Fewer movie screens, more fun stuff

Movie theaters are ditching screens in favor of activities that lure viewers away from streaming.

Movie theater screens are disappearing — but it’s not a bad thing.

Fewer movie screens, more fun stuff

Rolando Rodriguez, chairman of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told CNBC that the 30-screen megaplex is out. Instead, new theaters have 12-16 screens, while old ones are converting space into arcades, bowling alleys, and bars.

Why? We can watch almost anything we want at home in our pajamas now. Consumers need more incentive than mediocre, overpriced popcorn.

Like what?

Better sound and visuals, comfier seating, elevated food menus, and cocktails help. In 2022, 15% of domestic ticket sales were for premium screenings.

A Chicago-area theater is building a “Super EMX” auditorium featuring a 96-foot-wide screen and heated recliners so you can really be blown away by Avatar 3.

But successful programming…

… doesn’t have to include visually spectacular blockbusters — it just needs to be social and fun:

  • Warehouse Cinemas sold 1.4k $5 tickets to a “pajamas and popcorn” screening of 1988’s The Land Before Time.
  • Alamo Drafthouse’s Cocaine Bear party featured an agility course and themed food. (BTW, Cocaine Bear earned $28.4m opening weekend on a ~$35m budget.)
  • An Edinburgh theater held a Magic Mike screening with scantily clad butlers serving prosecco.

Meanwhile, Secret Cinema, known for immersive screenings, was acquired last year for $100m+ by TodayTix Groups to expand its offerings.

It’s like malls…

… elevating food courts and adding experiential “shoptainment” offerings to compete with hassle-free online shopping.

  • Placier.ai found visits to a Pennsylvania mall in 2021 increased 31%+ compared to 2018 after it turned a Sears into a casino.

BTW: A recent 25th anniversary screening of Titanic in Rio de Janeiro went viral after the theater flooded. While it may have been immersive, it was not intentional.

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