Why People Aren’t Going to the Movies

“The message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It’s the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can’t depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.” — Roger Ebert, who goes six bullet points deep for reasons why movie theaters had a smaller audience in 2011. All of his points are spot-on, from crappy movies, crappy theaters and higher prices.

The experience is no longer commiserate with the cost. Anyway, Ebert’s post is worth the quick read, even if it’s nothing you haven’t already read elsewhere or considered. It does, however, go hand in hand with David Carr’s piece in the New York Times regarding SOPA.

Here’s the relevant nugget from Carr: “I like my movies (and music and television) as much as the next couch potato, probably more. And I wouldn’t steal content for any reason, in part because I make a living generating a fair amount of it. But it’s worth remembering that the film industry initially opposed the video cassette recorder and the introduction of DVDs, platforms that became very lucrative businesses for them and remarkable conveniences for the rest of us.”

What’s interesting to me about this point (in a broader context of piracy) is that people are willing to pay for things at a fair and reasonable price. Give them convenience and it’s a no-brainer. When it’s easier to obtain something for free what do you think most people are going to do? Scrounge around to try and pay for it? Nope, they’ll just take it.

Look at what Louis C.K. did with his recent stand-up special. He charged a fair price, made it effortless to obtain and people flocked to it in droves. The guy made a million freakin’ dollars selling a one-hour stand-up special. People don’t generally buy stand-up specials. But they did because it was easy to buy and affordable. It was so cheap as to make stealing seem pointless.

It’s frankly amazing that Hollywood hasn’t learned from the decade of music’s digital disintermediation. Instead of fighting technology they should have embraced it. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there regarding movie theaters themselves.

The formula is simple: release quality movies, charge a fair price and make the experience of going to the theaters worth it.

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