A year ago, film studios and theaters were enjoying an uptick in movie attendance supposedly spurred by a need for people to escape the woes and harsh realities of the recession. This year, attendance is down by an average of 1-2% at major theaters.
What are the factors behind this decrease?
The trend towards accessible high-end home theaters, combined with increasing movie ticket prices and bad manners from theater crowds, could be the culprit behind lagging cinema attendance.
Home theater technology has definitely come a long way just in the past decade. Whereas many affordable surround sound components and projection televisions weren’t of particularly good quality back in the 80’s and 90’s, we have reached a point where THX-certified audio systems and large-screen high definition video is within the financial reach of many middle-class consumers. Just last month, Samsung released a new 50” 3D plasma HDTV for less than $1000.
Also, studies are showing that people may be shying away from films because of ticket prices. Theaters are charging an average of $3 more, driving prices up to as much as $20 per ticket, for movies that are shown in 3D.
Yes, that’s $20 for one movie for one person. Take a date and buy some popcorn and drinks, and you’re easily looking at a $60 night out without considering the cost of dinner and transportation.
That’s a lot of money to go see a movie that you may or may not like. Plus, you get the added bonus of being surrounded by people with ringing cell phones, screaming children, and no regard for anyone else’s desire to actually watch the movie they just paid a good sum of money to see (You know it’s getting bad when the movie critics themselves begin to complain).
In fact, a report from Reuters indicates that major studios are in talks with providers like Time Warner Cable and Direct TV to bring big-name movies to home viewers for a premium price as soon as 30 days after the film hits theaters. In comparison to a night out at the movies, the proposed pricing scheme of $24.99 for a movie 60 days after its theatrical release, and up to $50 for 30 days, doesn’t seem all that outrageous.
Personally, I hit my threshold with ticket prices, bad films, and rude people years ago. My 50” HDTV, a good surround sound system, and the choice of who I invite to see a movie with me are all way more appealing than the movie theater experience has ever been. It seems that many consumers may be starting to think the same way.