Jul 20

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Ads the reason movie theater revenue declining?

The Big Picture argues that the rise of advertising in movie theaters has so adversely impacted the movie-going experience that it's one hidden source of declining movie ticket receipts. Worth reading.

tags: rumors  | comments: 6   | Sphere It

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Comments: 6

  Marc Hedlund [07.20.05 03:16 PM]

In the linked article, I think reasons 1 (cell phones in theaters), 3 (much better home theater options), and 5 (better availability of competing content) are serious contributors to declining sales, with 3 being the most serious, I would guess; and I agree with 2 with regard to ads, but not with its general premise (I highly doubt the lack of ushers in movie theaters is causing sales to fall off).

About point 4, decline in movie quality, all I can say is give me a break. Movies have always been a mix of tons of crap and a few good gems. The terms "B-movie" and "popcorn movie" have been around for decades, and with good reason. I think we fallaciously emphasize the great old movies we've remembered for years and assume they must have been the norm, or at least more frequent, in their time; while we forget about all the nonsense we saw or skipped specifically because it wasn't memorable in any way.

I'm no fan of ads and I hate them at the movie theater, but I doubt they are a primary cause for any slip in ticket sales. This is either a multifactor cause (cell phones, higher ticket costs, better home options, etc.) or just a temporary blip we'll all forget about the next time attendance rises.

  Jeff Carroll [07.20.05 04:48 PM]

I thought this link was somewhat apropos.

Ironically, considering all the noise we made while I was at Qwest about broadband movies-on-demand, we got basically nowhere while the moviehouse piece of the Anschutz empire was installing stadium seating, DTS, massive broadband, and digital cinema capability across the Regal, Edwards, and United Artists chains. Regal has 41 such screens within five miles of my house in Nashville. This has to be an especially disturbing trend for them.

I don't buy the "too much advertising" argument. While Regal is evidently selling screen time to anyone who can produce their own content and pay for its delivery, most of the mix at the theaters I go to is custom-produced TV-like entertainment news, interspersed with advertising like TV is. That's an improvement, in my opinion, on the old endless stream of trailers for movies I don't care about and don't want to see.

Back in 1999, I ran the numbers for "every movie ever made, anytime"; suffice to say it's a much bigger job than anybody else at Qwest ever imagined. A scaled-back version of that vision, though - theaters capable of becoming second-run revival houses on demand - might be just what the movie business needs to get the public reengaged.

(obligatory disclaimer: I no longer work for Qwest, nor am I associated with Regal or any of the other Anschutz companies. For all I know, they may already be doing this, or something like it.)

  Jeroen Wenting [07.21.05 12:32 AM]

There has ALWAYS (at least as long as I can remember, which is some 25 years) been lots of advertising in movie theaters and in the movies themselves.
It's not gotten worse (except maybe the subliminals due to product placement and sponsorship in movies but that doesn't usually detract from the movie itself).

What has changed is the environment surrounding those movies.
Movie tickets have gotten more expensive to the point where it's cheaper to buy a DVD than go to the theater with 2 people.
Image and sound quality on widescreen TVs (which are common) and HiFi stereos is also good enough that people no longer need to go to the theater to get the best experience.
Add the prevalence of illegal distribution of DVDs for movies that haven't hit the theaters yet (or are still running) and there's no need for many to go to the movies at all.
Just fire up Kazaa, download the movie running tonight, burn a DVD, and put it in your player.

  Erik Schmidt [07.21.05 02:32 PM]

I briefly discussed this issue a while ago. Illegal distribution of DVDs isn't the reason the theaters are having so much trouble. Talk to any ten random people you meet on the street, and I'll bet most of them have never even heard of Kazaa. I think we tend to navel-gaze when we talk about how "everyone" uses P2P networks and is interested in watching pirated movies.

In general I would much rather watch a movie at the theater, but there is a line I won't cross because of the decline in the overall theater experience. If I really want to see a particular film, I'll undergo the annoyances of the theater in order to experience the movie on the big screen. If I'm interested in the movie but not really excited about it, I'll just wait for it to come out on Netflix. Because the movie theaters are making the overall experience less enticing, they're pushing me away from all but the most sure-fire films.

I disagree with Jeff Carroll's assessment that in-theater advertising isn't a problem. If I go to a theater and see movie trailers, I'm OK with that because I obviously like movies (which is why I'm in a theater, right?). If already use Tivo at home because I don't want to watch TV ads, so why on earth would I go to a theater to watch them? I don't already know about the next Spiderman movie, but I do know all about Pepsi, and I don't want to see another freakin' Pepsi ad when I'm going to the movies.

  Brad [12.05.07 09:56 PM]

Movies suck because Hollywood sucks. If you've ever worked in that business, it should become clear that they are not looking for new, fresh talent, and they just use the same old, and I mean old, people. We have 70 year old directors and writers dominating the business. And they wonder what is happening to their monopoly. The people buy passion and art, not the same old crap. HA! They so deserve it and we deserve better.

  Matthew [12.14.07 06:13 PM]

I think the decline in movie ticket sales is most definitely due to ADVERTISING COMMERCIALS for a long 20 minutes while you sit there waiting for the movie to begin. You pay $10 for a ticket. When did it become okay to play these commericals? Let's see, I give you $10 AND I have to sit though a sea of blaring commercials? I don't think so. In the past, moviegoers went for the ambiance. They could come early and get a good seat and quietly talk to each other before the feature began. Now, I dread going early. They should give you a remote control with a mute button. I'll go ahead and wait for a netflix release.

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