A MediaPost story reported that National CineMedia, a big in-theater advertising company, had a drop in its fourth-quarter revenue partly due to smaller in-theater audiences. While I could crank out 800 words on how annoying in-theater advertising is in the first place, the bigger issue is that going to the movies is still a pretty crappy -- and increasingly expensive -- experience.
Not they aren't trying to improve it, but each "innovation" has unintended consequences that pretty much offset the attempt to lure you back.
The biggest chain in my area has ripped out the 200 or 300 seats that used to constitute a traditional auditorium and installed lounge-like chairs that recline and have a ton of leg room and swivel tray, kind of like on an airliner. All good.
Now there are only about 90 seats that can be reserved in advance (for a fee that brings the ticket price up to $14). In nearby New York City, that ticket costs over $19. Of course that's before you get to the concession line that requires you to tap into your home equity line of credit to afford a box of popcorn and a soda.
It's well known that theater owners don't make enough to stay in business on tickets sales, so they have bulked up their concession choices -- which, in my neck of the woods, now includes four flavors of popcorn, hotdogs and pizzas you can have delivered to your seat. And this is a problem because now besides "waiters" interrupting your attention, you have to sit in proximity to people chowing down on smelly food. Not that listening to someone rustle and chew their way through a gallon-sized bag of popcorn isn't annoying enough.
In addition to now being fast-food outlets, nearby theaters have also installed bars from which you can order alcoholic drinks. I have no idea of the pricing or the process to check age or if they have a way to limit someone who is determined to get over-served. But around here, everyone drives to and from the theater, and I don't see anyone being breathalyzed on the way out. Now there is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Now that patrons have all the comforts of home, they often act and talk as if they were in their own living rooms: loudly, with little to no regard for others around them. They even talk through the on-screen request that they don't. Most adults refrain from checking their cellphones during the film, but not teenagers, who develop a sort of palsy if they don't check in every five or 10 minutes.
So let's tally it all up. You want me to pay almost $20 to sit next to a guy masticating his way through a pepperoni pizza, while three rows back two women chat as if they were in a grocery store aisle; sit through 17 minutes of ads and previews I have already seen three or four times to watch a movie that, 95% of the time, is not worth the ticket price, the parking fee, the concession costs -- and which I can see on PPV for $5.95 in about a month? That about right?
Well, thanks for the better seats, anyway.