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Author Topic: Your opinion on the future of exhibition
Gary Davidson
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 101
From: Santa Monica, CA
Registered: Jan 2004

 - posted 11-15-2005 10:54 AM      Profile for Gary Davidson   Email Gary Davidson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There's a lot of corporate movement with the big theater chains announcing their intentions to embrace digital. There is also consolidation of companies trying to digitize, and maximize their preshow. And on top of that there's all the doom and gloom over non-attendance in theaters. Looking at the BIG PICTURE I'm curious at how my fellow fourmites foresee exhibition 5 years from now, or even 10 years from now?

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Dave Williams
Wet nipple scene

Posts: 1836
From: Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 11-15-2005 11:34 AM      Profile for Dave Williams   Author's Homepage   Email Dave Williams   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Theatrical exhibition is in trouble. It is not due to crappy product, this has always been a problem, but people have always had a good time regardless.

Now we have an entire generation of young punks entering the workforce that will not do a good job for a small wage. They all seem to think they are entitled to free ipods and hummers and flat screen plasma tv's. They do a crappy job, don't care, and are more than willing to be rude to your guests.

Now on to the guests. We now have to deal with an enormous amount of the pre teen and post teen idiots that will not treat the location with respect, the other guests with respect, and will kick up thier feet on the seats in front of them, talk during the movie, sneek in thier own stuff, skateboard in front of the place running down old women and small children, and so on.

Respectful people with MONEY stay away from the place, leaving it to the idiots and morons and creeps. Every theater is becoming a stupid teeny bopper gang banger idiot filled mall. We should burn them all down. Not the theaters, the idiots and morons and gang bangers and everyone that makes the experience so crappy.

And on to the lack of people who can see as projectionists. Focusing isn't really that hard. Kill all of them if they can't focus. It should be a death sentence.

Lastly, what's wrong with demanding a lazyboy recliner for me to watch my movie while sitting in? And a steak? Beer! I have a better time at home... BUT... I want to go to the theater. I just hate dealing with the lack of focus, hot spots on the screen, morons who refuse to SHUT THE HELL UP during the movie, and so on.

Now what we need is a theater that caters to the picky SOB like me. I would gladly pay a premium price for a premium experience. There are plenty of quality and high class people that would do the same.


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Matt Barth
Film Handler

Posts: 46
From: Albuquerque, NM 87109
Registered: Oct 2005

 - posted 11-15-2005 12:22 PM      Profile for Matt Barth   Email Matt Barth   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I really don't feel the theater is in that much danger. Every huge multiplex I've been to lacks one essential element, atmosphere. People just aren't going to pay $10+ to be cattled in to see the latest piece of crap with a shiny presentation. Luckily, some entreupeneurs have recognized that and I see a backlash building. Customer service and appreciation is taking over self-service speed. Granted it will take a bit for this to take a good hold but it's a good start.

As for presentation changes, as much as I am a traditionalist (as I'm sure most people who have threaded a projector are), digital is going to be the future. I miss the pops and small warbs of vinyl in my music collection but in the end, it's cheaper and more profitable for the record conpanies to go mp3, CD. The same is going to hold true in theaters, the presentation will be just enough better to make it seem a necessity especially considering it'll become a marketing point for that theater. Eventually the studios and distributors will scale back on reels, cans and prints and move to digital format.


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Scott Jentsch
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1033
From: New Berlin, WI, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

 - posted 11-15-2005 03:06 PM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Oh boy, and here I thought I could just scan through new messages quickly and get back to the work I should be doing... [Smile]

I make no secret about being critical about the theatrical distribution industry, which may seem odd considering that I've been publishing a web site that centers around it for almost 11 years. However, my comments are more from disappointment over lost potential than utter disdain.

It's possible that theaters will whither and die as a primary source of movie entertainment in the next five years. But if that happens, it will be the direct result of the inaction of the theaters themselves.

On the flip side, I think that theaters could be prospering as a primary source of group entertainment five years from now. (Notice I didn't specify that they would be showing movies as their primary function)

If theaters treat their customers like cattle and continue to sell the movie instead of the experience, they will be passed by even more than they already are. The comments above assert that the movie-going experience is continuing on a downward slide as a result of poor customer service, lack of atmosphere, and rude patrons. All three of these aspects are under the direct control of each theater.

Sure, poor product can and should be held responsible for some downturns, but there is enough good product to smoothe out those valleys. Blaming the product is an easy way for many to assign blame elsewhere, and not take responsibility for at least some of the problem directly.

Right now, theaters have a gift from the studios in the release window. The future may not be so generous, so it's important for theaters to take advantage of the exclusivity they enjoy to deliver their service to people as best possible, to keep those people coming back even when it's not a blockbuster season.

OK, back to your original questions.

Digital projection is the future. It's taking a long time to come to fruition, but it has continued to progress in the many years since it was first brought up. Maybe some would say that the quality hasn't reached a level of acceptability, but my experience has been the opposite. Compared to film projection in the Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois area, I have found digital cinema to be equal and often better than film.

If digital projection can save money and help theaters deliver a more consistent product, I'm all for that. I think it sucks that some good theaters doing film right and excellent projectionists that are true masters at their trade will be harmed in the fallout, but it will take many years for film to disappear (if at all) and hopefully those excellent film projectionists can learn to become excellent digital cinema booth managers.

In theory, switching to digital projection should make theaters easier to run with more consistent quality and allow theaters to concentrate on other aspects of the movie-going experience. The danger is that movies could become consistently mediocre much like the food at so many fast food places, but once again, that's completely up to the theater to choose good equipment and produce the best show possible.

Contrary to many opinions, I don't think going to the movies costs enough. Raising the price would filter out the elements that aren't there to enjoy the movie. They'll go to the theater down the road and annoy their customers and staff. I would be more than happy to pay 50% - 100% more for a movie ticket, if I knew that the experience was going to be top-notch from the time I walk in the door to the time I get back in my car. Heck, I'd probably pay more than that if the experience was consistently the best it could possibly be. I have yet to attend a theater which would qualify as anything more than "acceptable."

If I had to guess, I would say that there will be many fewer theaters in five years than there are today. Perhaps even as few as 50% of today's total, if not less. I think movies will be distributed via a variety of media, and the current release window will no longer exist. Home theaters will continue their growth to the point of ubiquity, where nearly every middle class home will be equipped with a large HDTV and surround sound capability.

The theaters that can adapt to the new reality instead of dragging their heels on "the way they've always done things" will succeed in being a destination for entertainment. And like the dinosaurs of the past, those who can't adapt will disappear.

The future of theatrical exhibition is entirely in the hands of the theaters themselves. Unfortunately, I think that many theaters would rather fail than concentrate on delivering a stellar movie-going experience for their customers. I would love for each and every theater to prove me wrong!

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

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From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004

 - posted 11-15-2005 03:29 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I would love for each and every theater to prove me wrong!

I agree, but the bottom line is called money - just not feasable to have a well trained operator for every screen that can garnish a decent career wage to keep then there, or not every circuit can garnish positive attitude towards their employees so that they feel as in doing a good service to ensure this high standard of exhibition when the money isn't along with the positive attitude.

Some circuits are close to this dream and have achieved it very well with tremendous success in their operations. know the rest of the story.

Yes, it's fun to dream, but reality wakes us up and we have to live within that world of reality ... so what do you do in the meantime and that is "live with it"


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Ian Price
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Denver, CO
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 - posted 11-15-2005 05:10 PM      Profile for Ian Price   Email Ian Price   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I believe that gigaplexes with digital projection will rule the release window for the next 20-years or so with a declining attendance. This after another 10-years of struggling to figure out who pays for the conversion. Watch out for the first All Digital with no film back-up theatre built in the US. This will be the tipping point of the flood.

There will be an upswing in film-festivals, film societies, film museums and the like. These will strive to present on the originating format whether it be 35mm, 70mm or video. Most of these places will need endowments and grants like art museums, live theatre, and most film festivals currently. The problem is that these places will be concentrated in urban settings and attended by the more sofisticated film buff. Those people in suburban, exurban and rural places will no longer have any public place to see film and will only have Video, DVD, mail order and downloading available.

But hopefully there will always be little pockets of resistance, and hold outs.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7991
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 11-15-2005 06:35 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Here are my predictions for the US exhibition industry in 2015. Look back in ten years and tell me how silly I was:

- screen count will decline; the largest casualties will be in older multiplexes and in smaller towns; theatres that aren't showing first-run product will be hit particularly hard (especially repertory houses)

- large first-run multiplexes in major markets will continue to be successful

- quality of film product will be about the same as it is now--a few great films every year, a good number of "good" films, and lots of "dogs"

- half of all screens will be using digital projection; most major releases will be available for [dlp] but smaller releases and older titles will often be 35mm-only; nearly all digital screens will have 35mm capability as well

- most mainstream titles will continue to be photographed on 35mm film, though 4K (and higher) digital intermediates will be standard practice

- there will continue to be incremental improvements in theatre sound systems--expect more channels, especially with digital projection systems

- the under-25 crowd will continue to be the primary customer demographic for mainstream films; overall attendance will be down slightly from current levels

- IMAX, DLP 3D, and other "alternative" formats will increase in popularity, but won't approach the success of standard 2D 35mm-quality product

- interest in historic theatres will increase, though most will need to be run as multipurpose non-profit "arts centers," not as profitable movie houses

- as much as I hate to say it, 70mm will only exist for occasional revival showings

- home viewing technologies will continue to improve, but at a slower rate than they have in the past ten years; by 2015 half of all US homes will have at least one high-definition TV set, and standard-def sets will be all but extinct from retailers

- most home users will still set up their equipment improperly

- film piracy will not increase substantially from current levels, though the quality of pirated copies may improve (especially if there are security issues with [dlp] projection)

- other forms of entertainment (video games, etc.) will continue to increase in popularity

In short, competition for the "entertainment dollar" of the American public will increase. The theatres that survive will either be large newish multiplexes in major cities or "special" houses that either emphasize quality and customer service or which offer specialized programming that is unavailable elsewhere. Those who live in rural areas will have less access to specialized film programming than those who live in urban areas.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

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John T. Hendrickson, Jr
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 889
From: Freehold, NJ, USA
Registered: Apr 2001

 - posted 11-15-2005 06:44 PM      Profile for John T. Hendrickson, Jr   Email John T. Hendrickson, Jr   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Ten years from now, I believe we will see two levels of presentation.

On the one hand, there will be the multiplexes (10 screens and up, depending on demographics and population density) that will go all digital. We will witness the demise of the 3 to 9 screen locations that can't afford the bill to go digital.

On the other hand, many single screens and in some cases 2 screen houses will survive. They will be niche players such as art houses showing regular art fare, and special venue restorations (some of the old single screens rescued by non-profit groups or wealthy benefactors) that will show film on a limited basis along with live performances.

In order to survive, you're going to have to be real big, or very small.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12445
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 11-15-2005 07:26 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: John T. Hendrickson, Jr
In order to survive, you're going to have to be real big, or very small.
Good! We're in. [Big Grin]

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Louis Bornwasser
Film God

Posts: 4428
From: prospect ky usa
Registered: Mar 2005

 - posted 11-15-2005 08:41 PM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
All comments are well thought out except will not be inherently good.....or bad. As I have said before, it will be as good or as bad as the theatre owner requires. We know how bad film CAN be; we do not know all of the problems with TV projection. More importantly, the CUSTOMER (remember him?) does not care how the picture gets onto the screen; he cares only that it is OK or better. We are about to experience a very expensive education! Louis

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10701
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001

 - posted 11-16-2005 12:03 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Digital projection systems require maintenance, just like any analog rig. Same goes for the sound systems. Expect the great tradition of bad presentation quality to continue in a good number of venues, regardless of analog or digital pedigree.

My predictions for 2015:

North America may have as little as 25% of its current theatrical screen count, if not less. The count may be as little as 10%. Some of the theaters will be IMAX or other types of special venue. Most mainstream houses will be projecting HDTV video (or maybe 4K if we're lucky). I think some revival houses will remain in business in the largest and most culturally sophisticated cities. But you're going to be hard-pressed to find theaters in most average American communities. This will happen for a variety of reasons.

Exhibitors will continue to get squeezed further by movie distributors. It's not enough for a film distributor to be profitable, they have to show a bigger profit next quarter. That way the stock price can improve and the journeyman CEO in charge for the moment can get his big fat bonus. Flooding the market with prints and shrinking the release windows to DVD have both been effective moves at sucking money away from exhibitors. Further stunts will help exhibitors die a death of a thousand cuts. At least all the red ink will make it seem that way.

I don't see the release window between theaters and home video disappearing anytime real soon. But I have doubts that release window will be around in 2015.

HD quality IPTV will be a common item in most homes by then. People will be surfing the Internet at 100Mbit/sec speeds, which is more than enough to watch 1080HD video on demand in real time. My prediction is conservative. Ten years ago, I had a 28kb/s dialup connection. Today I have a 3Mbit/sec DSL connection.

T100 quality and faster Internet connections in 2015 are going to destroy many business paradigms of broadcast, video distribution and telecommunications. We're worried about traditional movie theaters going out of business. People running traditional television stations, radio stations, long distance phone carriers and more ought to be really worried. In order to watch NBC you may have to visit their website. Many traditional outlets will have to start adapting to fit into that model pretty soon.

Movie distributors ought to be worried about fat Internet pipes too. Lots of movie theaters will disappear. But so will Hollywood's stranglehold on movie distribution. Getting access to independent and foreign films will be very easy.

A good number of folks in Hollywood and New York will still have jobs. After all, lots of video production still requires some healthy investments in equipment, studios, sets and other "production value" stuff. But the process will be more democratized and decentralized.

Onto some other comments about the current state of theaters:

quote: Dave Williams
Now we have an entire generation of young punks entering the workforce that will not do a good job for a small wage. They all seem to think they are entitled to free ipods and hummers and flat screen plasma tv's.
While I do agree there is a major segment of our work force lacking a basic sense of work ethic, the "they all want hummers and ipods" thing is just too broad a stroke to paint.

Overall, you get what you pay for in an employee. If you only want to pay minimum wage you can expect to get high turnover people who don't give a damn about 95% of the time. The other 5% are good people who won't stay long either. An assistant manager that makes only a little above minimum wage isn't going to be too compelled to care either. And if you can get a manager's job, will the pay be good enough to justify making a career out of it, especially if you can make more money elsewhere? I believe the really good theater managers are only there because they love movies. They're not there for the income. They're certainly not there over some kind of perceived duty. Such managers are increasingly rare and pretty damned generous.

Of course with the way movie exhibition companies continue to get squeezed it will be increasingly more difficult for those companies to take steps to attract a better quality workforce. I predict a worsening situation, which will help theaters disappear in a good number of markets.

quote: Scott Jentsch
Sure, poor product can and should be held responsible for some downturns, but there is enough good product to smoothe out those valleys. Blaming the product is an easy way for many to assign blame elsewhere, and not take responsibility for at least some of the problem directly.
That's true. But I think the situation is approaching the point where movie theaters can barely turn a profit off of good product.

Today a movie can make half a billion in box office gross in the first four weeks and then have attendance die off to nothing by the time the exhibitor starts seeing percentages of the take. That's all thanks to stunts like putting 8,000 or more prints into circulation. Hell, here in Lawton we had five prints of that damned Zorro sequel!

To make matters worse the distributors are constantly trying to eat in on counter sales. Do the distributors think movie theaters are non-profit 501C charities? Do they have to work for free? Who the hell is even going to pay the light bill? The movie distributors will have to go back to owning and operating the theaters themselves. Too bad they don't want to bother with any of that. If they could manage, everything would be going straight to DVD already.

If movie fans are lucky, some of the film distributors will quietly realize they need traditional movie theaters in operation to make their product legit. They're going to desperately need that kind of marketing support once the spectre of IP-everthing hits big.

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

Posts: 8318
From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004

 - posted 11-16-2005 02:03 AM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Okey, I'll chime in on the year 2015 (and hope that I'm retired by then to not to worry about all of this

We will see the results of what called "the Survival of the Fittest" - some will definitely win and some will definitely lose (if they don't get their act together..SOON).

(Mike, you and the ROXY don't have to worry about all of this in your area-you got that all locked up quite nicely and have proven yourself an excellent survivor in this exhibition ratrace. You were in the right place, the right time, and the right frame of mind. Shoot, you could even give Billings a bit of a run...)

The Class "A" exhibitors will be the very strong "Lion" in the business, whereas the Class "B" operations, being the "Antalope" in the business, will defintely suffer and could be absorbed and eaten by the "BIG Lions".

More remakes will abound us since storytelling will fall by the wayside due to the newer, agressive younger generation that is already upon us.

Digital could finally be improved to low maintenance presentation devices, but will always be a changing force since newer and better seems to be the norm. Film fotography will always be there due to the diehard camera operators and cinematographers still believe in this medium.

I'll stay home and watch my old movies on my projection system to be safe and sound.


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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12445
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 11-16-2005 04:29 AM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Monte L Fullmer
More remakes will abound us since storytelling will fall by the wayside
This is one prediction that's already coming true -- anyone look at next summer's schedule yet?

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Jeremy Jorgenson
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Chicago, IL, USA
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 - posted 11-16-2005 06:44 AM      Profile for Jeremy Jorgenson   Author's Homepage   Email Jeremy Jorgenson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bah, film remakes have been around since before any of us were born. Nothing new with that.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7991
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 11-16-2005 07:29 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A few more comments:

I don't see broadcast television going away in ten years. I have a hard time believing that I won't be able to turn on a(n) (HD)TV set in 2015 and watch ABC, NBC, and CBS on it. The networks survived cable, and will be able to survive whatever comes next, at least for the forseeable future, though their market share will surely decrease.

I also don't think that video projection in theatres will do anything to change the basic business model of the industry. By 2015, the resolution will probably be just as good as that of a quality 35mm print, but it still won't "look" quite the same (for better or worse). If anything, [dlp] will make it more difficult for small independent distributors to get their product into theatres, when compared with 35mm. Film scanning, film recording, and film technology itself will, of course, continue to improve.

Mike's theatre, drive-ins, and other non-multiplex venues should do well. If I owned a dumpy second-run multiplex, however, I'd be looking to get rid of it now.

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