    My theatre has 16 screens. We open a lot of big movies with 3 to 4 screens. The largest we have had so far was one movie on 7 screens. That is horrible, considering all of the films we loose. However, we do carry art films on occassion, but normally for no longer than two weeks.

    Ryan
     
  13. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    I'm sort of of two minds on this. I remember the first time I really encountered this phenomenon in earnest, ten years ago when I was working at a newly-opened 20-plex in Worcester and they had two screens for Eddie, neither of which was ever even half-full. I figured this was terribly inefficient, that the two could be combined into one screen and then the other used for something indie and cool. Talking to customers, though, they seemed to like that there was something they wanted to see starting within twenty minutes of whenever they got there. I remember working at a four-plex where people would come in at 7:45 and just turn away because things were always scheduled 7:00/7:10/7:20/7:30. Apparently another side benefit is that by having five screens when three would really do, you can spread the times out more evenly, and the concession lines (where the theater makes their real money) are less daunting, making people more likely to buy popcorn. That apparently makes up for front-loading the box office (the studio gets ~80% the first two weeks, but that's down to ~50% after a month and a half or so).

    Seeing something I'd like to see pushed off the screen after just three or four weeks because they just have to have five prints of Harry Potter is annoying, but I guess it's just a matter of adjusting one's viewing habits - make sure to see it early. I think a side benefit is that this tendency to front-load audiences does encourage the theaters to churn more, so that there are, on average, more new movies released every week than there used to be, which is a good thing in terms of having choices. You just don't have the same choice for very long.
     
  14. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Personally, I like the way they do it nowadays, that they space shows about every half hour rather than do the 10-15 minute spacing, then a big gap. It keeps you from being in a hurry to try to make a show, when you can just wait for the next one.

    It probably is at least needed for first weekend, since in the non-summer months, I've seen films sell out for a showing in a single theater (Hidalgo comes to mind)

    Considering the studios are depending on heavy churn of their products, the big frontloading makes sense. There aren't as many people who are going to see a film after the first week. More than likely, if they don't see it in the first week, they probably won't see it (which happened to us with Hidalgo. The showing we went to see was sold out, and didn't manage to see it before it went out of the theater.)

    Jason
     
  15. Joe_Pinney

    Joe_Pinney Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree, and I hope it will allow a wide variety of films to be seen, including plenty of classics.

    As far as the number of screenings per day, back when I was younger I recall some theaters wouldn't even start showing their films until after 6 pm. It might behoove some of the multiplexes to either cut their hours during the early part of the week, or to limit their additional prints to as-needed status.

    Then again, double features have always had an appeal. I think it's time we brought those back.
     
  16. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Well, if I want that experience, I can always go to The Uptown. That's what that is there for. Most of the time, tho, I just want to see a film with little hassle. It is one of those things that happen when you grow up and have less time.

    Jason
     

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