The film theater experience is in the hour of the wolf. Competition from exquisite cable programming, VOD, Amazon, Netflix and even infringements make it harder to justify getting out of ones home and spending an exorbitant amount on tickets and the concession stand at a traditional brick and mortar platform like a movie theater.
Early summer's announcement from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg that filmgoers will soon be paying $25 for blockbusters and $7 for films like Lincoln may be an idea whose time is fast approaching. But we live in the here and now. Quite simply, theater owners are going to have to step up their game and offer a better movie-going experience. Here are some ways on improving the movie going experience:
Multiplexes are great laboratories. Multiplexes are, at present, massive wastes of space. They don't have to be. Redundant, multiplexes now exist cynically to get capacity crowds to see the latest big budget fare. Why not experiment? Why not use the extra space to offer filmgoers something more exciting from among the many ways of movie going already in practice around the country? "Instead of driving people like me away from the theater, why not just segregate us into environments which meet our needs," blogs Hunter Walk. "I’d love to watch Pacific Rim in a theater with a bit more light, wifi, electricity outlets and a second screen experience."
In essence, build communities. Reserved seating, no texting sections (would people pay for this?)—or even whole theaters—with dine-in theaters (restaurant quality food and cocktail options) as well as reserved seating are areas worth some experimentation. Theater owners would then collect data on what works, what doesn't, and tailor the experience to their audience.
Theater owners are going to have to step up their game and offer a better movie-going experience.
The Interactive Movie Theater. Interactive movie theaters could work for art house audiences as well as for the typical blockbuster tentpole crowd. Clearly the second screen experience designed to work in a theater as opposed to the home would take some thought. Chad Elkins at The2ndscreenTV makes an interesting argument for a fully interactive theater experience, at scale. Hardware additions would be involved (possibly expensive), and theaters would have to get into the business of providing optimal internet service for moviegoers (not that expensive). The audience would then be able to download an app that would allow for additional content designed to enhance the film.
The beginnings might be rough, but through experimentation and evolution the fully interactive movie theater might work. Further, there are great advantages to having an interactive community. "For example, the AMC Theatres app was recently updated to allow for augmented reality experiences that customers can trigger off movie posters," writes Elkins. "By using this same interactive software driven model outlined here, movie theaters could leverage their primary apps to create a wide variety of fun and engaging experiences during the pre-show before the film." An engaged pre-show audience will probably increase concession stand revenues.
Multi-tiered ticket pricing is clearly the wave of the future. People are obviously willing to pay for 3D and 4D films; are filmgoers, in significant numbers, willing to pay less for arthouse fare with intricate stories and incredible acting. Wouldn't a smaller audience have paid to see Palme D'Or contender Behind the Candelabra in a dark movie theater with fellow travelers? Three and a half million viewers tuned in May 26th, and I cannot help but believe that it could have done great business as a $7 ticket.
These are just three examples of significant ways to enhance the movie going experience, but what other improvements could be made? Let's all join this conversation already in progess.