I'm sure you've seen, the movie theater industry is now about to show live sports in order to staunch the bleeding. Theater attendance down 9% ... what to do, what to do ... how, they wail, how do we get people to go back to the movie theaters? Digital tech, bigger seats -- what?
This sort of clueless shit just reinforces the obvious truth that the people who run movie theater chains don't actually see movies in movie theaters. Because I will tell you right now, right here, how to get people to go back to seeing movies in theaters. Without disruptive technology. Without theater upgrades. All for, oh, $4.65 an hour per screen.
I will now save your industry:
Hire. Fucking. USHERS.
The number one reason that every single person I know gives for not going to the movies anymore is the annoyance of dealing with people who just don't behave in the theater. Yes, yes, theater owners, your cell phone adds are cute. But how many of us have dealt with the idiots around us who dutifully turn off their cellphones, and then turn and chat -- not whisper, fucking coffee-klatch -- with the person beside them?
At Thank You for Smoking today, just as the credits on the movie started to run, a shaft of full sunlight light hit the room. A woman had stepped to the emergency exit, stepped just outside, and was propping it open so she could finish her cell phone conversation and sneak back in.
If you were at the Century 15 today at Santa Monica and heard a guy shout, full-on-bellow "SHUT THAT DAMN DOOR!", that was me. Fuck it. I'm not going to sit there and share rueful, annoyed looks with my friends rather than be uncivil. I've had to shut up people, people having full-on conversations, at literally every movie I've gone to in the last six months.
And why, why the hell is that my job? A couple times I've gone out to get a theater staff member because I didn't want to deal, nobody ever wandered in after I asked. Not complained. Not ranted. Politely asked. At the oh so spiffy Landmark Cinemas, might I add.
Again, I know this isn't just me. Literally everyone I know, when you discuss going to a movie, winces and says"Yeah, but what's the talking like at that theater?" Or even more fun -- last night, Lovely Wife and I watched as a couple took their baby stroller in to see Inside Man. What do you think ensued?
Sweet Jesus. I've heard the excuse -- "Hey, they can't afford a sitter", or "can't get a sitter," but as my Lovely Wife said "So, wait, they can't afford a sitter, so I have to use Netflix? How is that fair?"
Look, I worked in live, drunken shows all around the world for twelve years. Comedy rooms came and went, but the one rule was that despite the local economics, the club that folded wasn't the one with a high cover charge or high operating costs. It was always the one that didn't bounce the hecklers. People associate value of experience with the value you present to them (also why you always charge a minimum cover, never do a free show). And the value of my movie-going experience is not the snack selection, it's whether or not I can just sit and enjoy the movie I just spent more than ten bucks on.
Who are you going to lose? Those chatty cathy's? Hell no. 95% of the time they will, after being asked by even a faux authority figure, shut up. And even if you start to lose them, those people are like errant bombing runs -- each one, every time they ruin a movie, creates a dozen more home-theater insurgents. You're better off without them.
When we drive to a theater, we're not going to get more comfortable seats we can't get at home, we're not going because the snack bar has food we don't have at home ...
All we want to do is watch the movie. That's it. Hit that bar first, Einsteins. Worry about the Perrier service later.