Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Unhappy Triad

Hey Studio Execs?  What is the obsession with cramming your hopeful blockbusters into the summer months and the Thanksgiving/Christmas corridor?  Why forfeit almost eight months of earning in a calendar year?  One theory I have is the Unhappy Triad. 

Part 1: Pricing & Scheduling

The days of the double and triple feature at the movie theater are all but extinct these days.  One major reason is the pricing of the tickets and the concessions.  Yes I know Monday thru Thursday the tickets are cheaper but most normal people go to the movies during the Friday to Sunday period.  And no moviegoer is required to buy concessions but that takes away an iconic joy from the movie experience.  That would be like having no beer during St. Patrick’s Day or no turkey during Thanksgiving.   Yeah I’m sure the St. Patrick’s Day festivities would be just as awesome without the beer.

Moviegoers have tried to adjust to these outlandish price hikes by selecting more matinee times and sneaking in concessions from outside.  However we may soon get to the point (if not already) where it won’t be worth it to go to the theater even for the blockbuster movies.  Here’s some simple yet depressing math using opening night of one of the most anticipated films of the year, the Avengers.

Pricing:                                                                Single                                                                    Couple/Kids

Friday Night 9:00 p.m. show                            $10 or $15 (IMAX-3D)                                       $20 or $30

Large Popcorn/Large Drink Combo                 $14                                                                         $14 or $28

Total                                                                      $24 or $29                                                            $34 or $58

The standard movie outing involves buying a ticket with some popcorn and a drink which would run you at least twenty four dollars.  God forbid if you take a date to a movie or take the kids to the next big animation movie because those almost have to be seen in 3D these days.   People are going to flock in even bigger mobs towards Netflix or other providers and simply try to poorly recreate the theater experience at home.  For me part of the joy of the overall movie experience was sharing the thrills with the audience crowd.  Some of that will be on full display during the opening weekend and midnight shows of the Avengers this summer. 

While pricing threatens to totally derail the joy of the movies, the scheduling is also a problem.  Blockbusters only come out during May, June, July, mid November and December, the rest of the months are left out in the cold.  Moviegoers are subjected to Indy darlings, romantic comedies, and big budget productions undeserving of primetime dates.  When a big name movie is pushed into the January-April period or the September-October period that’s usually a giant warning sign.  And history has proven this fact out.  Here’s a weird idea though, why not just space out the blockbusters throughout the year so that they can maximize their earning potential and moviegoers won’t be subjected to months of terribly lackluster flicks?  If Avengers came out in the middle of February (and provided it didn’t suck) fans would be confused but they wouldn’t care.  The Avengers would crush the competition for at least two months if not longer.  

The super blockbusters try to space themselves out by claiming one month in the summer while all the other movies hope to live off the scraps in between them.  It is a crazy practice that moves further away from logic as time goes on.  Yes, during the summer kids are out of school and they should be able to go to the movies more frequently but that’s not the case anymore.   The shareholders of the major studios don’t care when the money is earned as long as the final tally is good at the end of the year earnings report.  During those empty months if moviegoers had a reason to go to a movie they may find the patience to stomach those insane prices for an enjoyable night at the theater. 
- Nik

1 comment:

  1. From what I hear theaters make most of their money not at the ticket booth but at the concession stand, so much of their livelihood depends on people buying popcorn and pop, etc. They want to perpetuate the notion that you brought up here, that concessions at the movies are integral to the experience.

    The problem is that they're selling a product that is losing sales, in particular in the theater setting. You can prescribe this to the onset of Netflix, OnDemand and other internet sites. It also has something to do with the product itself. It's funny that the problem with the current Hollywood model (think: large budget and costly stars in licensed franchises & sequels) seems to form an indefinite loop. Studios pump out these sequels and adaptations because they figure that's what will make them money (rather than original indie projects), but audiences #1 complaint is that there are too many sequels and no originality. It's a weird catch-22 that doesn't offer an easy solution.

    In any business, slumping sales should be a sign that the company must take a long, hard look at the product and figure out what's wrong, and how to improve things. This is no different with Hollywood.