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  1. #1
    RGA
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    Ebert on the declining movie ticket sales...

    Box office revenue at movie theaters "lagged far behind 2010," an article by the AP's David Germain reports. Partly that was because the year lacked an "Avatar." Partly because a solid summer slate fell off in the autumn. Germain talks to several Hollywood insiders who tried to account for the general decline of ticket sales; 2011 had "smallest movie audience since 1995." I have some theories of my own, fueled by what people tell me.

    1. Obviously, the absence of a must-see mass-market movie. When moviegoers hear about "Avatar" or "The Dark Knight," they blast off from home base and land in a theater seat as quickly as they can.

    2. Ticket prices are too high. People have always made that complaint, but historically the movies have been cheap compared to concerts, major league sports and restaurants. Not so much any longer. No matter what your opinion is about 3D, the charm of paying a hefty surcharge has worn off for the hypothetical family of four.

    3. The theater experience. Moviegoers above 30 are weary of noisy fanboys and girls. The annoyance of talkers has been joined by the plague of cell-phone users, whose bright screens are a distraction. Worse, some texting addicts get mad when told they can't use their cell phones. A theater is reportedly opening which will allow and even bless cell phone usage, although that may be an apocryphal story.

    4. Refreshment prices. It's an open secret that the actual cost of soft drinks and popcorn is very low. To justify their inflated prices, theaters serve portions that are grotesquely oversized, and no longer offer what used to be a "small popcorn." Today's bucket of popcorn would feed a thoroughbred.

    5. Competition from other forms of delivery. Movies streaming over the internet are no longer a sci-fi fantasy. TV screens are growing larger and cheaper. Consumers are finding devices that easily play internet movies through TV sets. Netflix alone accounts for 30% of all internet traffic in the evening. That represents millions of moviegoers. They're simply not in a theater. This could be seen as an argument about why newspapers and their readers need movie critics more than ever; the number of choices can be baffling.

    6. Lack of choice. Box-office tracking shows that the bright spot in 2011 was the performance of indie, foreign or documentary films. On many weekends, one or more of those titles captures first-place in per-screen average receipts. Yet most moviegoers outside large urban centers can't find those titles in their local gigantiplex. Instead, all the shopping center compounds seem to be showing the same few overhyped disappointments. Those films open with big ad campaigns, play a couple of weeks, and disappear.

    The myth that small-town moviegoers don't like "art movies" is undercut by Netflix's viewing results; the third most popular movie on Dec. 28 on Netflix was "Certified Copy," by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. You've heard of him? In fourth place--French director Alain Corneau's "Love Crime." In fifth, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"--but the subtitled Swedish version.

    The message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It's the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can't depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.

    I'll tell you why movie revenue is dropping... :: rogerebert.com :: News & comment

    From what I have been told - the two largest movie chains in Canada may BOTH be considering bankruptcy soon. They are losing so much money so very fast. Interestingly - another article noted that the giant Best Buy chain is in big financial trouble as well. That is quite surprising to me as they seemed to be getting bigger.

    Perhaps there is more downloading going on that I think but it doesn't seem like the numbers there are massive Numbers in the low four digits from what I see on major torrent sites doesn't seem to me like they would be taking a big bite out of this.

    I saw The Thing on opening weekend I think there may have been 20 people in the theater (generous number) but the other movies didn't have very many people either. And these are state of the art luxury theaters with all the fixings - and in HK the food/drink prices are not out of line with what you could buy them outside the movie theater.

  2. #2
    VIP Member Smokey's Avatar
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    Those are good reasons and I would also add couple of more for declining movie attendance:

    1. Price of big screen TVs keep dropping. I remember back in late 90's, a 40 inch no name brand (rear projection) TV would cost about $1000 with a so so picture quality. Now days you can buy 50 inch plasma HDTV for half that price with picture quality that is almost as good as what you get in theaters.

    2. The quality of home video. DVD was much better than VHS in term of picture quality and that was the beginning of home format peeling away movie goers due to much better quality of DVD over VHS. And now with Bluray and HDTV and a picture quality that rivals theaters, the process have accelerated.

  3. #3
    RGA
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    Agreed and I'd add one more

    1) you can buy the movies on DVD or even Blu-Ray for less than you would spend at a movie - (especially if you buy a popcorn and a drink).

    I would spend typically $21-22 for a single ticket (medium popcorn medium drink). I can buy a season of the Big Bang Theory for that price. And I probably have a 99% chance of enjoying the season of that than most Hollywood crapfest movies. And I can pause it to head to the can or make a cappuccino - and the brightness of those cell phone screens is annoying.

    Still Big screen Big Sound is hard to beat and it is a night out. I do miss the old days going to a movie on cheap Tuesday playing $5 and getting the same food/drink combo for $5. Prices have basically doubled - salaries have not.

    I also liked the several movie houses that would play second run movies - These would be $2 in the old style massive theater houses. The screens would be larger - but some would have a hole in them or the lighting would not be quite up to par - the seats were old - like one of those 80s plush seat cars and not tiered seating. The floors would be sticky and the place would look like it was ready to fall down. Kind of like going to the Las Vegas strip and staying at the old beat up and seedy Tropicana Hotel versus a new stat of the art but somehow soulless Venetian.

    The "experience" now is too antiseptic that I would rather just stay home.

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    RGA, nice post.

    Here are my reasons for not going as often to the movie theatre:
    1) Movies that I don't care to see. The movies I was motivated to see over the last couple of years
    were movies like Inception, Black Swan, Avatar, Shutter Island, and The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy.

    2) I stay away from theaters that make me buy a ticket that has "assigned seating". There is a local theater chain in my area in which the person making the ticket purchase has too look at a computer screen that simulates the inside of the theatre and the movie goer has to buy an assigned seat to watch the movie.

    3) A movie theater that does not sell good coffee (Starbucks) or sell good beer (Stouts) for consumption in the theater also will not get my biz.

    4) Last but not least...it's a real turn off for me to have to put up with the cell phone discourtesies and also with people who are late to the movie and try desperately to find a place to sit while the movie has already started. What's up with that?

  5. #5
    RGA
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    Leroy

    I agree but number 2 is an attempt to address number 4. In Hong Kong I like the assigned seating because at least you know what seat you get. I hated going to a movie and getting stuck in the front row. With assigned seating you can see - "oh I will only get a seat in the front row" so now you have the option to say - "n'ah forget it I will wait until next week or I'll buy the ticket in advance for middle seat middle row."

    Personally I like number 2 if it prevents number 4. Although yes it does add to my antiseptic complaint I made. number 2 also prevents you from being able to move away from the talker clown you get stuck beside. Although in Hong Kong - there are no such clowns to deal with because people here are considerably more civilized (than Canada/U.S) when it comes to respecting others enjoyment of the movie. Number 2 is also a matter of numbers - so many people they have to be more organized as movies sell-out much more often.

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    theater takes too much time

    my wife and son just watched the MI #? it started at 4pm and they got out a like 7pm, not sure how long the actually movie was but with driving, parking, waiting for the movie to start, then lots of previews the entire process was way too long

    at home pop in any movie and you are done in much less time

    and of course with a plasma and bluray at home, movie sound and pq is utterly fantastic

  7. #7
    Sgt. At Arms Worf101's Avatar
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    Interesting topic

    I'm lucky in that I have a direct line to the movie showing biz in that one of my closest friends OWNS an art theatre here in the Capital District:

    Spectrum 8 Theatres

    I get to see the BEST foreign AND domestic product at lower than chain prices AND the popcorn is freshed popped with REAL BUTTER. The audiences are quiet and respectful and all the sound is quality surround. I LOVE going there. The mall? Nevah if I have a choice. High ticket prices, long drives, long lines, overpriced inferior food, iffy sound and noisey kids are most of the reasons. If I miss a film I'm interested in or the Spectrum doesn't show it, I wait and get the BluRay and let my Oppo do the work.

    The main problem with this lifestyle of mine is that... no box-office no movies. They can't make em for free.

    Worf

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    RGA- no clowns to deal with in Hong Kong..

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    Leroy

    I agree but number 2 is an attempt to address number 4. In Hong Kong I like the assigned seating because at least you know what seat you get. I hated going to a movie and getting stuck in the front row. With assigned seating you can see - "oh I will only get a seat in the front row" so now you have the option to say - "n'ah forget it I will wait until next week or I'll buy the ticket in advance for middle seat middle row."

    Personally I like number 2 if it prevents number 4. Although yes it does add to my antiseptic complaint I made. number 2 also prevents you from being able to move away from the talker clown you get stuck beside. Although in Hong Kong - there are no such clowns to deal with because people here are considerably more civilized (than Canada/U.S) when it comes to respecting others enjoyment of the movie. Number 2 is also a matter of numbers - so many people they have to be more organized as movies sell-out much more often.
    Hi RGA,

    It must be nice to have considerate movie goers to enjoy a show with over there. I'm the type of movie goer that buys a ticket 30 min in advance of the movie showtime and am in my favorite seat well before the the promo's begin to roll on the screen...then everybody else shows up...lol

    I must admit that buying an assigned seat to a major movie like Avatar being shown in 3D was not a bad experience. Considering the price of the Avatar movie it made it feel more like an "event".

    Have a good one RGA.

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    Worf, nice theater over there

    Quote Originally Posted by Worf101 View Post
    I'm lucky in that I have a direct line to the movie showing biz in that one of my closest friends OWNS an art theatre here in the Capital District:

    Spectrum 8 Theatres

    I get to see the BEST foreign AND domestic product at lower than chain prices AND the popcorn is freshed popped with REAL BUTTER. The audiences are quiet and respectful and all the sound is quality surround. I LOVE going there. The mall? Nevah if I have a choice. High ticket prices, long drives, long lines, overpriced inferior food, iffy sound and noisey kids are most of the reasons. If I miss a film I'm interested in or the Spectrum doesn't show it, I wait and get the BluRay and let my Oppo do the work.

    The main problem with this lifestyle of mine is that... no box-office no movies. They can't make em for free.

    Worf
    I hope the Leonardo show makes it's way to Texas...that's one I'd like to see.

    Thought I'd share my favorite theatre chain:
    What is the Alamo? : Austin : Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

  10. #10
    RGA
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    LeRoy

    The other thing I like is that the movies all start when it says it will start. 7om it starts at 7pm - zero advertising. yes there are coming attractions - those adverts are acceptable since it is relevant to movies.

    I hate paying money to sit and watch coca cola and Toyota and Ford etc advertising for 10-15 minutes.

  11. #11
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    I went to the movies for the first time in about 10 years. Ticket was $10.00 each. Small Coke $4.75 and popcorn the same. The screen was smaller than I expected. And yes, a lot of people were texting and talking on their cellphones. The final straw came when the guy behind me put his feet on the top of my seat next to my head.
    I stood up, turned around, and like a fool proceeded to make an a** of myself telling the guy I didn't drop $30.00 to smell someones feet.
    We had a stand off and with my best Clint Eastwood accent I told him to go ahead and make my day. For an old fart who hadn't shaved in three days I guess I looked convincing. No more going out to movies for me.

  12. #12
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    Hey MajorC, sorry to hear about your latest movie experience. You must have really been peeved to go ahead and call the jerk on his behavior. Well, after that did you at least enjoy the movie?
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    one more

    I just seem to get the hebejebees surrounded by all those people in a theater

  14. #14
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lomarica View Post
    I just seem to get the hebejebees surrounded by all those people in a theater
    Yeah.

    Many years ago while I was still in college three buddies and I when to cinema to take in a flick -- admission at the time was $2.00. We were still talking when the previews came on, (not the principal attraction). The guy behind us indignantly protested, "I didn't pay two bucks to listen to you guys talk!".

    I replied, "Well if we all chip in 50, then can we talk?" He wasn't amused but then there were more of us.

    Oh well, it was funny at the time.

  15. #15
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    I'd meant to chime in earlier, but oh well. For starters and future reference, please blockquote anything that comes directly from the article. You basically posted the entire article, but didn't mark where Ebert ends and your post begins.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    From what I have been told - the two largest movie chains in Canada may BOTH be considering bankruptcy soon. They are losing so much money so very fast.
    Well, you need to understand the economics of the movie theater industry over the past decade. If you know anything about it, their financial trouble is hardly surprising, and nothing more than a continuation of the shakeout that has been ongoing for years. Basically, the issues with the movie theaters are mostly due to the massive debt that they incurred during the building spree that occurred over the last 20 years. During that time, the number of theater screens in North America tripled, while the ticket sales remained relatively flat.

    So, while the theater chains took on billions in debt to construct these huge megaplexes, they also kept a lot of the older neighborhood theaters open longer than they should have. Yes, people have a more emotional attachment to an old movie palace, but the market can only sustain so many screens within a given area. And like it or not, audiences chose to migrate to the newer megaplexes, despite all the prattling by traditionalists about the inferior experience.

    Part of the problem was not only the theater owners expanding too quickly, but they also did not contract the older theaters quickly enough. In actuality, the newer theaters brought modern presentation quality to a greater number of people. Improved acoustics, digital 5.1 sound, and better projection/screen equipment accompanied the newer theaters. Yes, older theaters can be similarly renovated, but the reality is that it's easier to finance a new construction project than an older building renovation. Only somewhere like L.A., NYC, or London, where you have industry support and a need for state-of-the-art screening venues, can you find an abundance of historic theaters that have been renovated to modern standards.

    Concurrently, while these theater owners were taking on debt and operating too many theaters, the theaters' share of the box office revenue has shrunk to almost nothing. People complain about ticket prices, but that's not the fault of the theater owners, since nearly all of the ticket revenues go straight to the studios. The way that ticket revenues are allocated, the theater owners get virtually nothing from the opening week, and in later weeks, they get a progressively larger share of the box office revenues.

    However, movie releases are now front-loaded for a huge opening. With more screens available, the studios can now accommodate a larger number of moviegoers at once. In the past, you had fewer screens and less capacity, so audiences were more accustomed to waiting out the first week and seeing a movie later. With front-loaded releases, more of the revenue now goes directly to the studios.

    Movie theaters do not make money off of ticket sales. That's why you have the high-priced concessions and commercials. That's why theaters are installing digital projectors and airing live concerts and sporting events. That's why they try to get people to buy tickets online (and charge convenience fees). That's why more theaters are selling beer and wine. It's all of the non-movie revenue where they actually make their money. Otherwise, the economics of movie theaters would have collapsed more than a decade ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Interestingly - another article noted that the giant Best Buy chain is in big financial trouble as well. That is quite surprising to me as they seemed to be getting bigger.
    This is a totally different story. Best Buy has seen its profits squeezed for the simple reason that there is no hot product category out there that can sustain higher profit margins. Over the past decade, it was big screen and HDTVs that padded their bottomline. The decade before, it was PCs. Before that, you had the CD player and personal audio products.

    PCs, TVs, and audio products are now commodified, as the margins on HDTVs in particular have collapsed. Look up and down the roster, nearly everyone making HDTVs has seen negative revenue growth even with growing unit sales, and most of them now lose money in the TV market. Yeah, Best Buy sells more TVs than ever, but they make less and less off of each transaction.

    Right now, the two hottest product categories in consumer electronics are smartphones and tablets. Problem for Best Buy is that they are not a major player in those categories, and in the case of the iPad, they don't make a lot of money off of it. Smartphones are sold at a variety of outlets, and Best Buy does not make a huge amount on each phone sold, rather they get a commission for the voice and data contract. And wireless stores are everywhere.

    With the iPad, Apple has set up a very low margin for retailers. With Apple operating their own retail stores and online sales, Best Buy has little leverage and all they can hope for is that a customer buys some accessories and an extended warranty. This is no different than usingg loss leader pricing on CDs and DVDs to drive crowds into the stores in the hope that those customers will buy something else while in the store.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    I saw The Thing on opening weekend I think there may have been 20 people in the theater (generous number) but the other movies didn't have very many people either. And these are state of the art luxury theaters with all the fixings - and in HK the food/drink prices are not out of line with what you could buy them outside the movie theater.
    And IIRC, in HK the studios also own the theater chains. That changes the economics, because the ticket sales actually affect the bottomline for the theater owner. In the US, antitrust actions forced the studios to divest themselves from owning their own movie theaters. That created the tenuous relationship that the theater chains currently have with the studios.
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