Commentary

Movie Theater Screens: The Bigger The Better?

As home TV screens get bigger to take in more theatrical movies and other content coming their way, some movie-theater chains continue to boast even bigger, more elaborate screens in their venues.

The bigger the better? What's missing here? Maybe context.

Cinemark, one of the bigger U.S. movie theater chains, recently launched a multiplatform campaign promoting Cinemark XD, the company's premium large format.

The company claims to be “the World’s No. 1 Exhibitor-Branded Premium Large Format.”

For its part, IMAX Corp. is in 142 U.S. theaters, and 1,500 globally in 80 countries.

Cinemark says it is expanding its XD screens globally touting “a full multi-sensory immersion into the on-screen action with more than 35 trillion colors on a wall-to-wall screen and 11.1 layers of booming surround sound.”

Here is one key reason for this promotion: Avid moviegoers will continue to pay more for this movie-screen experience than for a small-screen showing.

Cinemark says its XD screens consistently over-index on revenue -- totaling 15% of the company's first-quarter 2022 box office while accounting for less than 5% of Cinemark's domestic screens. (In the U.S., Cinemark operates a total of 321 theaters with 4,408 screens).

Another key business metric comes from the revenue improvement seen versus the pre-pandemic period, where XD box office represented around 10% of revenue. For its first-quarter revenue, IMAX revenues increased 55% to $60 million versus the same period in 2021.

And then Cinemark makes a somewhat humorous, tongue-in-cheek,comparison to consumers' most popular "daily" regular screen time: Its XD screens are “17,000 times larger than the average phone, with 50,000 more watts of sound.” No, really?

Cinemark also touts amenities such as its “luxury lounger recliners” as well as expanded concessions offerings in is theaters.

For sure, believe some movies more and others still find a heightened film experience from big movie-screen exhibitions -- say “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Doctor Strange and the Metaverse of Madness,” and maybe the likes of Top Gun: Maverick”.

This isn’t to say curiosity seekers with extra entertainment cash to throw around wouldn’t be interested as well.

But would they really need to see the more personal films like “Coda,” or coming-of-age movies, on a regular-size movie theater screen, or even for a more modest (but still comparable large) at home 65” screen?

Movies can be an intimate experience. For some that might mean fewer pixels.

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