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Movies Businesses The Almighty Buck

A Subscription-Based Movie Theater 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the works-for-tv dept.
When the local movie theater in Oakhurst, California went out of business, residents were stuck without a way to watch films on the big screen without driving for at least an hour beforehand. Now, three men are trying to resurrect the theater with one major change: instead of relying solely on ticket sales, their business model revolves around subscriptions. From the article: 'They ran models of Nelson's subscription-based theater idea, showing that to break even they would need 3,000 people, or 15% of the mountain communities, to sign up. For $19.95 per month, a member would be able to see each movie one time and buy individual tickets for friends. Non-members could buy a $16 day pass. While researching the theater business, Nelson learned that studios are transitioning to digital distribution. Thousands of independent theaters that couldn't afford equipment upgrades have closed over the last 10 years, according to industry experts. Hundreds of others — which, like the Met, still show print films — remain on the brink. The subscription business model could pay for the new equipment.'
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A Subscription-Based Movie Theater

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    $20 monthly pass pays for itself after 2 movies.

    • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:53PM (#42446827)

      I don't know about you, perhaps I am an old fuddy duddy, but I can't imagine that 15% of residents would go for that. I personally go to cinemas barely once per year and a lot of the folks I know are similar. Okay, there is the day pass options, which would work, but if their business model relies on 15% as being the critical mass needed, it seems a bet with some rather long odds.

      And while $20 a month does pass for itself after two movies, are you really going to go to see that many movies? Are there even that many new movies coming out these days - let alone that many worth watching?

      Now, if the cinema was playing older movies or classics along with the new releases, that might start to get interesting.

      • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:29PM (#42447021) Homepage

        Membership has its priviledges.

        I am sure there are a lot of ways they could add incentives in with the price of admission. There is still something nice about the act of going to the cinema. Watching shows at home tends to be a less formal thing and so you usually don't turn your phone off and other distractions tend to take precedence. At the movies, you are locking yourself away and dedicating yourself to the big screen experience.

        I might return to the theaters if I had a subscription of some sort. I think perhaps $20/monthly would not be a plan suitable for me, but perhaps a "discount membership" which would enable me to watch movies at a discount and perhaps excluding "opening night" movies would be a better plan for me.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AaronMK (1375465)
          What stops you from turning off your phone at home?
      • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lawpoop (604919) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:39PM (#42447069) Homepage Journal
        Maybe you are the new-fangled type that prefers to watch media on their home entertainment system?

        I've found that certain movies are enjoyable on the big screen, and less so on the small. Does that mean they lack something? Probably -- but for me, it's about the experience of the film. If it needs to be seen on the big screen for me to properly get the full effect, so be it. If it makes a less stellar movie feel like it was worth it, then it was worth it.

        I don't go to the movies twice a month-- probably more 6-8 times a year-- but if I could go whenever for $19.95 a month, I might see almost every movie. If have have to shell out $10 for a movie, I have to think really hard if it will be worth it. If I've already shelled out the cash, it's a no-brainer.
        • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Insightful)

          by NFN_NLN (633283) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @12:12AM (#42447637)

          Maybe you are the new-fangled type that prefers to watch media on their home entertainment system?

            I've found that certain movies are enjoyable on the big screen, and less so on the small.

          'White man make big fire... sit far away. Indian make small fire... sit close.'

          Sorry, I actually agree regarding the theater experience. But honestly, how often do you get to use the above quote in the actual context it was intended? :)

        • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @01:22AM (#42447947)

          Maybe you are the new-fangled type that prefers to watch media on their home entertainment system?

          Yes and No. Yes, I do watch quite a bit of media on the home entertainment system - but at the same time, for a select bunch of movies, I really do want to watch them on the big screen first. The problem is that there aren't many that fall into that bucket. The last lot I saw were The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Avatar. Having said, I would be quite happy to maybe do a LOtR Trilogy one day, then see the hobbit the next day.

          Or you know what, how about Game of Thrones or BSG at the cinema? I do know quite a few folks that would probably LOVE to watch those as a weekly event. I guess what I was trying to say was why does a cinema have to show ONLY the newest movies (most of which I think are crap) - why not expand into a different niche?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The subscribers might have a vote in what movies come to the theater... who knows? I go to the movies all the time and would surely take the deal. And looking at our local prices of $12.75 for a primetime movie on a weekend, the daypass does not seem that bad. Hey, they could always become members, right?

      • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @11:04PM (#42447213) Homepage

        I think you underestimate how much the local community might be willing to back up local business, if it's clear that the choice is otherwise having none at all. Once you start losing social facilities like the cinema then young people start moving away and you turn into a dying community of old farts. I live in a considerably bigger city and never feel my presence is "make-or-break" for services, sure individual shops come and go but there'll always be another. Out near our cabin I notice an entirely different attitude in the permanent residents, they'd better use the local services because otherwise they'll go tits up and then they won't have any. With apologies to Niemöller:

        First the market forces came for the cinema, and I didn't care out since I didn't use the cinema.
        Then they came for the restaurant, and I didn't care since I didn't go to the restaurant.
        Then they came for the hospital, and I didn't care since I was healthy and didn't need it.
        Then they came for the grocery store, and I found everyone else had already left.

      • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Interesting)

        by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @11:56PM (#42447561)

        Now, if the cinema was playing older movies or classics along with the new releases, that might start to get interesting.

        I have often thought that a cinema with smaller rooms and a giant database of TV shows and movies that you could rent by the hour would work. Want to watch 20 hours of Buffy or Star Trek with friends? Groovy, get some comfy chairs, a big screen, and all the popcorn you can pay for. Soundproofing and a private screening means you can yak it up.

        But then, I suppose people would prefer their own home cinema in a lot of circumstances, and unsupervised people in dark rooms...

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          Sounds a bit like how karaoke is done here, but then with movies instead of music.

          It may work - assuming there is a really good video system and a really large collection of video available - except for the licensing of content which most definitely will get in the way...

      • It probably wouldn't work for cinemas in most cities because yes, people would just go down the street to another theater. In a one stop-light town like Oakhurst, however, it could make sense. The closest option for them to go to the movies is to drive all the way to Fresno, and face it, who wants to go to Fresno unless you absolutely have to. And as far as seeing more movies with this plan, think of it like the Netflixs business model. Our family subscribes to Netflixs, and we wind up watching many obs
      • by Xeranar (2029624)

        Yeah, you are an oddity. You do not even come close to the average movie goer. 15% is about 1 in 7 which is easily done. Especially if you account for multiple subscriptions in a household. What you're really going for is somewhere around 10% of households which is a completely viable number.

      • You're right. Any startup business plan that depends on 15% sign up is doomed.

    • Re:Great Deal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Canazza (1428553) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:31AM (#42449095)

      In the UK, one of the biggest cinema chains in the country - CineWorld - already do a subscription pass that lets you in to any film any number of times, while still using the old distribution model for normal customers.

      The problem is that, while yes, you can get in to see any film any time, you still have queue to get a ticket from the desk, and you *cannot* purchase on line ahead of time. Normal paying customers can, so for big blockbuster films on opening night (or opening week depending on how popular it is) it can be nigh on impossible to actually get in for a card holder without having to pay *anyway* just to book ahead.

      My mum runs a film group and about 60% of their members have this card, and they're pretty much always treated like second class citizens, with one cashier even outright stating that they don't really care about card holders because they don't bring in any money for them. That card holders tend to be more money savvy and as such won't buy the overprices drinks and popcorn from the stalls.

      Then, down the road, there's the smaller, more indie, cinema. Doesn't show as many blockbusters, quite a few indie films, focuses on the smaller, but popular films. Like Life of Pi, Mostly the focus on really good events. I went to see the original cut of Alien and Aliens in there, using the original reels. I missed it, but they also had James Earl Jones taking a Q&A once. They're showing Spirited Away later this month, and I think February is shaping up to be Studio Ghibli month.
      It has a really nice bar area (that you wouldn't mind visiting outside of watching a film), and they let you take alcohol into the showing (in plastic glasses), infact, all the smaller cinemas around here do that kind of thing. They don't have over-priced stalls, but they will offer you popcorn from behind the bar. And they're doing quite well.

      It's not the pricing model that's failing, it's knowing your core audience and catering for them. If your in a city you can pick and choose your core audience (as exampled above by a giant conglomorate cinema company co-existing 4 streets away from one of the oldest cinemas in the city), however if you're in a small town, or the middle of nowhere, if your core audience doesn't want to go see films, no alternate pricing models are going to fix that. What you need to do is remind them there's a cinema there. Throw some events. Find out what films your patrons want to see and put those films on, even if they're 20 or 30 years old, hell, even if it's from before there was sound, if they want to see it, get a hold of it and put it on.

      There seems to be this crazy notion that people only go to the cinema to see new films.

      Bullshit. People go to see films in the cinema because watching films in the cinema is fun.

      Also, Sing-along Grease night [glasgowfilm.org]

  • by godrik (1287354) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:06PM (#42446527)

    UGC (the AMC theatres in France) used to (maybe still have) memberships that allowed you to see evey movie they show as many times as you want for 15euros. Lots of people were subscribing to it. I am sure they can manage it. Thought the $16 day pass for non subscriber seems over the top. I hope they also have regular $8/10 ticket for one movie. (most people wont see two movies in one day)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's worth mentioning that the summary proposes the subscription model to justify theater upgrades:

      " Thousands of independent theaters that couldn't afford equipment upgrades have closed over the last 10 years, according to industry experts. Hundreds of others — which, like the Met, still show print films — remain on the brink. The subscription business model could pay for the new equipment. "

      Keep in mind that there are plenty of independent movie theaters which play older/obscure/foreign movies, and having character and not being newfangled everything is part of the experience. San Diego's Ken Cinema, [staticflickr.com] being a good example. Before the movie starts they throw out huge balloons everybody swats around, there are no annoying ushers to see if you're sneaking in the drink, and they play movies you wouldn

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Keep in mind that there are plenty of independent movie theaters which play older/obscure/foreign movies,

        As the movie making industry transitions away from film, they're going to start shutting down the industrial bases that makes and develops film.

        This is a HUGE FUCKING PROBLEM because the color correction notes for every film are based on the specific film stock being used and the specific blend of chemicals used by the development house.

        There's a lot of work that goes into every reel of film and everyone involved in the business is either retiring or headed for other work.
        Such is the digital wave.

    • by cmseagle (1195671)

      I hope they also have regular $8/10 ticket for one movie. (most people wont see two movies in one day)

      Seeing as how the previous iteration of the business went under following that model, I don't think it's likely that they'll be attempting it. I think that if the customers know that they can go to the movies for $8/10 like they're used to, the theater will be hard pressed to hit that 3,000 member mark.

    • by fermion (181285) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @11:03PM (#42447203) Homepage Journal
      This is club model. For a fixed fee you get to use the services of the club. Some will use the services a lot, some not so much. But because dues are collected monthly, fixed costs are piad.

      In the US, it is my understanding that most of the box office goes to the movie distributor. So if someone sees a opening weekend movie every weekend, I assume that would be the whole $20 to the studio, or even more. The article did say they would be paying studio based on viewership, and I have been told that studios do take most of the ticket sales for the the first weekend, So this model clearly depends on people not going to see very many movies. Yet is subscribers are nor going to movies, then one wonders if they will be subscribers

      Movie theaters are just restaurants that show movies. Sundance and Alamo has made that a formal setup. Theaters near formal restaurants have to fight to stay alive. If you want your theater to stay open, buy concessions. Yes it does suck to think the true cost of a movie is $25 per person, but that is what it costs. If it is too expensive, go to the Opera, where a ticket can often be $15, and there is no expectation to buy or consume refreshments.

  • I've been to theaters that sell monthly/yearly passes to frequent movie-goers. From what I've seen though the model is typically to offer a steep discount for tickets if you hold a pass.

    • by alostpacket (1972110) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:43PM (#42446771) Homepage

      Indeed, season passes are as old as the discovery of fire. The Amalgamated Neanderthal Conglomerate "Ungfrthfrulptlf" (GmbH) used to paint on the cave walls about amazing savings:

      Club just one woman and kill two mammoths a year and enjoy a VIP spot of dirt by the campfire!*

      MUCH cheaper than a saber-tooth per fire.

      *Cannot be combined with any other cave painting. Limited time offer. Dirt spots dependent upon availability and size of mammoth, woman.

  • Better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by simplexion (1142447) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:15PM (#42446573)
    Where I live in Australia it costs around $17 per adult to see a movie at the cinema. The last movie I went to had around 8 people watching it. If they charged $5 per adult I bet there would have been a lot more people watching that movie (that may have also purchased overpriced crappy food from the candy bar).
    It is ridiculous to expect $17 from someone to watch a shitty movie, considering the majority of movies pumped out these days are pretty terrible.
    • by afidel (530433)

      I just saw Skyfall at a matinee and it was $5.50 per adult, surprise surprise the theater was full which is pretty good for a movie that's been out for 7 weeks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wisnoskij (1206448)

        That is a decent price, but even $5 is really on the high end when you are talking about sitting in a $5 chair in a big concrete box for 2 hours watching a screen only like 10 times bigger than what many people have a home nowadays. Even without factoring in the profits from snacks and candy a business model should be maintainable on like $1 a viewing.

      • Re:Better idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:28PM (#42447015)

        Similarly, I just went to go see The Hobbit earlier today with a coworker (my supervisor, in fact...we skipped out of work early since he wanted to see it), and it was $4 for each of us. To say the least, the theater was packed, despite the fact that our college town is virtually empty while everyone is gone for the holidays. Mind you, this isn't some trashy theater in a seedy part of town either. It's a standard Cinemark in a good location with all of the usual amenities you'd see in an urban center (digital projectors, 3D, XD, and whatever other marketing terms they've invented since I last looked). I think the reason our prices are so low is because our area has around 200,000 people, 50,000 of whom are fickle college students that will go to whichever theater is cheapest, and there's a Premiere theater just down the street that has shown a willingness to closely match the prices Cinemark posts up.

        I've always heard that the concession stand is where the money is at in a theater, and if that's true, I don't know why they're not dropping prices on tickets to get more butts in seats. As it is, higher ticket prices just encourage people to spend more time and money at home with their own entertainment setup.

        • by hjf (703092)

          maybe that's cause if you drop the price too much, you get a bunch of cheapskates who aren't going to get any popcorn anyway.

          • This doesn't have to be an either/or. You can have it both ways.

            If you're charging $17 per ticket and only get eight people in the showing (as the OP said was happening), you're wasting perfectly good seats that could have been generating you revenue from concessions. Surely a packed theater, even one with cheapskates, would have resulted in more concessions sales than one with only eight of your better customers?

            The only time cheapskates become an issue is when your theater is getting so full that the chea

    • by muphin (842524)
      I agree, i refuse to go to the movies cause its so expensive, i would consider going if it was $10 a ticket...
      the subscription model seems very good , even have family packages...
      if it was $20/mo i would go more often (or say $49.90 for 2 adults and 2 kids), considering when you have kids they also want food, the sales would boost (although $50/mo does start to feel steep per month... even if you miss a few months).
    • by Mitsoid (837831)

      However, a subscription model is also a good counter to this quantity-over-quality price strategy they have...

      They can pump out as much crappy movies as they want and the viewers can choose to watch it or not... but compared to a traditional model you only need to see 2 or 3 movies to 'break even'

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Where I live in Australia it costs around $17 per adult to see a movie at the cinema. The last movie I went to had around 8 people watching it. If they charged $5 per adult I bet there would have been a lot more people watching that movie

      But if they'd make any money on it would very much depend on whether the cinema is charged per viewer or per showing of the movie and I suspect it's the former. It'd be very hard to make individual deals depending on the "willingness to pay" in that particular town, most likely they're charged as much as other cinemas who may have an audience more willing to pay. In my experience the smaller, regional cinemas are at least as expensive as the big city cinemas, even though rural salaries are typically lower.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Where I live in Australia it costs around $17 per adult to see a movie at the cinema. The last movie I went to had around 8 people watching it. If they charged $5 per adult I bet there would have been a lot more people watching that movie (that may have also purchased overpriced crappy food from the candy bar).

      It is ridiculous to expect $17 from someone to watch a shitty movie, considering the majority of movies pumped out these days are pretty terrible.

      On the other hand, for shitty movies, its ridiculous to even contemplate watching them in a theater, no matter the price.
      After all, that's what the "shitty rental movies Friday nights" are for (take 7 weeklies for $7, make fun of them from the leisure on your couch). I found the time for the today's movies to get into the weekly category is about 3-4 months from their launch in cinemas - good enough for me.

    • by sdnoob (917382)

      http://fallstheatre.com/ [fallstheatre.com] survives and thrives as a first-run budget theater, 40 year running with the current owner who has a passion for movies and the movie-going experience. today, tickets are an i'm-not-shitting-you $2.00-$3.00 each, snack prices also low (around a buck now, iirc). admission is only a buck more than it was some 20 years ago. granted, as a first-run theater with a single screen, you might have to wait awhile before you can see a specific new release ... but still, it's a very cheap date

  • Another idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:19PM (#42446607)

    would be the Green Bay Packers model [wikipedia.org] of community ownership. Keep the theater private but sell shares in the company; for $300 you would be part owner, and would be able to buy a subscription for either $15/month or get a $3 discount on individual tickets.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      would be the Green Bay Packers model [wikipedia.org] of community ownership. Keep the theater private but sell shares in the company; for $300 you would be part owner, and would be able to buy a subscription for either $15/month or get a $3 discount on individual tickets.

      How much would I have to pay to skip the ads?

  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:25PM (#42446651) Homepage
    Wouldn't it be an even better idea to allow subscribers to see all the movies they want?  a) it sounds like a better deal for potential customers and b) they are still likely to purchase overpriced refreshments, which is the real cash cow of a movie theater.

    Not to mention not having to track who has seen what.

    Duh.
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      What?!? Popcorn and soda isn't included? I already pay $20 with popcorn and soda.

    • This is my thing. If I was going to subscribe to a movie theater, I'd get to go as many times as I wanted. I wouldn't be locked into seeing the good shows only once. It would probably end up with more 'day pass' customers since you'd likely bring new friends with you on the subsequent visits.

      Regardless on whether it's a good ideas for the theater though, it's the only way I'd ever even consider 'subscribing' to a theater. Make it like a bus-pass (unlimited rides) or forget about it.

    • by Ixokai (443555)

      Did you miss the part of RTFA where it talks about movie distribution contracts? They aren't free to set any business model they want. They owe a percentage to the upstream provider based on "ticket sales" -- every person in a seat for every showing -- and are *required* to track that.

      Now, I have no idea how they're calculating ticket sales or basing the percentage owed off of what value or any of the various details involved, but public showing of movies requires a separate license and those terms are not

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:36PM (#42446723)

    Payphone booths and arcades are. Plain and simple. Too many other options.

    I only go to the movies for the latest releases (so few that are worth it). The big players will hang on. I almost think the small theaters are being run out by design - because the longer a movie is out, the bigger cut the theater gets from ticket sales which start out at 100% for the studios.

    Today, people can buy 70" flat led screen for around $1900, an 83" Mitsubishi dlp for $1800 (92" for $2800). Rent 3-6 month old movies at Redbox for a little over a buck, stream it from Netflix, etc.

    It's a shame, because of the whole going out of the house thing (although, since I only view Matinees where it's empty - any potential social value dwindles to nothing). Speaking of social value, the only theater that's been built in my growing area the last 10 years has been one that is a restaurant and where you can order real food. So, added value options may grow from being a novelty to the norm.

    Who knows, with TVs getting cheaper and cheaper all the time, in 30 years, huge A/Ced and heated theaters that sit empty most of the time may have largely become a thing of the past except in places like Las Vegas or the planetariums.

    I view the 3D thing as largely a play to stay relevant, and it's probably not working all that well. I'm sure some theater owners are praying for Avatar 2 and 3 to come out soon.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      BTW, for those that say around $2k for a big TV is too much of an investment -- maybe if you're single. But once you have 2-3 kids, a theater experience is going to run $40+ in tickets alone, probably another $20 in food, and after a few trips, a home cinema is going to look damn cheap.

      • With the price of tickets and concessions a family of 4 will probably spend roughly $100 going to the movie theater, maybe more depending on their location and if they go during matinee hours or not. Going just once a month for a year and that's most of the cost of the TV right there.
    • by bagboy (630125) <neo@ a r ctic.net> on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:13PM (#42446933)
      This... > "So, added value options may grow from being a novelty to the norm................" We have a local theater that has for 10 years - offerred around 3-6 month out of date releases (and lots of indie films) for 3 bucks a ticket, You can order your meal (specialty pizzas, burritos, hot sandwiches) which is delivered to your table (every other row are tables instead of seats, you place your black-light sensitive cone at your spot), has it's own brewery and beer/wine bar in the back of the downstairs (in the theater) (balcony seating for those under 21 or unaccompanied by adults). 10 years later and it still has lines out the doors Friday - Sunday before showings. It's an awesome date/family event. They even have special events for bands and indie film events. This - is how a movie theater can stay relevant.
    • "It's a shame, because of the whole going out of the house thing"

      I've never considered movie watching a social activity, it's the least social thing you can do with a person when you 'get together' with them. Sharing the same space and warming the same air staring at a screen while not talking is not my idea of meaningful social interaction.

  • I have a local 3 screen theater that shows first run movies for $5 (matinee is $4) and another small theater 15 miles away with one screen that is pretty cheap (can't remember ticket price off the top of my head though).

    I couldn't imagine these theaters combined have gross receipts for a year coming close to $60,000, let alone having those costs per month.

    The other theater is transitioning to digital soon, too.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I don't have the actual costing of a movie theatre but $60k/mo sounds reasonable:

      Purchase of equipment (spread out over a few years - those digital projectors are expensive)

      Staff costs. Peope don't come cheap. That includes staff actually running the theatre (operating the projector, manning the bar, checking tickets, etc), and administration staff.

      Venue rental. Even in a mountain community that will be significant as a movie theatre needs a decent sized unit.

      Movie rental. Those movies do not come for free,

  • How the hell can this cost $60K? Even the highest resolution used on 70' screens is only 4096x2160. The only non off-the-shelf component would be the optical equipment, and couldn't they retrofit the optics of existing 35mm projectors?

    • by Alamais (4180)
      Yeah, I've never understood why there isn't a cheaper way to do digital projection. Why can't you make a 'digital film' that you can mount in front of an old projector's bulb? Might be pricey, but I'd think still way less than for a new digital theater projector. The local drive-in was begging for donations this past summer, so they could buy a new projector. All I can think is price gouging and/or collusion.
      • by fsterman (519061)

        And if you aren't paying for the cost to print the film, shouldn't it be cheaper for the theater owners in the long run? Wikipedia estimates the cost of a single 35mm print at ~$2,000. Even if they only showed 1 new movie/month, they would break even in 2.5 years. Anyone should be able to get a bank-loan based on that calculation. Hell, I am surprised the manufacturers don't offer financing.

      • by rev0lt (1950662)
        Because most projectors are basically a LCD/TFT screen with a stronger backlight (even if using reflection techniques). Imagine having a 35mm 2K/4K TFT screen, able to be used in projectors, plus the lighting for it - because everything else requires complex conversion optics.
    • Couple of guesses off the top of my head...1) The market for movie theater projectors is much smaller than home projectors so you lose economies of scale. 2) to retrofit optics, there would have to be some standard to conform with so I see it as unlikely that the manufacturer will maintain backwards compatibility with a design that's probably 30 years old, also the light sources may be incompatible between film and digital 3) the warranties probably go above the 30 day manufacture defect one you get at best
    • by rev0lt (1950662)

      The only non off-the-shelf component would be the optical equipment, and couldn't they retrofit the optics of existing 35mm projectors?

      Actually, no. To get an actual watchable cinema screen, you need "professional" projector lamps, and those aren't "off the shelf", and they're more akin to vacuum tubes than to actual lamps (Xenon lamps). Keep in mind, color depth and fidelity is dictated by the quality of the lamp, even on a digital projector, and with a lifespan less than 1000 hours, they aren't cheap. Nor is the electricity. And if you use 35mm projectors, you'd need a 4k projector screen of the size of the 35mm frame - or complex optics

    • A projector that can cover a full sized movie screen is a lot different than a projector that we typically use to present power point slides at our weekly staff meeting, and the fact that it's 4096x2160 has little to do with that. Much more light, much bigger power supply, much more cooling, much bigger lenses, etc., all equal much more money. Can you retrofit an existing film projector? Not really, unless you can come up with some way of creating a digital film frame that can sit in the film gate of an e
      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        even film cannot take the heat, the fact that it is moving fast is the only thing keeping it from igniting
  • How about having actual butter for the popcorn? I can no longer get the overpriced popcorn at theatres, not just due to the shitty taste of the stuff but because the "popcorn topping" is full of MSG and consistently gives me a migraine headache right around the time we're heading home. It used to be "butter" then "butter flavor" and now they don't even pretend it's that. And guess what? It's not just me that doesn't buy it any more.

    Popcorn popped in real vegetable oil, with real butter and salt will give
    • Our local theater just upgraded to digital, new sound system too. They pump up the volume so loud now that I can't bear to watch anything there anymore. But, they DO have real butter and salt, so we just grab the popcorn and take it home. Cheaper that way too. :)
  • Oakhurst, CA: Population 2829. Good luck getting 3000 paying customers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakhurst,_California [wikipedia.org]
  • 15% sounds great, but it's probably not attainable. $240/year per person is not very family friendly. And it's not very senior citizen friendly. I just don't see them hitting the number goals.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:09PM (#42446911)

    I book films for a local theatre. Unless there are major changes with film distribution terms, this won't fly. Films are rented to theatres with terms that require a minimum guarantee from the theatre versus a percentage of the boxoffice gross. For a first run title, the percentage will start high (think 90% or so) and drop each week until it gets to 35% or so. For a 90% title, the theatre gets $1 of your $10 ticket, and the distributor gets $9. Boxoffice reports are submitted daily and list the number of tickets sold for each price category and the total number of tickets sold and boxoffice take for the day for the film in question.

    There is no way that a subscription pricing model would work under standard film rental terms, since there is no standard ticket price on which to base the percentages. Any theatre that tried this without first convincing the film distributors to all change their business models (ha!) would never be able to get films to show. This is an industry that does not really like innovation and which is reluctant to change a business model that has worked well (more or less) for the last hundred years (or so).

    The D-cinema thing is an entirely different issue. Cost is about $60k per screen for the projector and server, assuming that a sound system already exists for 35mm and can be (mostly) re-used for D-cinema. Only DCI-compliant equipment can be used--this is not the same thing as a regular off-the-shelf video projector, as it contains specific crypto hardware to make movie piracy difficult (no doubt it will be cracked eventually, however). No one is actually forcing this conversion at the moment, so 35mm film is still viable for the time being. This conversion process has been discussed for the last ten years or so, but has only really started to speed up over the last two.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      According to a local theater owner I talked to, the push to digital is mostly forced on the theaters interested in showing older movies only available in digital since the 35mm disintegrate over time and making new ones are usually not cost effective. I could also see indie being similar in some cases, but he did not mention that. The pricing model might be different for older/indie films.

  • It won't work. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I have managed theaters for two large chains. Frankly the concept of a movie theater is dead meat. The hang on, improve and survive executives simply have lost the battle.
    Early on the theaters were huge. The cost of admission was trivial. Theaters relied on candy, popcorn and sodas as well as more complete menus the further back one goes. That was the profit gimmick. One need not make a penny on film if one sells enough food. S

  • I haven't gone to the movies in years.

    I remember prices for tickets were like $12-$16 or so in Australia and New Zealand per adult. And that's before you even add in the stupid overpriced cost of popcorn and coke, etc.

    Combined with the fact there's very good movies coming out anymore, whats the honest point? I can see why movie theatres/cinema's are going broke.

  • If we are talking a movie theater with 6 screens, then sure, sounds like a great deal if you like going to movies. At least that way you are going to get a variety of different movies in, if we are talking 1 or 2 screens, then no, sounds like a rip off, seeing as you probably won't get more then 3 or 4 movies a month.

    Now the problem with movie theaters is the Movie Industry takes too big of a cut of the ticket sales, without giving back. Considering they are taking in most the profit, they should be doi

  • Supply and demand? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _Shorty-dammit (555739) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:30PM (#42447025)

    Why is that movie theaters seem to be about the only business that not only doesn't understand or even attempt to follow supply and demand with their pricing of both the attractions and the food, but seem to publicly admit that they don't think supply/demand makes sense? If nobody wants to buy something I'm selling, the price is too high. Any sane person in the world would lower their price. That's the whole idea behind supply and demand. But what do movie theaters do? Jack up the price even more, and claim that they need to do so to survive. On what crazy planet does that even begin to make sense?

    Popcorn is CHEAP. Why would you charge $7 for it and then complain that nobody buys it?

    Sodas are CHEAP. Why would you charge $5 for it and then complain that nobody buys it?

    I don't know about theaters around the country, but where I live we have "cheap nights" on Tuesdays, where movie tickets are a good deal cheaper than usual. And typically the theaters are packed full on that night. Every other night? You could count patrons in a given theater without running out of digits on your hands/feet. And even *THAT* doesn't tell theater owners that their regular prices are too high?! Your theaters are packed full on cheap nights because the price is easier to swallow. It shouldn't cost a family of four over $80 to go have a movie night, yet that's exactly what it cost a friend of mine to take his family to a movie on the weekend. Hell, it cost me and a friend, just two of us, almost $50 to go see 48 fps Hobbits a couple weeks ago. Almost $50 for two tickets and one popcorn/drink/chocolate combo. That's way too much money, and that is exactly the reason movie theaters are struggling, yet they just don't get it.

    Supply and demand. This is an insanely old concept that pretty much everyone seems to understand. Except movie theater owners. WHY?!

    Look at video games, and Valve's Steam store in particular. They've publicly discussed a few times over the past few years how they have seen insane increases in revenue whenever they have big sales on games, on the order or 40x increase in revenue in one case! Here's what I think was the first article discussing it back in 2009: http://www.edge-online.com/features/valve-are-games-too-expensive/ [edge-online.com]

    Movie theaters' own cheap nights prove that supply and demand is warranted in their market, just like any other. If they would lower prices of everything, tickets and refreshments/food, they'd see way more people, and way more money, come their way. If only they'd take their heads out of their asses.

    • Why don't they lower the prices, you asked. You then mentioned they do lower the prices, especially on Tuesday. Weekdays cost less than weekend nights. A movie without popcorn costs a lot less than one with popcorn. Their web site has coupons. You can spend $5 going to the movie, or $25.
      Theatres are very good at letting you spend as much or as little as you want. Some people will spend $25 or more for Saturday night ticket, candy, and large soda. The theatres have pricing where they'll accept that $25
  • A certain (IMHO evil) business philosophy will always, with **certainty**, try to take something that people purchase and own indefinitely and make it a 'subscription-based service'...it's 100% predictable and not in any way 'innovative' or 'new'

    It's just feature bottlenecking...it's how drug dealers (and drug companies) make their money and it's ruining tech.

    If TFA is correct and the theater is in demand in the community and fails anyway, it is **bad business practices** that caused the theater to close...

  • by nrozema (317031) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @11:12PM (#42447267)

    This is my local theater.

    Last night they announced that they hit the 3,000 subscriber mark they were shooting for and will make a go at opening.

    I wish them the best, though I think there are still some very big questions to be answered about the viability of the business model. Will the studios go along with it? Will subscriptions _remain_ high enough after the buzz fades away to be a viable business? I hope so, but only time will tell. The local economy is almost entirely tourism based, and their model effectively shuts out tourists who I think will be reluctant to shell out $16 for a day pass - so long-term local support is essential.

    • by Shoten (260439)

      From the article:

      James Nelson, 30, a life coach who defines his specialty as "figuring out how to make the impossible possible," was driving back from a wealth-training seminar when his wife told him about the theater going under.

      This sounds to me like they're doomed. A 30-year-old life coach, freshly back from a "wealth-training" (aka "get rich quick") seminar when his wife tells him about this. I'm sorry, but this guy at first blush sounds like he's got no real business acumen. So I think nrozema is sp

  • I stopped going to movies in early 90's

    around here we had 1 theater for the longest now 2, 1 shows old movies only and the other shows new movies. Problem is they jacked the price so high it costs the same price to buy the DVD that it does to buy a movie ticket.

    Tickets here are 14.99 for after 5pm 12.99 before 5pm / small drink is 3.99 / small popcorn is 4.99 / if I bring my family it's $80 for 1 movie, and I said fuck that.

    I started pirating immediately and haven't looked back, with all the spam on televis

  • Exists in France.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Archon-X (264195) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:35AM (#42448353)

    Both big cinema conglomerates In France still do this, and have for years.
    Unlimited movies in all cinemas. No blackout times. 20EU per month, or 35EU per month for a couple.

    It's a great idea, and lots of people use it - considering normal adult tickets are 10 - 12EU.

    The 'gotchya' is that it's a pain in the ass to unsubscribe - it's auto-debited from your bank account each month, so to cancel you need to send a letter via registered post etc to close your membership.

    Small price to pay, however!

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