Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Last Picture Shows

Once again, we have a series of articles proclaiming the death of the movie theater.   It seems despite Avengers: Endgame having the greatest opening weekend of all time and becoming the second highest grossing film of all time (fifth when adjusted for inflation), theaters are not really having that great of a year.  So far this year, $5.62 billion in tickets have been sold, down 10% from last year.

Beyond gross ticket sales, stock prices have felt the effect.  AMC's stock dropped to an all time low on July 2, 2019, representing a decline of 25% year to date, down 50% since 2012.  AMC is the largest theater chain in America.  Its competitors are similarly feeling the pinch.

Problematically, one studio seems to be driving a substantial portion of the health of the movie theaters.  Disney accounted for one third of the gross ticket sales so far this year.  And that's not even including the 20th Century Fox films.  That means, for the foreseeable future, as Disney theatrical releases go, so go movie theaters?  And as Disney pours more and more into Disney+, will there be a greater impact on its contribution to the theatrical total?

Streaming, rental, and home theater has definitely been a large cause of the decline of the modern movie theater.  And honestly I can understand why.  Today, you can have a near theater movie experience at home with all the modern home theater equipment and can avoid all of the theater problems.  The talkers, the unruly kids, the phone usage.  Being stuck in the front row particularly now in the day of choose your seat, where you cannot get a good seat for nearly any movie unless you plan it out days in advance.

The cost of a seeing a film in the theater has also skyrocketed, though it only accounts for a small portion of the theaters profits.  They are still making their money on concessions and food and beverage.  It's why you're seeing so many theaters adding the dine-in options.  To draw away more concessions dollars.

Yeah, I'm not going to lament the death of the mega-plex.

There are benefits, yes, in being able to see whatever new movie is out.  But it's so impersonal.  It's so chain and devoid of life.

Give me a single screen cinema that's being curated.  A mixture of new films and the favorite classics of the owner.  Give me something like the Alamo, with sing-alongs, quote-alongs, and Mr. Pancake presentations.  Give me a drive-in with a double feature.

Give me a theater where you feel like you are part of a club, going through the best of film.

For that reason, I  firmly believe that movie theaters aren't ever going to completely die, they just may go niche.  And that's not a bad thing.   The content will be everywhere.  That may just make the theater experience worth it.

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