The act of going to the movies has become increasingly unique in all the wrong ways. It's easy to see why most wouldn't want to spend wild amounts of money on tickets and food and deal with people bringing their 3-month-old child to the premiere of The Dark Knight.
The moviegoing experience can still be magical, but things have changed over the course of a few years. Original content on Netflix and Hulu and what people are calling another golden age of television are keeping people on their couches. Jenny Kaplan and Lindsey Rupp covered this topic in their Material World podcast earlier this week, and it got me wondering: What changes need to happen to get that beloved under-30 demo back in their stadium seats? I've got a couple in mind.
The first and easiest way to get people to come back is to make tickets less expensive. I've lived to see tickets as expensive as $18 for regular-priced screenings. Theaters need every dime they can get since studios are taking in most of the box office gross that the theater generates. It's sad but true.
This one is loaded, because everyone wants to be able to see good movies. When I say "better movies," I mean there should be more options other than fourth sequels. Get a little variety in your screening lineup. Fathom Events switches things up from time to time with special anniversary or specialty screenings. But you could also...
This is another easy way to add some variety. Chains like AMC do this already with their AMC Independent campaign, but others like Regal and National Amusements could do with digging in the crates. And not just awards season contenders, either. Pick out a great film from another country or one with a smaller distributor, just to shake things up.
This one sounds like a lot because theaters bring in most of their money from concessions, but just hear me out. If you don't force patrons to buy $4.50 water bottles and let them bring in their own, they might be more inclined to buy actual food. No one wants to have to spend $30 just for popcorn, two drinks, and a bag of candy.
You know how some people use going to the movies as an excuse for air conditioning in the summer? Specialty screens could fill that need in lots of ways. Offer theaters with reduced sound for people with sensitive hearing. Maybe a screen where people can smoke weed. Or theaters with changing stations located near the exits. Theaters with recliners have proven to be a good idea, but the possibilities are endless.
I'm well aware that MoviePass exists, but I think that actual theater chains should get in on this. For those who don't know, MoviePass is a service that lets you see a movie a day for a set fee every month. Chains could cash in on the brand loyalty that comes with a name like AMC or Regal and take their loyalty programs to the next level. I can guarantee you that people would rather just pay $10 or so a month to see as many movies as they want instead of breaking the bank every time they want to have a nice night out with friends; especially when it comes to a more niche theater like the Alamo Drafthouse or your local dine-in.
Dine-in theaters already do this, but the wave has to hit regular theaters at some point. It doesn't have to be fancy imported beer or wine, either. Most people would just be happy to sip on a long neck or a 12 oz can. And all of this is even before the extra money you'd bring in.
This is still a big part of the problem here. 3D movies are more expensive, come with glasses that dig into the side of your head and reduce the light on the screen, and are usually post-production conversions that don't look particularly good. At least movies shown on IMAX screens are actually filmed and formatted for IMAX screens. If the movie you want to show hasn't been filmed in 3D, it might be best to just skip it.
If bringing the noise down for a whole theater isn't an option, theaters should extend an olive branch to people with sensitive hearing. The sensory experience of movie theaters might be too extreme for someone with, say, autisum who still might want to see a movie anyway. I had a similar problem when I was younger and wish I'd had the option myself.