I’m going back to the Mark Cuban post that pointed me to the Ordinary Gentlemen film. The thing that brought me back was the comments. The sentiment is virtually universal — movie theaters suck donkey balls.
- They cost too much for tickets
- They cost too much for food and drinks
- The food and drinks suck
- The movies suck
- The projection of the movies suck
- The other people suck
So I’ll deal with these. The ticket cost? “Cost” is a concept of how much value you gain minus how much aggravation you have to put up with. This point depends really on all the rest of the points. If the movie was good, and it was projected well, you wouldn’t think that it cost so much. In fact, you might even think it was a value. If the food was good, and not the same thing that you could pick up at an A&W stand or Albertsons for half the price, you wouldn’t say that it cost too much.
The other points are harder to address. The food and drinks sucking comes from poor service. Poor service permeates the movie theater industry, but you get what you pay for. The only way to get better service is to get better employees, and better employees cost. How much would more would you pay to go to the “good” theater? (Personally, I would pay $18 a ticket for a quality theater to see a quality movie, but I think I am the exception.) The projection sucking is the same problem — a good projectionist is likely to be good at lots of other things that pay more money; can you keep him in that job? I would certainly pay more to go to a theater that I know will project the film right. I just can’t find one.
I think that there are places that have the right concept. Movie Tavern is a place here in DFW that would be fantastic if it wasn’t a hell of a drive for me. They have the waitresses and beer and all the other stuff that people want when they are watching a movie. The prices on the food are reasonable, compared to a restaurant. I go there pretty regularly to watch WWE PPVs. There is one thing that they are missing, and I think you can address another issue and this one at once…
Booths. Big, plush half circle booths, like they used to have in swank nightclubs. Art deco style booths. Think about it. You will have your table, to put your pizza and beer. You don’t have an arm between you and your sweetie. If it has a tall back, you have some degree of privacy from the people beside you, and the people behind you. (If some kid stands up in front of you to gawk at you, you can throw popcorn at him.) Not only will this give you visual privacy, but it will dampen out the talking too. That doesn’t mean that the theater should get lax — but it means that you don’t have to deal with the whisperers. This can also help the cost issue — you can put in some booths, in whatever mix you are willing to risk, and price them a booth at a time. Sure, you are going to get the family that wants to cram mom, dad, grandma and six kids into it — but would you get them there if you didn’t have that deal? More importantly, you are going to get people like me, who would buy a whole booth for two or three people at a premium, to subsidize those.
That’s my big idea. Booths. Movie Tavern already has the food and drink angle covered. There really isn’t anything that we can do about the movies sucking. Movies have become too expensive to make, and no studio is willing to take a chance on a movie that might not make a ton of money (like one that is good.) The only way to change that is to stop going to the major hyped releases, and make that a losing strategy… but it looks like we are already doing that. Face it — Hollywood suits are fucking stupid. Fact of life.