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Cinema attendance to drop, prices to rise?

Ticket.jpgA report has arrived ahead of the annual trade show for the American cinema industry, CinemaCon, which has some rather depressing words that will no doubt affect cinema owners and audience members the world over.

It seems that 3D is “maturing” again, tickets sales are expected to drop once again and another rise in ticket cost is expected, one that will be offset by the drop in people going to the cinema. There's a message there for those in the cinema industry, and it's not about increasing prices and offering more 3D films.

Let me start with my bugbear straight off, 3D. Once again the word is that the 3D market is “starting to mature” - read into that what you will but the following comment tells us what's actually happening regarding consumers who are…

“…focused again on the overall quality of the film and are weighing the cost of a premium ticket versus a base 2D ticket.”

Oh who would have guessed that, really? No one in the industry saw that coming? With Post Production 3D looking so bad, films being churned out with rubbish 3D in them and entire films built around the core of 3D rather than of story, characters or anything resembling intelligent scripting, and an increased ticket price not including the cost of glasses, and you think consumers are going to get tired of that?

Seriously, hands up who saw that coming?

The report comes from the analysis firm Fitch Ratings through Deadline who only provide a few key morsels but they are enough to get an idea of what they are expecting. Couple with the decline, I mean the maturing of the 3D market they foresee a couple of other things happening.

They report that there's an expected low, single digit rise in the cost of cinema tickets coming. Now this is only the American market for now but you know that's going to arrive in the rest of the world soon enough.

I've just been complaining that the local multiplex has increased its ticket price to £9.10 (as of the last conversion rate that's $13.96 or €10.66) and I know that still sounds cheap to many people out there. I'm going to a cinema event tomorrow that will cost me £20 per ticket, although there is food and drink included in that along with leather sofas and a smaller audience so I'm much happier to pay that.

With the cost of “food” also increasing so that something to eat and drink for two costs way more than the ticket itself, is it any wonder that people are going to the cinema less?

Add these things up. The forcing of poor quality 3D films on the audience with inflated ticket prices, the increase of the base ticket price itself, and the increase in the cost of food and drink, what in there will attract audiences?

Oh I forget, piracy is to blame. Well if release windows were sorted out and removed and the old “economy of scale” applied, perhaps we would see more people flocking to the cinema again?

The report predicts a loss in audiences and revenue, thankfully though they expect the audiences that are still going to pay extra to cover their losses.

The report itself says that the concern is over the increase in quality of home cinema and of piracy. Well I think it's safe to say the former comment is a little late in coming, the quality of home cinema has been increasing for a very long time and I have had far better quality in picture and audio for many years over cinema.

As for the concerns about piracy well it isn't about going after the individual downloading the film, or capturing the alleged people in the cinema with handheld cameras, because let's face it, how many of them are really handheld in cinema copies these days? No, the real answer is stopping the insane release windows.

When a film is available on DVD and Blu-ray in America and is just being released in the cinema in your country for an extortionate price and you aren't sure if it's worth seeing you can understand why people resort to illegal copies.

Please note though, I do not condone piracy at all. It is a huge industry supporting many, many jobs from the underpaid tea lady right up to the overpaid actor and executive. People behind it may be mishandling things somewhat but people shouldn't be resorting to piracy. If you are suffering from the release windows then don't go see it in the cinema, wait for it to come out on DVD, Blu-ray or on demand and vote with your viewing figures. Piracy is not the answer.

Anyway, that isn't the problem, although the report does see where the problem lies:

“…patrons may become more selective in the films they view at the theaters versus those they are willing to view at home.”

Is that any wonder with the rubbish they are being peddled? Post production 3D films made around 3D?

Another comment says that any loss in revenue is going to hurt the businesses because they operate with levels of debt to keep their facilities and equipment up to date - well if they hadn't been forced to put in all that expensive 3D equipment only for the studios to start peddling rubbish into their screens, maybe they wouldn't be feeling it so badly right now.

Okay, I've criticised enough. What's the answer? Well there isn't one but there are a number of ways to try and get things on track.

Go for economy of scale: Reduce ticket prices, and through this and the other measures entice people back to the cinema hoping to fill screens rather than just break even.

Hold back on new technologies like 3D:
For now, forget rolling 3D out everywhere at an over inflated cost because the quality of what is being produced is just not there. Treat it like IMAX, offer one screen in fifty that has 3D and when the quality of the films rise then add in another, and if the quality keeps rising so will demand, then add in another. Just now as quality drops so do the audience figures, all the time the prices rise, and that doesn't work.

Kill release windows:
Or at least line them up properly. Do not offer a film or television series on DVD, Blu-ray or on demand until it has been released and seen in all the major territories the studio want to sell it in. This isn't always going to be practical but think cleverly about the release window and realise that the internet has destroyed the studio model of release territories.

Release a film in all the key countries at the same time, or within weekends of each other, and that goes for the DVD, Blu-ray and on demand releases as well as for cinema. In the case of a television series try and make deals with foreign television channels with the largest audiences and make those deals quickly, ensure that another territory isn't waiting six months, a year, or more to be able to see a television series now available in America in boxset.

A while back I would get friends to ship me out Region 1 DVDs from America and I would send them the money rather than wait ages to see it in the cinema or on television. Now the internet has made that much easier and quicker and the industry hasn't kept up with it.

Control digital screeners:
If there really is a concern about piracy then produce systems to code every screener sent out. Better still use online screener systems that are around today and assign logins to everyone in the industry, coding the playback with the currently signed in login. When I get screeners, which I never give away or let out of the house unless I'm returning them, they are invariably just a duplicated DVD or Blu-ray, nothing fancy about it.

Sometimes I feel that the burden of cost is being thrown unfairly on the cinemas for piracy protection and new equipment and then not being backed up by the studios. Look at 3D for the prime example.

Oh I know things aren't that easy, if they were then they would have implemented all these changes already, but it does seem as though the answers are staring everyone in the face. So why aren't they trying?a href=




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Comments

This is so sad to hear for the film industry. With the technology being updated every now and then, a lot of people prefer to watch movies at home rather than in cinemas. But let's face it, it is still a lot better to watch in cinemas rather than at home.

We are currently in a DEPRESSION. People are struggling to pay for the basics. Ticket prices are way too high. Either lower them, or risk seeing more and more empty seats.

Felix: I don't agree, at home I have a system that has far superior audio separation and movement and the horrible distractions and noise from others is all gone, never mind some annoyingly placed and over bright exit signs and of course the food and drink is much, much cheaper.

However the experience of going to the cinema is still great and the large screen is always great to watch.

Dana: I agree and I think most of the audience does too. If ticket prices keep rising more audience members are being scared away and going less often. It's economy of scale, drop the prices more people will come and there's more chance of filling out screens on every showing, not just three days at opening weekend in the 3D IMAX screens.

Piracy isn't driving people away from the cinema, it's the high prices and the lack of quality. Event movies are great but they're one event, and with the cost of that event people can't afford as many of them as they once had. Making a poor event movie not only means that the event has been wasted for these people but they carry ill feeling and reluctance to try again, pile that on and you're driving them even further away.

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