So I had a particularly less-than-stellar experience at the cineplex over the weekend. My parents, my sister and her husband, and Abby went to see Star Trek, a movie I've gushed over enough.
This was at the movie-theater-by-the-huge-mall (you know the one) in Nashville. Tickets were $10 a pop, which is expensive but not unheard of for a weekend showing of a first-run movie in a big city with stadium seating and all that jazz. So we get to the box office, and the first thing they do is try to change our mind.
We were uncharacteristically early, purchasing tickets at 7:15 for a 7:55 screening. The gal offered to get us into the 7:00 screening, which we politely declined. The sign said it was sold out, anyway. She objected again, on the grounds that the 7:55 showing would be in a smaller auditorium and we might not be able to get six tickets near each other--never mind that the showing was still forty minutes off.
So we finally all arrived and got seated in the tiny theater (less than ten rows, probably twelve seats across). Then came the previews.
Thirty minutes of previews.
I tend to think any amount more than five is excessive. Three is preferable. None... actually none is kind of unsettling in a theater. And the choice of previews befuddles me. Star Trek is popcorn fare, slightly geeky, yes, but with a hefty dollop of action and significant tinge of nostalgia. So, the obvious choices to market in front of it: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (yes), G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (no), Terminator Salvation (also no), maybe even, it's a stretch, Up (yes).
We also got trailers for Tennessee, which is a horrible-looking indie drama with Mariah Carey. And then My Sister's Keeper, which looks genuinely horrifying, starring the gal from Little Miss Sunshine as a genetically-engineered organ donor for her cancer-dying sister who sues her parents for the rights to her own body. Lots of people cry, Cameron Diaz shaves her head, etc etc etc.
So, what this tells me is that they had no idea what to market with Star Trek, so they just threw a bunch of shit on the screens.
What else? The popcorn was pretty pitiful. The seats were uncomfortable. The sound was too low. I could go on.
The real issue here is that the movie theater business is suffering at the hands of DVD's. Well, suffering is the wrong word. Studios are better off in the long run, but they're cannibalizing some potential seats-in-cinema-chairs profits for it. Which is fine. But the theater experience is an experience, and you have to actually sell people on it. There are film buffs like myself who will see something in the theater because they want to see it and believe the theater experience is worth the extra cost (especially when the AMC does $5 weekend matinees). Then there are the casual movie-goers who have lives and jobs and kids and just want to take in a film and eat some popcorn once in a while. They aren't going to research what movies are the best reviewed and a bad film experience is just going to turn them off to future ventures.
A movie theater has no control over the quality of movie they show, but if they want to make more money in the long run, they need to be taking care of those variables that they do control. Make sure the picture quality and sound are up to spec. Don't try to squeeze every penny from the customer by making him/her(/me) sit through ten or twelve previews and gouging at the concessions stand.
'Tain't rocket surgery, people.