I’m tired of hearing how the poor cinemas are struggling to stave off the double threat of the internet and DVD retail sales; about how they are unable to make a profitable living out of showing movies on their big screens.
Frankly cinemas are getting exactly what they deserve. If they can’t make a living off the extortionate prices they charge and they are not prepared to change then they don’t deserve to be in business.
I have two children. They love movies and will watch just about anything (“age-appropriate” as my 7-year-old says). But I object to having to fork out close on R200 to take myself and them off to see a film. And that’s before I’ve bought the obligatory popcorn and Slush Puppy.
Most new kids movies are now released in 3D, which adds a premium to an already expensive ticket price. I checked. Three tickets for a movie tomorrow morning will cost me R63 each (+ the charge for the 3D glasses if I don’t already have). That turns a fun morning out into a begrudging expense.
Clearly I am not the only one feeling this way. When we do eventually enter a cinema it’s very often with just a couple of other patrons. A few weeks ago my son and I were exactly 50% of the audience when we went to see the fantastic Rango.
What can cinemas do?
The most obvious thing is to drop prices. Seriously, we would be in the cinema every single week if ticket prices were dropped significantly. As it is we probably manage a cinema visit once a month or even less. The money we likely would have spent at the cinema is now spent on rented DVDs and bags of popcorn that we make at home.
The less obvious way, perhaps, is for cinemas to change the way they do (some of) their business.
I’m no expert in the field of film licensing (and I suspect this is the heart of the problem) but how about cinemas running cut-price mornings during school holidays where off-circuit movies are shown? Or running “movie mornings” where kids (and those of us that never grew up) can buy a single ticket to see a couple of all-time-favourites? My kids loved Star Wars when they finally saw it and I’m sure they would love ET as much as I did. They also love the Toy Story series and would watch it again and again.
It’s not always about the movie with kids. It’s a social thing and my kids often watch the same film over and over again, and still laugh at the same bits. But it’s even better with other kids around, which they don’t always get at home.
I still remember spending Saturday mornings down at my local cinema which was old, run-down and decidedly musty but showed Bruce Lee movies. All my friends were there, it was chaos, and probably the most fun we could ever have had. We came back week after week and it was always packed.
I don’t know if this would work in today’s world but if cinemas don’t start adapting they are going to get exactly what they deserve.