Edward: So I’m sure you heard the box office dipped 43% this week from this time last year. There’s a couple articles floating around the internet, particularly one that I read on The Wrap that blame an influx of R rated movies being released. Chappie bombed. Unfinished Business bombed. The only new release that did well was The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a PG movie. What do you guys think?
James: I personally don’t think the rating of these movies are to blame. Maybe to an extent, but I’d also factor in an influx of on demand services this year so people are probably more inclined to watch movies at home…. Especially with tech like 4k available and standard HD. If theaters want to compete they have to do an entire overhaul whereas the consumer drops a couple grand on a new TV. There’s also that rental box thing in grocery stores that’s fairly new. There’s also a bit of a recession now here in Canada-not so sure about the states.
Imran: Normal movie theaters are suffering in the US as well compared to a decade ago. I can’t really blame people for not wanting to spend 10-12$ on movie tickets (in 2005 movie tickets were 5.5-7.50$ tops) especially when they have 65” screen tv’s at home with new titles available (legally) for the price of one ticket (if not less). Having said that, I’m a film nut and going to the theater is a must for me, as you guys know, I even go to the theater to see older films – actually the number of older films i get to see in theaters is a lot higher than newer films, simply because there are so many older films i’ve wanted to see projected on film and never got the chance to. For the most part there are rarely more than 2-3 new releases that are out at the same time i feel like are worth checking out. The Alamo Drafthouse isn’t suffering like regular theaters in West Texas (I can’t speak for other locations since I’ve not visited them). Every showing of older films seems to be sold out to the point where they have to add more showings. just week before last they had a showing of Don’t Go Into the Woods and it sold out even though it was only available to VIP members. So they added another showing so people could see the restored version of the film in 35mm. some would argue that the reason these retro showings get sold out is because of the pricing (Terror Tuesday is only 3$, some of the others are 5-7$), but even the 10-12$ showing of other special venues get sold out fairly quickly. In this case i’m fairly sure it has a lot to do with the theater knowing what audiences they are catering to.
Edward: Interesting point. Theatres, particularly the bigger chains are trying to provide big, immersive experiences. Not that Cineplex has almost a complete monopoly on franchise theatres in Canada (Toronto has quite a few independently run theatres which show all kinds of cool, unique movies like the Alamo Drafthouse, but good luck finding one outside the city limits), and to them it’s all about bigger is better – IMAX, 3D, D-Box, AVX, etc. They’re using technology to get people back into the theatres. It kind of works, but I feel that at some point, you have to have the right movie or the right quality of movie to appeal to people or they won’t care how flashy your theatre is. I think this week the films were just wrong. Chappie didn’t market any major star and even I was confused as to what kind of film they were trying to advertise. A robot spelling his names with building blocks but is an R-rated movie set in South Africa. Unfinished Business had no appeal to me because I’ve hated Vince Vaughn’s comedies since Old School and have no desire to drop $13 on a bad comedy that would have felt like a ripoff had I watched it on Netflix.
Imran: The Alamo Drafthouse would’ve never worked out where i lived before in Florida. All the smaller theaters that did retro showings of films went under because they couldn’t keep up with the upgrade costs from film to digital. So having the right people in your area who like weird films makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, as i’ve told ed before, most people just want to see the latest and greatest film and then move on to the next shiny thing forgetting all about the previous film because watching movies for most people is just a time killer where they can shut their brains off (a lot like flipping channels on tv). But for us it’s a lot more than that. We seek out film, hunt it down and then discuss it to death, especially if it’s something we like – this activity bores most people based on what i’ve seen. If you start to go too deep into a film with a normal person they get weirded out and throw comments like “dude, it’s just a movie, enjoy it for what it is” – yea it’s also “just” a football game but you’re still yelling and screaming about it.
Edward: Could not agree more Imran. I think the majority of film audiences go to the movies primarily as a way to kill time, or get out of the house. But at the same time, if the right movie isn’t playing to attract them, they’ll find something else to do. Whereas for me, I look forward to every Friday’s releases. To me, the cinema is like a third home. I enjoy being there, even if I don’t really have any interest in the films playing. I think with the box office, analysts and studios assume that regular moviegoers will be at the theatres every week. Not if you don’t have something shiny to bring them in. Because $20 (ticket and food) is a lot of money to spend, and there are a lot of things you can do with $20. With regards to this week’s movies, word of mouth on both Chappie and Unfinished Business was quite terrible. Marigold Hotel has a cult following from the success of the first film. I think it’s a little naive to start blaming a rating on a film for its poor performance. American Sniper just became the top grossing film of 2014 and it was rated R.
James: Retro cinema is a big deal for me. I’d be upset to see cinemas go because of this. It’s amazing to see movies on the big screen from bygone ages and connect in that way with the original audience as closely as you can.
But movie prices are out of line, in my opinion. I understand that movies and movie theaters are 2 different businesses and the theaters only make money from concession stands, but this model is their own design and they are now suffering for it. They haven’t been working with theaters to revise this in nearly a century. Especially in the face of 21 century tech. I shouldn’t at all be surprised if this is the beginning of the end of the megaplex.
Chris: It’s especially disheartening when you pay a lot of money to see a movie you wind up not liking, and than you think, “Why did I spend my money on that”? I hope that theatres don’t go the way of the video store though. I still generally enjoy going to the movies, especially to see summer blockbusters on the big screen, and going with friends is always a good social experience.
Edward: The movie business is too big for theatres to go away. Movies will flop when there’s no interest in a movie. You generate that interest through marketing. Chappie wasn’t marketed well and word of mouth is going to crush it’s ability to build momentum and an audience, like how word of mouth saved Edge of Tomorrow, Dredd, and Pacific Rim from their poor marketing campaigns. Unfinished Business had a star who’s name is associated with a type of comedy that has proven to be financially unmarketable right now.
James: Whiplash was a good investment. 3.3 million (George Lucas probably drops more than that on laundry) and grossed 13.6 million.
Edward: And well marketed.