For the second year in a row Hollywood executives are scratching their heads as to why movie attendance is declining. Summer box office attendance this year was less then anticipated considering that last year summer attendance was its worst since 1999. Expected hits such as “Superman Returns,” “Mission Impossible 3,” “The Lakehouse,” and “You, Me and Dupree” under performed while “Poseidon,” “Clerks 2,” “Lady in the Water,” and “Miami Vice” were outright flops. This comes on the heels of last summer’s releases, which had no less then five major flops.
Only one major summer release (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”) was a blockbuster while a few others (“Cars” and “Talladega Nights” among them) were solid hits. For the most part it was another down season at a time when movie going used to be at its peak. Executives are busy puzzling over the reasons why. Is it too many movies? Is it too many sequels and remakes? Perhaps too many explosions, chases, gross out gags over a three-month period? Maybe these executives spend too much time in screening rooms and not enough at local multiplexes with mister average moviegoer. The answers may lie just beyond the double glass doors that lead to sprawling lobbies filled with the smell of freshly popped popcorn.
Those who attend movies sparingly are attending even less these days. A family of four can’t go to a matinee without spending around $50 from tickets to concessions. Why spend all that money when they can stay home to watch DVD’s and microwave some popcorn all for under $10. The more ardent, avid moviegoers that attend theaters anywhere from a few to several times a month are also being turned off by the theater experience. Why? Of course the obvious is that we all want a good movie at a decent price, presented in a professional manner with clean surroundings. Who wouldn’t? So why are movie buffs starting to get turned off? Let’s illustrate some of the common problems with movie going these days.
One of the biggest complaints is of our fellow moviegoers. These days technology aids in a bad movie going experience and we all know that means the dreaded cell phone. A visit to a movie doesn’t pass without hearing a phone ring, seeing the light of an open cell phone or someone talking on a cell phone. Let’s start with the first one – Hearing a cell phone ring. This is the least bothersome and most forgivable offense – the first time. Let’s face it, sometimes we forget to turn our phones off even with forewarning.
An increasing problem is text messaging. Apparently some people are so important they cannot wait until the movie ends to read and send text messages. Here is some news for you. That darn light illuminates the entire area around you and anyone sitting above you will see it. It’s distracting and downright rude.
Let’s not forget about those who actually talk on the phone during the movie. There is no excuse for this. None. I don’t care if you’ve been picked to fly the head fighter to blow up the Death Star. Nothing is so important to have to answer the phone. Ah, but perhaps you work in the medical field and need to have your phone you say? Then put the thing on vibrate and if it rings head to the lobby. If you are so important that you can’t miss a phone call then perhaps you shouldn’t be at a movie in the first place. And do people really need to be told not to check voice mails but that they also should not return the call? Is it absolutely necessary to leave a voice mail yourself telling someone you are in a movie?
Another reason is that there are now software and platforms like kodi firestick that give users the freedom to watch movies at the convenience of their home. Media player like kodi is considered to be reliable and helpful.
Cell phones should be outlawed at theaters all together. If you bring one in then you should have to return it to your car. If you sneak it in and it disturbs those around you then it should be taken away and not returned. That’s pretty good incentive to remember not to bring it in. But that won’t happen in my lifetime. What happened to the talkers and gum poppers that used to annoy us?
Another common annoyance at theaters is commercials. Commercials? Those dreaded ads that remote controls were made for. Those ads that most men practically break a finger pushing the button to get off their screen fast enough (of course this rule is null and void during the Super Bowl). Theaters now run ads before the movie and before the coming attractions. Four, five, sometimes six of them. It’s enough to make one scream. Ads for credit cards and soda pop and cell phones. Cell phones? Putting an ad for a cell phone on before a movie is like having a ditching instructor come to school to offer Ferris Bueller a map of Chicago on those much needed days off. And then we get a plethora of coming attractions. It’s bad enough that some movies are too long as it is but it isn’t necessary to have so many pre feature ads that the movie doesn’t start for fifteen to twenty minutes after the advertised time.
Theater owners and studio executives should take a long, close look at their audience they seem to be taking for granted. One of these days an epic, long awaited sequel or remake is going to open and no one is going to go figuring they can see it in the comfort of their own homes for $5 with no disruptions. Wouldn’t that be interesting? It might even make for a pretty good movie.