And the sooner they die the better

Film critic Roger Ebert has some theories as to why cinema audiences are falling:

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.

What the theatres appear to have forgotten is that going to a film is a discretionary entertainment expense. If it’s less convenient (you can’t pause, you can’t watch it at the time you feel like it), more expensive (vastly so), and you feel like you’re being ripped off (the food and drink prices are insulting), then why on Earth would you choose it over alternative means of entertainment? Who enjoys being treated as a mug?

It’s got nothing to do with “piracy”, which the entertainment industry dishonestly exaggerates and uses as an excuse for everything wrong with their business models.

The only reason the cinemas have survived this long is the temporary monopoly they have on new releases, a monopoly they’ve long since ceased to deserve. I won’t miss the cineplexes when they go the way of the drive-in. I’ll welcome their demise.

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7 responses to “And the sooner they die the better

  1. narcoticmusing

    Ahh the cinemas/movie industry are using the old, ‘this is everyone’s fault but mine’ excuse, despite all reasonable evidence to the contrary – aww bless ‘em.

    It is similar to complaints from the retail industry, opining that people aren’t spending enough. It is as if there is nothing else people have to spend their money on than luxury goods. There are significant pressures on non-discretionary expenditure (and it is great to see our Vic govt increasing the cost of many non-discretionary items by many, many times the CPI, such as public transport and rego). So retailers – guess where the $ goes. It is not like we see them sticking up for wages – quite the contrary (despite the evidence demonstrated by none other than Australia vis-a-vis US/UK that high minimum wage doesn’t harm employment rates and supports retail by providing more discretionary $). But I digress…

  2. chandlerswainreviews

    An example of how Hollywood is a self-pitying crybaby: “Psycho” was Hitchcock’s most financially successful film, and it the box of that film were adjusted to today’s dollar inflation, it would reach approximately $84 million. With needless cost escalations, usually involving an endless series of CGI labs involved in the film’s construction, films are casually costing several hundreds of millions of dollars and more- remember when everyone claimed computer technology was not only going to make anything in films possible but cheaper as well? Anyway, the problem seems to be that Hollywood is only interested in hitting the over $200-400 million dollar mark in a film’s revenue (and at that, most blockbusters wouldn’t even recover their costs- madness). So, we go back to the “Psycho” formula, a film that obviously few saw, had no effect on the industry and one that should have ended the career of a certain director/box office pariah, in favor of the giants of the industry: Chris Columbus, Michael Bay, James Cameron.
    As far as blaming the theaters, they also have much to answer for- as we are seeing that instead of being at the mercy of the studios they now act as ignorantly self-defeating masters. The five year olds are now running the store.The monopoly of the big chains is something that should have been addressed by antitrust laws a long time ago, as the booking policies of the big chains virtually lock out any independent rivalries.
    Though to find the true culprit of cinema’s current woes, I’d look directly back at that shapeless and brainless mass called the audience. Demanding little (that would take (pick one): awareness…attention…taste) and deservedly getting just that, this endless stream of culturally unaware cattle has been satisfied in listening to the colossal brayings of cultural pygmies such as the aforementioned Ebert and his unfortunate army of reviewer (never mistake this thing as a genuine critic) acolytes, who for years have deadened the importance of the mass audience’s heightened sense of film thought, in favor of the gimmicky rotation of Ebert’s fat little digit. The populist decision to abandon the critical sense in favor of this type of buffoonery can only lead to the collapse of a popular cultural form as there are no longer watchdogs at the door, ensuring that the studios are held accountable for the insulting, low-bred pablum they spew forth in greater and greater quantities.
    Now, the audience is showing slight signs of rebellion and not attending the movies in as large numbers as previous years? Who the hell do they think should take the blame for the current state of the cinema? The Tooth Fairy?

  3. jordanrastrick

    I love it how “the industry always exaggerates harms from piracy” always leads to the conclusion “piracy never causes any harm”. (Jeremy: “it has nothing to do with piracy….“)

    Its more or less universal: to everyone expressing a view piracy is either Satan incarnate, or utterly incapable of playing any causal role in our universe. The number of people in the “Maybe it causes less harm than they say but still some harm?” camp is, seemingly, pretty small.

  4. Fair enough – I should’ve written “has very little to do with piracy”. Or, “much less to do with piracy than the present ludicrously punitive laws on the subject would justify”.

  5. jordanrastrick

    OK, if you’d said that, I’d probably agree.

    And I’m not especially sad to see cinemas go out of business either, except for a vague twinge of… anticipated nostalgia? This is the price we pay, to live in a world of exciting change.

    I feel much sadder about bookstores and maybe even libraries being tossed on to the same historical garbage heap. But they were always much dearer to my heart than movie theatres; and even I have accepted reality and converted to the cult of eBook. In fact I’ve even evangelised it, to friends of mine decrying the march of progress trampling on the beloved dead tree spaces.

  6. I sort of like going to the cinema for the big bang (northern) summer popcorn extravaganzas, as mindless as they are. Some things need to be experienced in crowds, even rowdy and stupid crowds (c.f. footy matches).

    But the vast majority of movies that are released, particularly the indies, would be better off going straight-to-download. There is a large audience for smaller and category-specifc movies (esp sci-fi) worldwide in “percentage of the human populace” terms, but on a cinema-by-cinema basis it just isn’t cost effective.

  7. narcoticmusing

    I agree unique – there is certainly a place for leave your brain at the door entertainment… although I just don’t get most romantic comedies / soft porn combos… they aren’t funny nor entertaining nor… anything.

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