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Movie Theaters Haven't Innovated Beyond Popcorn, Says Netflix CEO (variety.com) 213

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: Asked about his company's relationship with major theater chains, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings didn't pull any punches on Thursday. "How did distribution innovate in the movie business in the last 30 years? Well, the popcorn tastes better, but that's about it," he quipped. "What Netflix wants to do is to unleash film," he said. "It's fundamentally about growing the movie business." [...] On Thursday, Hastings pushed back against the notion that the company aims to bypass theaters. "We are not anti theater," he said. "We just want things to come out at the same time."
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Movie Theaters Haven't Innovated Beyond Popcorn, Says Netflix CEO

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  • That, coupled with streamed or local content (discs) and I am good to go.
  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @04:46PM (#54061675) Homepage
    It now cost $35 per person for ticket and popcorn to see a late night movie.
    • by irving47 ( 73147 )

      Found the big city slicker. Are you going to the alamo drafthouse type theaters and ordering a pitcher of beer, or something?

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        Found the big city slicker.

        I live in San Jose, the third largest city in California and the tenth largest city in the U.S. So, yeah, I guess I'm a big city slicker.

        Are you going to the alamo drafthouse type theaters and ordering a pitcher of beer, or something?

        If I drink in public, it's because someone else is driving, I'm having a large steak and it's amber ale. The last time that happened was in Las Vegas.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Why bother eat and drink in theaters? I just save those before and/or after the movie. :P

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Considering just skipping the popcorn, if it's a good movie I've found that I don't really pay any attention to it anyway. I'm just suddenly at the bottom of the bag wondering where all the popcorn went, not worth it in calories nor cash. And without the salt you don't really need the soda either. Have a sugar free gum from your own pocket if you need to chew something out of habit. If the movie can't keep you engaged enough to go without it, you're probably in the wrong movie.

      That makes the ticket price ar

    • I'm assuming that's one of the VIP-style, have-your-own-leather-recliner-and-yes-there's-beer places? Because per Fandango, you can get a night ticket for an adult in Manhattan (Regal, Union Square) for around $16.50. While I'm sure the popcorn is overpriced, I somehow doubt it's $20.
  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @04:49PM (#54061707)
    Popcorn? What about digital distribution of digital content displayed via huge digital display systems?

    Now, I know that when it first came out, the digital theater systems tended to "blue screen of death" too often, but please.

    • What about digital distribution of digital content displayed via huge digital display systems?

      It basically looks just the same as that from a film. It might save the cinema money but it does nothing for the customer. There is pseudo-3D I suppose but that shrinks the screen and gives many people a splitting headache after a few minutes. So I suppose the criterion should be innovation that is good for the customer.

      • It basically looks just the same as that from a film.

        The fact it "looks just the same" (not really, if you know what to look for) doesn't mean it isn't innovation.

        So I suppose the criterion should be innovation that is good for the customer.

        Why? Isn't an innovation that makes it easier to distribute content in higher quality an innovation, even if you can't tell the difference?

        • Why? Isn't an innovation that makes it easier to distribute content in higher quality an innovation, even if you can't tell the difference?

          Yes technically it is an innovation but unless it does something to improve the cinema experience why do I care? It is like the innovation of circular tea bags. Yes this is technically an innovation and yes it will temporarily boost sales but only until everyone figures out that it makes no difference whatsoever and goes back to what they were doing before. What a lot of people seem to forget is that it is not innovation we want it is useful innovation.

          • Yes technically it is an innovation but unless it does something to improve the cinema experience why do I care?

            Who says you have to care about any innovation? The Netflick flack is claiming there has been none, not that there has been nothing that Roger W Moore cares about. "There has been no innovation" is not the same as "there has been no innovation that I care about."

            What a lot of people seem to forget is that it is not innovation we want it is useful innovation.

            And the digital distribution of movie content is useful to a lot of people, just not to you. That's ok, but it doesn't mean it doesn't count at all.

      • It basically looks just the same as that from a film.

        You must be too young to remember film, or too senile to remember it. Scratches and dust on film was very noticeable, and became more annoying the longer a film was in use. It's been a while since I've seen a digital projector glitch, but I remember film getting stuck and melting somewhat frequently. And don't forget the projectionist getting the reels mixed up.

    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @05:50PM (#54062203)

      While digital changed quite a bit on the backend, how did it actually change the experience of watching a film in the theater?

      Sure, we can point to a spec sheet that says the resolution has improved, but did it really change people's experiences? We had IMAX during the analog days, so we weren't lacking for sharp, hi-res images, and even in everyday theaters the resolution was already high enough that most viewers didn't notice when the digital changeover occurred. The speakers we use today are in many cases the same ones in the same configurations we used decades ago. And when was the last time normal people actually cared about colors? I'd wager it was when Technicolor was still new, if even then.

      There's less visual noise (e.g. specks, film grain, scan lines, etc.) and less cases of a projectionists forgetting to start the movie on time (thanks to it being easier to automate now), but otherwise I can't think of much else I've noticed that's changed, let alone anything that I actually thought was a problem before.

      On the other hand, Netflix has completely changed the way that we as a culture consume media. Binge watching wasn't a thing before they were around. Or how about getting back hours of your day, thanks to Netflix taking 5 hours of broadcast TV and turning it into less than 3.5 hours by stripping out commercials and skipping intro sequences. Packing movies for a trip doesn't involve packing anything extra, thanks to them. These are all things that they helped push into the mainstream.

      I didn't even realize how spoiled I was by Netflix until I signed up for Sling TV. Being able to fast forward, rewind, or pause a VOD? Netflix always can, but Sling sometimes can't. Being able to watch anything available without paying extra? Netflix can, but Sling usually can't. Watching something while my wife watches something else? Netflix, yes, Sling, not without paying even more. The list goes on and on (which was why we cancelled our Sling subscription within the trial period), which just went to show us how much Netflix has changed our expectations about how we consume media.

      Moreover, as someone who never bought popcorn (or any other concessions) in the theaters, I'm not even enjoying THAT improvement.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Binge watching wasn't a thing before they were around

        Actually, it was. We didn't call it binge watching though. We called them "marathons". During holidays, TV stations would do lots of marathons (especially cable channels) where they'd air the entire season at once (they still do). Theatres had movie marathons where just before a new sequel came out, they'd show the predecessors. Star Wars and Lord of the Rings were popular movie marathon showings, as were Star Trek.

        Heck, people sat down with entire DVD bo

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        While digital changed quite a bit on the backend, how did it actually change the experience of watching a film in the theater?

        At the cinema near me among other things it's meant many short runs or one off screenings of indie films and even screening sporting events on the big screen. It's brought the price down massively for small players and provides a lot more choice for consumers. I've got to see a few "cult" movies that way and even re-screenings are not so difficult as they used to be. The local cin

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Yes. It's just another CEO putting shit on his competitors.
  • I don't remember what popcorn tasted like 30 years ago, but it doesn't taste that great nowadays so maybe Netflix could do something about that as well.
    • It was better 30 years ago. Coconut oil and fake butter flavor with big salt crystals. Now it's coated in some sort of nanotech salt and the texture is more crunchy, like packing material. Fortunately I only need to go for IMAX-worthy presentations these days.

    • If he's referring to the fact that it's generally tepid, stale, costs $10/tub and you have to pay for salt then I guess I prefer the pre-innovated stuff; warm, generally fresh, $5/tub popcorn and a complementary salt shaker on the counter.
  • was sitting on a log in a rainforest watching The Neverending Story projected on a bed sheet.

    Maybe they could try that.

  • No one in their right fucking mind is going to pay $10 for a popcorn, $7 for a soda, and $15 for a movie ticket PER PERSON if they can watch that shit at home with their whole family for a small fee. OF COURSE that would put theaters out of business.

    • You're claiming that nobody really likes theatres, that they just put up with them for the sake of access to new content.

      You might be projection your options onto the masses. And not in 70mm.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

        How many theaters have even have 70mm projectors anymore? How many even have pseudo-IMAX? Shit, my local theater is still showing most movies in 2K. I can go buy a 4K HDR TV at Best Buy right now with a better picture than my theater, and pick up a 7.1 sound system while I'm at it--all for less than what I would have paid for a 1080p TV just a few years ago. And I can make my own damn popcorn for a lot less than $10 a bag.

      • All the old reasons for going to the theatre are obsolete. While there might be some voyeurs that'll let things slide, all the IR cameras pretty much mean they'll just kick you out straightaway now. What possible reason could people have to "like" the theatre?
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      No one in their right fucking mind is going to pay

      It impresses the girls, so you've pointed out well where the mind is focused when paying for all the marked up cinema fare.

  • by subanark ( 937286 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @04:59PM (#54061799)

    1. 3D
    2. Better sound and video (I remember some movies being limited to complaint movie theaters)
    3. Chairs (reclining)
    4. More previews (and annoying pre-screening stuff)
    5. Online ticket purchases

    • I'm pretty sure 3D has been around longer than 30 years. Sure the tech has evolved, but I find it just as much of a gimmick.
    • 1. Meh, saw Avatar in 3D, 3D wasn't bad but I will not pay the premium for 3D again... should not have paid the price in general for Avatar.
      2. Very nice, though at the same time there have been significant home theater picture and sound.
      3. Meh, don't think any of the local theaters ever installed this.
      4. Ebbeh! This innovation leads to more Netflix.
      5. Meh, I've never purchased tickets online, if the theater is so packed I need to, I don't really want to be there.

      Amusing list of innovations though.

    • Indeed. Online ticket purchases for a minimal convenience/service fee of 1.35 per ticket. What a deal!
    • So they've managed to catch up with my living room then poison it with 4) and 5) I don't think would work anyway...
  • "Shunned by major theater chains, Netflix last fall struck a deal with iPic Entertainment, a small chain with 15 theaters."

    How long until MPAA finds some excuse to cut off iPic Entertainment from mainstream distribution?

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      iPic is pricey, but good. Small theatres, full-bore recliners, blankets, pillows, storage areas IN CHAIR, free popcorn, in-seat food and bar service.

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt AT nerdflat DOT com> on Friday March 17, 2017 @05:04PM (#54061839) Journal

    I can't stand going to general admission shows since I first tried it a couple of years back now. Reserved seating for the movie, in-seat menu service for meals or concession before the movie starts, wider and more comfortable seats than GA, and with a bit more legroom to boot. Tickets are a bit more than GA, but man are they worth it!

    Gonna go see Disney's classic tale of Stockholm syndrome tomorrow afternoon with my wife in a VIP lounge....and there won't be any screaming kids. I heartily recommend it if you are willing to shell out the extra couple of bucks per ticket for an improved theater experience.

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      What you are after is exactly the opposite of what I am after when I want to see a movie.
      Weird smells, chewing noises all around you and people who are talking and walking around in the theatre. Please, no!

    • If the GA experience is $50 for an extra couple bucks VIP lounge best be a euphemism for in-call service.
  • really? (Score:3, Funny)

    by kaatochacha ( 651922 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @05:10PM (#54061891)

    "What Netflix wants to do is to unleash film," he said. "It's fundamentally about growing the movie business."
    How magnanimous. And here I believed they just wanted to make a lot of money.
    So I'll be waiting for my free netflix account, since all they want is to "grow the movie business".
    Good lord: You sell entertainment. Don't pretend like you're healing lepers.

  • Well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @05:10PM (#54061895)

    Considering Netflix rarely gets any new movies anymore, one thing movie theaters have that Netflix doesn't is new movies.

  • by HideyoshiJP ( 1392619 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @05:15PM (#54061929)
    Netflix is missing the point. While admittedly, movie theaters haven't done anything revolutionary for a while, they have steadily updated the picture and audio quality. These two things are the reason I continue to go to theaters instead of watch on my home theater.
    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      Not really. Audio quality peaked about twenty years ago.
      A nth-generation screening copy of a film has practically the same resolution as digital 2K (about 1080p), and 2K is still the norm among projectors out there.

      And during these years, theatres have been "upgraded" to show stereoscopic "3D", often with the "Real D" system.
      However, with "Real D" you get less than half the light intensity of a 2D movie and worse: cross-talk between the left and right eyes. And then there are the artefacts that are inherent

  • Not true. In my city in the US, theaters have introduced at-seat table service and reserved seating. The former is nice to have but the latter is transformative. No queues, no racing for seats, no getting stuck in lousy seats or separated from your friends. Contrary to Netflix's self-interest, there are still films that benefit from being viewed in a movie theater, and reserved seating completely removes any tension or unknowns from the experience.

  • Going to the movies, use to be about watching something on a HUGE screen, with a LOT of sound. Other than a 10-15 foot tall screen, you can still have a 40-50-60 inch screen, with a lot of sound for an inexpensive price, enjoy the movie in your own home, eat your own snacks. Taking a "typical" family of 4 to the movies these days, can, in places, run around 100 bucks by the time you figure in the gas, tickets, snacks. Plus, considering the movies released these days, are reboots, or part 5,6,7 of something,
  • Why don't movie theaters do merchandising?

    When people are done seeing a movie, there should be a shop that sells copies of the soundtrack, copies of the other movies in the franchise, related toys (as appropriate), etc. They could even sell the Blu-Ray of the movie you just saw (whether restricted sales to movie-goers, sold to anyone, or pre-sold with day-of-release delivery).

    There is so much in the way of movie merchandising, and the theaters seem to completely miss it. Even if they're contractually lock

    • Good point. Theatres in my area usually have an arcade, a variety of food options beyond popcorn & soda and... well, that's it.

      They really should have a joined space (separately accessible outside theatre hours) that sells movie-related merchandise. I'd certainly make sure posters were on the list. And though you'd ultimately have to measure-and-order, I think using the bricks & mortar presence to market licensed movie costume replicas wouldn't be a bad idea, even if it's just a fairly normal jac

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @05:47PM (#54062177)

    In Michigan we have theaters called E-Magine. Awful name, outstanding theaters. All of the theaters themselves are fairly small, which means you aren't sitting too far away from the screen. The screen stretches from wall to wall, and they are all dimensioned properly. All of the seats are motorized extra-wide recliners. For a couple of extra dollars you can sit in a row with more leg room than you could possibly need. All the screens, projectors and speakers are properly maintained. They also have reserved seating so you can pick your seats hours before you show up to the theater. Most theaters also have waiter service, so you can just sit down and they'll bring you a drink and popcorn, including liquor, before the movie starts.

    They also have special matinee showings for kids with sensory issues, so no trailers, they keep the lights on dimly, and turn the sound down, which is fantastic.

    Ticket prices are, of course, a bit more than regular, but we don't see many movies so it doesn't matter that much to us.

  • My theatre (Cineplex, in Canada) hosts video game finals.

    WorldGaming.com, my old customer, is now part of the Cineplex chain.
    There's nothing like a theatre full of gamers cheering their heroes on!

    I'm a motocrossman, myself, but these folks are serious

  • "How did distribution innovate in the movie business in the last 30 years?"

    Umm, I don't know, how about getting rid of film and adopting the Digital Cinema System Specification [wikipedia.org]?

    1998 was the first public demo of a digital cinema projector. As of 3 May 2016, 98.2% of the world's cinema screens are now digitized, likely saving $1 billion in distribution costs.

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