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Author Topic: Why aren't classics shown on the biggest screens?
Geoff Jones
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 - posted 08-15-2019 12:51 PM      Profile for Geoff Jones   Author's Homepage   Email Geoff Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If a theater is showing a classic movie, why don't they show it on a really large screen, to offer something the viewer can't get at home?

For example, Alamo Drafthouse Westminster is showing Mad Max: Fury Road tonight at 7:00 in a smallish theater with 115 seats. They have sold 32 tickets so far.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is on their premium "Big Show" screen at the same time and has sold 15 tickets so far.

I've seen similar numbers repeatedly at multiple chains. Classics sell more tickets than current blockbusters showing at the same time, yet they are usually on smaller screens.

I would pay to see MM:FR on the big screen, but it isn't worth it to me on the smaller one. I can put in the Blu-Ray and watch it on a decent-sized screen at home. How many other customers are making that same decision?

Forget about screen size for a moment - tonight's MM:FR seating chart shows that the most generally desirable seats are already taken. If it were in the larger auditorium, that would not be the case. How many customers have looked at that and decided not to attend?

This just seems like a missed opportunity... money on the table.

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Scott Norwood
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 - posted 08-15-2019 12:57 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree with you, but it's probably a booking restriction. Generally, a major first-run title is not allowed to share a screen with another title, even for a midnight show. Some cinemas seem to have found ways around this (or just ignored the restriction and done it anyway) for midnight shows, but that would be my guess for the reason.

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Mitchell Dvoskin
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 - posted 08-15-2019 01:33 PM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) a "classic"?

I suspect the real reason is that in most locations, with a few exceptions in major cities, a "classic" film will not draw more than 75 to 100 paying customers.

Everyone says that they would like to see their favorite classics on the big screen again, but when it comes to putting their cold hard cash down at the boxoffice, it seem that most are nowhere to be found.

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Geoff Jones
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 - posted 08-15-2019 01:57 PM      Profile for Geoff Jones   Author's Homepage   Email Geoff Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Scott, are there any examples of theaters being penalized for breaking this "rule?" It's hard to imagine Sony getting their panties in a bunch over one showing three weeks after OUaTiH opened. (And anyone who wants to see OUaTiH on the big screen has dozens of other opportunities.)

Incidentally, Harkins Northfield in Denver is showing four different titles on its premium screen over the next several days, with two or three titles there each day. (Angry Birds 2, 47 Meters Down, Good Boys, and Apocalypse Now.) I wonder if they are breaking the rules or if they have a special arrangement with the (4!) different studios distributing those films... Either way, it's nice to see them making the extra effort to provide these opportunities for their customers.

quote: Mitchell Dvoskin
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) a "classic"?
Everyone has different tastes. I define a classic as any film people are willing to revisit in the theater. Have you got a better definition?

quote: Mitchell Dvoskin
I suspect the real reason is that in most locations, with a few exceptions in major cities, a "classic" film will not draw more than 75 to 100 paying customers.

Everyone says that they would like to see their favorite classics on the big screen again, but when it comes to putting their cold hard cash down at the boxoffice, it seem that most are nowhere to be found.

I don't understand this reply at all. I've provided data showing that more people are willing to put down their cold hard cash to see an older film than a current release in the metro Denver area tonight, and I have seen this in other areas as well.

And besides, the whole point of my post was to suggest a reason why more people aren't attending: Because theaters aren't showing them on big screens!

What is the relevance of 75 to 100 paying customers? I've seen reports on these forums about multiplexes that aren't drawing 75 to 100 paying customers for an entire day on some days. Should they just close those days? Or maybe try something different?

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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Definately booking restrictions. The exhibitor has signed a contract to play it in X sized auditorium for X number of weeks.

Mark

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Mitchell Dvoskin
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 - posted 08-15-2019 04:32 PM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
> I define a classic as any film people are willing to revisit in the theater. Have you got a better definition?

My definition would be any film that remains popular over many decades. I do not doubt that many recent vintage films would draw a theatrical audience, but to me that does not make it a classic. Just my opinion, nothing more.

I can't speak to the Denver market, but here in suburban New Jersey, those venues that regularly run classic films rarely draw more than 100 paying customers.

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Geoff Jones
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 - posted 08-15-2019 06:04 PM      Profile for Geoff Jones   Author's Homepage   Email Geoff Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Mitchell Dvoskin
I can't speak to the Denver market, but here in suburban New Jersey, those venues that regularly run classic films rarely draw more than 100 paying customers.
Again, the reference to "100 paying customers" makes no sense to me.

There aren't theaters in West Milford, NJ with reserved seating, so I can't tell how many tickets they are selling, but the AMC in Rockaway, NJ twenty-two miles south has sold a whopping 27 tickets to Hobbs & Shaw for the 7pm showing that just started in their Dolby Cinema auditorium. By my math, a classic film screening in that auditorium tonight would need to sell 28 tickets, not 100, in order to make more money.

But my point was not that more theaters should show classics (although they should!), my point was that theaters showing classics should put them on their largest screens.

quote: Mark Gulbrandsen
Definately booking restrictions. The exhibitor has signed a contract to play it in X sized auditorium for X number of weeks.
I keep hearing this, but I also keep running into examples where it doesn't appear to be true. When looking at the AMC Rockaway, I noticed they are playing multiple titles in their Dolby Cinema Auditorium. (Dora (Par) and Hobbs (Uni) this week, then Blinded By The Light (WB) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony) starting tomorrow.) Maybe I'm naive, but I find it hard to believe they negotiated arrangements between all four studios to juggle showtimes in that auditorium. Wouldn't the paperwork and legal review make that cost-prohibitive?

There may actually be booking restrictions in the fine print of their contracts, but based on what I keep seeing, it doesn't seem like the studios care.

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 08-15-2019 06:26 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When you are AMC you have a little more weight to throw around than if you are an art theatre in the middle of nowhere. Alamo is somewhere in the middle of those. Nonetheless, the number of people who make their decisions based on screen size is so small it is probably beyond measuring. The difference between 25 and 18 people to a chain like AMC is not worth a phone call to a distributor. Likewise dropping one screening the 4th week into a run to show a one off is not going to get Sony to stop booking with AMC.

Very little in the film distribution business makes "sense." You just have to deal with it.

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Helmut Maripuu
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 - posted 08-15-2019 06:32 PM      Profile for Helmut Maripuu   Email Helmut Maripuu   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In Sweden we can visit the Film Institute which has about 1800 films in its archive. All 70 mm films shown in Sweden are available in cold stores
old films are digitally restored and developed as digital and ordinary 35/70 mm film.
Just filling out the form, usually the movie will come up in the program.

https://www.filminstitutet.se/sv/om-oss/filmhuset/biografsalonger/

https://www.filminstitutet.se/sv/om-oss/filmhuset/biografsalonger/

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Geoff Jones
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quote: Martin McCaffery
Nonetheless, the number of people who make their decisions based on screen size is so small it is probably beyond measuring.
I don't buy this. Theaters spend millions to design, build, and promote "Premium Large Format" auditoriums. (RPX, Cine1, CineCapri, Dolby Cinema, Imax, LieMax, UltraScreen, EPIC, SDX, GDX, SuperScreen DLX, BigD(!), ETX, Prime, UltraAVX, XD, etc.) I can't believe they spend all that money for a customer segment so small it is probably beyond measuring.

quote: Martin McCaffery
Very little in the film distribution business makes "sense."
This, I buy. [Smile]

quote: Martin McCaffery
You just have to deal with it.
I don't know about this. I took my kids to Harkins Tuesday Night Classics occasionally and noticed that there were more people in attendance at the classics than at whatever was in their PFL auditorium. I reached out to them on social media and email to ask that they move those showings to the big screen. They've started doing that for some showings, and based on my casual observation, attendance at those showings has increased. Customers are having a better experience and the theater is making more money.

#AndyDufresne

quote: Helmut Maripuu
Just filling out the form, usually the movie will come up in the program.
[thumbsup]

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Mike Spaeth
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Studios don't dictate house placement, Mark. The last film that was done with was Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This phenomenon can be chalked up to several things: lazy managers, lazy film buyers, or sometimes, in the case of Fathom Events, the equipment necessary to run the show is only present on a couple of screens in the building. The studios care only about a "full schedule" and if you do proper "three-dimensional" programming to maximize your building's output, it doesn't matter what auditorium a particular show runs in.

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 08-16-2019 01:14 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I do mind the auditorium something is played in. Especially a classic movie revival has no business being screened at screen 47 in a multiplex, then I rather watch it at home, thank you.

It doesn't need to play in the biggest auditorium either, but it does need to be a decent sized room, preferably something that still looks like a proper cinema.

Also, going to the movies and sitting in an empty theater might be fun now and then, especially if you're not working in the industry and can have that perk essentially as often as you want, but there is actually something special when seeing a movie as part as a larger audience.

I can still remember sell out or near sell outs for reruns of classics and semi-classics (where-ever you draw the line) like Brazil, The Big Lebowski, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Saving Private Ryan, Titanic, The Shawshank Redemption, The Wall, The Right Stuff, 2001, Ben-Hur and a lot more. Those are really fun to watch, especially because you are there with other people that come there either for the experience or specially for that movie.

But even for such events, you need to build an audience, you can't just randomly schedule a classic movie in your otherwise first-run schedule and think a whole bunch of people will show up. It needs time, so people actually start to watch your programming and decide to free up their busy schedule to come to you.

The problem is, it requires some dedication, a human touch, somebody curating a program, know how to advertise it and build a bit of cult status around it, so you get a regular following. Then this sort of thing can actually make money. But this is not something you can expect from a mega-chain like AMC. Too much effort for the potential gain...

And yes, there are often booking restrictions, not so much fitting in this one show into the existing schedule, but getting an acceptable deal (as in the rental costs and permission) from the studio/distributor to actually be allowed to screen that particular movie isn't always easy... (And then there's that other thing: Getting a DCP that works or... imagine, even an actual film print...) Been there, done that. And since Fox is now Disney, stuff hasn't really gotten better in that regard.

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Martin McCaffery
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quote: Geoff Jones
I can't believe they spend all that money for a customer segment so small it is probably beyond measuring.
They are building them to showcase the movies that are made for them, and for which they can charge a premium. Your original example, Mad Max Fury Road, was certainly made to be seen on a gargantuan screen, and I suspect everyone in your area who wanted to saw it that way the first time around. But I don't see any reason Casablanca (to pick a classic) needs to show in an ultra wide, dolby atmos, 4k super theatre. As noted above, big chains are not in the business of hand crafting and curating their programming. Pick the empty theatre and put it in is probably the full extent of their curation.

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Jesse Skeen
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I'd go so far to say that theaters shouldn't even HAVE those smaller screens. Some of them are downright embarrassing. You might as well tell the patrons that they have crappy taste in movies to see something that they put on those screens. I have to laugh when the studios advertise something as "See it on the big screen!"

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Lyle Romer
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quote:
I'd go so far to say that theaters shouldn't even HAVE those smaller screens. Some of them are downright embarrassing. You might as well tell the patrons that they have crappy taste in movies to see something that they put on those screens. I have to laugh when the studios advertise something as "See it on the big screen!"
100% agree. Once they reach a minimum screen size (40 ft maybe), capacity reduction should be accomplished by making the auditorium shorter. I know the sound will suffer at some point due to the length to width ratio. When you get to the point where it can't be dealt with, that is your smallest auditorium.

People can argue viewing distance and sight lines until they are blue in the face but there is a difference in experience when the same percentage of your field of vision is filled by a 20 foot wide screen vs. a 60 foot wide screen.

Other visual cues let us determine the size of the image. To offset that ability requires VR goggles so that all you can see is the image.

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