The re-invention of the movie theater

posted by CSWalczak on September 8, 2009 at 8:52 am

Not all of us will agree that the changes are for the better, but an article by Martha Irvine of the Associated Press highlights the efforts of the movie theater industry to survive and thrive in the face of competition posed by the ever-increasing array of home-based entertainment. IMAX, 3-D, changes in available concessions, even theater and lobby design are are all efforts to attract the contemporary younger audience.

“Sometimes, it’s nice to have a wider screen, but I don’t think I gain that much by going to a movie theater anymore,” the 20-year-old student says. “Now, it’s more about convenience.”

Or as 26-year-old Michael Brody puts it: “I watch movies the way many people listen to music — anytime, anywhere, any way.” A freelance writer in New York who blogs about film, he used to go to the movie theater every week. Now he’s there once or twice a month, partly to save money and also because he doesn’t think most movies are worth the effort.

Read more here from Google News.

Comments (15)

JodarMovieFan on September 8, 2009 at 9:33 am

The problem with younger 20-somethings and this article is the fact that most people of this generation have never experienced proper theatrical exhibition. We won’t even talk about 70mm exhibition of yesteryear. I am talking about proper projection and sound the way movies are to be properly experienced. You are seldom to get that at your local Regal or AMC crapplex. Its no surprise that they would rather watch movies on their iPods or home sets and not spend the $10 to see it in a movie. Even $14.50 for IMAX-lite at AMC is barely a half notch better then their other presentations. Can you imagine David Lean saying how great Lawrence of Arabia is on an iPod? Heresy I say! Shame shame shame!

biograph68 on September 8, 2009 at 10:51 am

JodarMovieFan, that is an excellent point! And I think theaters have much to do to improve their image. For too long, theaters have done just enough to get people in the door. Often, theaters allow their presentation to be flickering or blurry, the candy kids at the concessions act like they are doing you a favor, the architects feel a little bit of neon in the lobby defines a beautiful theater, and I could go on. Even with the latest gee whiz projection, theaters will lose their customers if all they care about is taking your money. It doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune but it comes down to the fact that the success of any business depends on the people running it to SHOW that they care about their customers.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on September 8, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Co-sign on all points made. All 20-somethings know is Dolby Digital, LoveSeats and shoebox multiplexes. Heh…they’d hate on “LOA” for being too long!

MPol on September 8, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Good points well taken, all of you!!


markp on September 8, 2009 at 8:18 pm

I agree with ALL of the above.

rcase5 on September 9, 2009 at 2:56 am

Well, the issues with the modern movie theatre isn’t all their fault. The studios insist on taking outrageous shares of the admission price. In fact, for many of the big blockbusters, they even want a share of the concession for the first week or two.

That’s why movie theatres today are really more like restaurants that play movies. The managers often run the movies, and they’re worried about getting back down stairs to help move the concession line. If they’re busy (or just careless), they make mistakes in threading the film which cause damage that ruins the presentation. Also, they sometimes don’t stick around to make sure the feature is in focus.

It’s extremely unusual to have a full-time projectionist work at movie theatres nowadays, which means most of the people don’t know how to change the bulbs when they develop a flicker (and it’s not like changing a household bulb; it’s much more complicated and much more hazardous). In fact, in many of the larger chains, they have one projection booth technician per district, which can have as many as 60 screens. All because theatres need to save money.

There’s no artistry in movie presentation anymore. IMAX is little more than a gimmick, especially when AMC tries to pass off conventional movie screens as a proper IMAX presentation (which it isn’t!). The whole digital movie transition happening now is to suit the studios and reduce their costs. The current 3-D thing is just a fad because it’s been 50 years since the last time it was a big deal. You still need special glasses to see the 3-D, which I find annoying and gives me a headache.

Movies nowadays are too much about the business than the art. It’s too bad, really, because I feel much is being lost between the sub-par plots in much of the junk that passes for movies nowadays, and the sub-par presentation that currently exists in movie theatres (and will continue with the digital transition); all to turn a buck. I think Hollywood is being very short-sighted, and everything is suffering because of it. It’s really too bad.

markp on September 9, 2009 at 9:04 am

Well RobertC, as one of the few remaining full-time union projectionists left, I can only only say, you really hit ALL points right on the money. And its so refreshing to hear someone else think this whole 3-D thing is just a passing fancy. I go around in circles with my owner, who totally thinks that digital is here to stay and 35mm ( or any other format, 70MM etc) is like that famous movie of yesteryear, “Gone With The Wind.”

MPol on September 9, 2009 at 10:11 am

What I find even more frightening is the fact that movie piracy (the act of downloading movies illegally into computers, iPods, etc. ) is not only happening at all, but seems to be on the increase. The fact that so many people are getting away with this kind of piracy is outrageous…and disgusting to me. It’s yet another indication of the sense of entitlement that so many people, particularly many of today’s younger people, have. It’s the belief that they can have “something for nothing”, which began in the Reagan years and has been continuing since. Why, oh why should this be allowed to happen?

Robert C; You nailed it, right on the head! It’s very true that movie production/projection is no longer about art, but about business and making money hand over fist.

CSWalczak on September 9, 2009 at 11:25 am

It’s no doubt an oversimplification, but if movies were still distributed exclusively on 35mm or (wishful thinking, I know) 70mm film, with good security around the transfers of the prints, wouldn’t piracy occur less frequently? Until the advent of the VCR, to pirate a film one would have to steal a print. The studios moan and groan about piracy, but they make it so easy using digital media. They want it both ways – cheaper production, distribution, and projection in theaters, and then all that extra and immediate income from DVDs and downloads. This only encourages the production of crummy films with short lives, as they still turn a profit.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 9, 2009 at 6:40 pm


carolgrau on September 9, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I don’t agree with longislandmovies on a few points. This time he is right, my family has been in the theatre business for years, and not once were we charged a percentage on concessions, that is where we all make our money.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on September 9, 2009 at 9:57 pm


rcase5 on September 13, 2009 at 3:42 am

CWalczak is so right! The thing that really gets me about the whole digital transition is how the studios seem to see it as a panacea. But they overlook the most obvious pitfall of digital cinema. It will become EASIER to pirate first-run movies.

For instance, you can’t put a print of a movie in your pocket and walk out of the theatre with it. But you can do that with a hard drive. One of the distribution mediums I’ve read about is for studios to send hard drives with the movie on them. Even if they transmit the movie via some data stream, it’s easy enough to take a hard drive from a movie server and still make a copy of the movie. It is also conceivable that, if studios want access to theatre systems at any time (something else I’ve read in the specs), that same mechanism can be used to steal the movies.

And encryption? Access keys? Forget it! In time, hackers will be able to circumvent those measures. Studios and equipment makers will wind up spending significant time and money countering the hackers. As someone who also has significant experience with computers, the cycle of intellectual property owners trying to create better copy protection schemes is a losing battle. Be it software or a audio/video stream, it’s no different.

I really honestly think that, in time, Hollywood will rue the day they heard the term “Digital Projection”, and they’ll beg the theatres to go back to film. Well, maybe not, but this is going to be a much bigger headache for the studios than they think.

MPol on September 13, 2009 at 9:42 am

Sounds like you’re right on the mark, CWalczak.

Your points are also well-taken, Robert C.

Regarding this kind of piracy, the whole sense of entitlement and wanting something for nothing" attitude, always prevalent in our society and culture, began to get worse when Ronald Reagan took office, and, when the SCOTUS under Ronald Reagan, voted to allow movies to be made into VCR videos by one vote, that got the ball rolling, and it hasn’t stopped rolling since, unfortunately, if you all get the drift.

TLSLOEWS on February 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Good comments everone.

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