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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » NYT: To Lure Young, Movie Theaters Shake, Smell and Spritz

Author Topic: NYT: To Lure Young, Movie Theaters Shake, Smell and Spritz
Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 894
From: St. Joseph MO, USA
Registered: Sep 2010

 - posted 11-30-2014 06:57 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post

LOS ANGELES — Having tried 3-D films, earsplitting sound systems and even alcohol sales in pursuit of younger moviegoers, some theater chains are now installing undulating seats, scent machines and 270-degree screens.

For an $8 premium, a Regal theater here even sprays patrons with water and pumps scents (burning rubber, gun powder) into the auditorium. Can’t cope with two hours away from your smartphone? One theater company has found success with instant on-screen messaging — the texted comments pop up next to the action.

“When I step back and think about what will get people off a couch, in a car, down the road and into a theater, the answer is not postage stamp-sized screens and old seats,” said Gerardo I. Lopez, the chief executive of AMC Entertainment, the No. 2 chain in the United States. “Why would they bother? What the hell, stay in the house.”

If Mr. Lopez sounds frustrated, he is. Ticket revenue in North America has fallen 4 percent this year compared to the same period in 2013, according to box office analysts, and attendance is equally down. The busy Thanksgiving and Christmas moviegoing periods are not expected to make up the ground.


Seats move to reflect the action in a movie at the 4DX Regal LA Live Stadium 14 in Los Angeles. Credit J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times
The decline has hammered the biggest theater companies, with profit at both AMC and Regal Entertainment, the No. 1 chain, plunging more than 50 percent through the first nine months of this year, compared to the same period a year earlier.

But what really has the exhibition industry unnerved are two statistics released in the spring by the Motion Picture Association of America. Last year, despite a glut of extravagant action movies, the number of frequent moviegoers ages 18 to 24 dropped 17 percent, compared to a year earlier; the 12-to-17 age bracket dropped 13 percent.

The undiscerning young ticket buyers Hollywood has long counted on to turn out weekend after weekend are suddenly discerning. Or they are at least busying themselves with video games, living room wide-screen televisions and devices that can pull up thousands of movies with a couple of clicks. For many teenagers, the idea of focusing on a single screen for an extended stretch is anathema.

“The traditional moviegoing experience is at odds with the rest of their lives,” said Ben Carlson, president of Fizziology, a consultancy that focuses on entertainment and social media.

To combat the problem, theater chains seem increasingly open to trying just about anything. Regal, for instance, in June began offering something called 4DX in downtown Los Angeles. More than 100 seats buck and dip in close synchronization with the action on the screen. Compressed air blasts from headrests to simulate flying bullets. Fans provide a gentle wind effect.

There are two types of water effects: rain, which drops from the ceiling, and mist, which is squirted from the seat in front of you. (Patrons can turn off the water by pressing a button.)

“We’re adding to the story, not taking away from it,” said Catherine Yi, a senior editor for CJ 4Dplex, the company behind the technology. More 4DX theaters are on the way, both in the United States and abroad. Competing companies like D-Box and MediaMation are racing to roll out similar motion-seat offerings.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
For many cinephiles, this is sacrilege. Even some Hollywood executives joke about bringing motion-sickness bags and raincoats.

But the target audience — men 18 to 24 — seems to enjoy it, with screenings often selling out, according to studio distribution managers. “It’s way cooler than it sounds,” said David Ramirez, 25, as he left a crowded 4DX screening of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” last weekend.


The theater also uses wind, rain and mist effects to try to bolster attendance by young males. Credit J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times
Newfangled multiplex ideas come and go all the time. Peter Jackson in 2012 promised to revolutionize moviegoing by exhibiting his “Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in a faster, hyper-realistic 48 frames per second. Ticket buyers thought otherwise. The 3-D boom of recent years has also waned.

Going back further, Smell-o-Vision and AromaRama — 1960s-era attempts by exhibitors to compete with the surging popularity of television — both quickly fizzled.

But the current move toward interactivity and immersion is unlikely to go away entirely, analysts say, in part because of a generational shift.

Continue reading the main story

LW 5 minutes ago
Here's what I want: No ads. A couple of previews, not five or six. OK, let's split the difference; how about three? Then let's get into the...
Eric W. 5 minutes ago
Unfortunately, I still do not get why people do spend their hard earned money by going to the movie theaters. More and more movies have...
Maani 6 minutes ago
For those who are not aware, the money you pay for a movie ticket goes primarily to the film company: up to 90%. The theater only gets a...
“You’re trying to figure out if there’s something you can offer in the theater that I would not find appealing, but my 18-year-old son might,” Amy E. Miles, Regal’s chief executive, told attendees at a gathering of movie theater owners in 2012, when some of the concepts now rolling out were first discussed.

Disney over the last two years has conducted theatrical testing of an initiative it calls Second Screen. Moviegoers were encouraged to bring iPads and use apps to play games that relate to the action in the movie. During one test, conducted during a rerelease of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” 50 percent of the audience had iPads.

Allowing patrons to use their smartphones in certain auditoriums has been discussed intermittently by exhibitors, although worries about piracy, among other factors, have prevented that notion from moving forward in the United States. But theater chains paid keen attention to a recent texting trial in China.

At August screenings in 11 cities of “The Legend of Qin,” an animated movie, ticket buyers were allowed to log on to a Wi-Fi network and use their mobile phones to text with other attendees as the film played. The messages appeared next to the action, much like VH1’s “Pop Up Video” program.

AMC, now owned by the Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate, says it has no immediate plans to allow texting. But the chain is moving ahead with an enhanced experience called AMC Prime. Now operating in nine American cities with more on the way, AMC Prime theaters have ButtKicker-brand subwoofers inside reclining seats (the marketing slogan: “Get ready to feel every wow”) and 60 speakers over all, double the number in a standard AMC auditorium.

America’s third-largest chain, Cinemark, has lately experimented with theaters in four states (California, Florida, Illinois and Texas) that offer a 270-degree viewing experience. The first film to be shown in the format was the young-adult thriller “The Maze Runner.”

“Our customers really seemed to like it,” said Timothy Warner, Cinemark’s chief executive.

But Mr. Warner vowed that Cinemark would go only so far. “Unlike some of the others,” he said, “we still think the reason people go to the movies is to see movies.”

"To combat the problem, theater chains seem increasingly open to trying just about anything" Anything but proper presentation, it seems. Check out one of those embedded comments- complaining about ads. Imagine that.

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Dennis Benjamin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1445
From: Denton, MD
Registered: Feb 2002

 - posted 11-30-2014 07:35 PM      Profile for Dennis Benjamin   Author's Homepage   Email Dennis Benjamin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I said this earlier today on a social media site:

Regal, AMC, and Cinemark lack an important aspect of a good business: Proper customer service. The "Big 3" have cut their payrolls massively to try and get their balance sheets to look good. Problem is, by doing so, they have slit their own throats. They have made the movie going experience less enjoyable by creating longer lines and having fewer knowledgable people working in their buildings. The proper phrase is "They've cut off their noses despite their faces". This article is a great example of how these companies REFUSE to acknowledge the REAL problem. How would I prove I am correct on this one? There is a little four plex theatre located in Easton, Maryland. The Theatre by most standards is old, kinda smelly, and not the greatest venue. However, we made a massive shift there - having managers go in to talk to the customers, get the customers involved (using thier feedback) etc. This theatre will outperform it's numbers last year. As a matter of fact, I'm quite sure it's already outgrossed last year's numbers - and we still have a month to go. It does not have anything fancy going on - yet people love coming there. What happened to good ole fashioned customer service?

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Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 894
From: St. Joseph MO, USA
Registered: Sep 2010

 - posted 11-30-2014 07:47 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Amen, and Kudos! we need more like that. We need theaters that CARE. Plain and simple.

As mentioned by many in the 'Regal for sale' thread, it would be a boon to the industry as a whole to see Regal bought by an investment company and broken up/sold to everyone else. They're entirely too big and presentation/customer experience has gone to the bottom of the list, despite what they'll have you think.

And try paying valuable employees fairly. They're the face of the company. They need to be proud to work there, not embarrassed. But this has all been covered 100 times over on this site.

Keep it up, Dennis!

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Martin McCaffery
Film God

Posts: 2481
From: Montgomery, AL
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 11-30-2014 08:50 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When you are a big Corp like Regal or McDonald's, customer service translates into getting as much money from as many people as quickly as possible. The audience is there to leave money in as many was as possible and to have the exact same experience every time. Adding the personal touch just screws up the system.

The System would work so damn much better if people weren't involved [Wink]

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Edward Havens
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 614
From: Los Angeles, CA
Registered: Mar 2008

 - posted 12-02-2014 11:58 PM      Profile for Edward Havens   Email Edward Havens   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Dennis Benjamin
The "Big 3" have cut their payrolls massively to try and get their balance sheets to look good.
I'm sorry, Dennis, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. As a current manager of one of these companies, and until six months ago, a manager of another one of these companies, I believe I can speak with some knowledge about how these companies operate, and the theatres I worked at for both companies were never under some Draconian orders to slash our budgets. We're trained to staff wisely, which is how I was trained at UATC 28 years ago. Know your business, know when you need to go balls out on staffing and know when you need to run at minimum.

As for customer service, that's on the individual managers, not the companies.

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