Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I got an idea!

Okay, so I was over at Lee Goldberg's blog reading his article about how much most Hollywood films suck and why people aren't paying to see them and it got me thinking.

How *could* you get people to go to the movies again?

I have a few ideas...

1. DVD window expands to 12-18 months (or more) after release. The studios have it all backwards -- they need to wait to release a film on DVD rather than rush it out to stores. If people know it will be awhile, it creates demand. Also, have you seen how well Disney's "moratorium" process works? The release a "Platinum" (read: more coveted) animated film on video or DVD (they've been doing this awhile), make it available for about 18 months and then -- *poof*! It's GONE. NO MORE BUYING "The Lion King"...until the *next* time they release it. It builds demand for the film. People are more apt to see in a theater if they know they won't get to see buy it/rent it/see it on TV for many many many months.

2. Create a new film pricing structure. I think the theater pricing model is outdated. Arclight, arguably the best movie theater in L.A. charges up to $14 a ticket during "prime time" film viewing hours. Why? a) no commercials (only movie trailers) before the movie. b) you can pick your seat c) a really generous membership program for frequent movie goers which includes using points on concessions or free tickets d) some movies they offer 21+ screenings -- NO KIDS. Theses are all innovative strategies. Why stop at creative pricing for matinees? Why not charge a premium for certain films? Maybe some "lesser" films should be offered as '2 for 1' bargains. There was a time when double bills were common. Short films should make a comeback and be shown before features. Which leads to my 3rd point...

3. Offer things the average movie goer cannot get by renting or owning the DVD. Sure, some are shown in IMAX, and that's about the best and most unique reason to go out of your way to see a film. But why not offer other perks like: a) offer movie going packages. Some theaters are starting to catch on to "combos" and gift cards like AMC's "night at the movies", which includes 2 tickets, a tub of popcorn and 2 drinks, but theaters need to embrace these kinds of deals. Make it actually a SAVINGS to buy a package (not just that 50 cents it costs to upgrade to a supersize) b) Start upgrading your damn theaters to digital projection already. Yes, it is costly, but hello, people are watching films in digital AT HOME. You want to catch up already?? Digital big screen will attract an audience. c) Multiplexes should offer a "babysitting" theater. Don't want to sit with the kids while watching the latest Pokemon movie? Want to go see something else? Send the to Pokemon, where the lights don't go down entirely and kids are kept in check (sign a waiver of course) and go see a movie in peace. Also, spare the people around you by not having your annoying crying kid piping up every 2 minutes.

Theaters can do a lot to bring people in, but studios have more to do too...

4. Stop making excuses. No one likes to be blamed for your shortcomings. I saw Cinderella Man -- it's a good movie. Face it, your marketing department sucked eggs on promoting the film properly. Stop trying to make it sound "good for us" -- tell me why I'll enjoy seeing it, for crissakes! Studios whine that audiences say they want more family friendly films, but then they don't perform well. Newsflash, just because you slap a 'G' or a 'PG' on it doesn't mean parents will react like automatons and take their children to see it, especially if it looks like torture for the adult. Make GOOD family friendly movies and watch the profits roll in (example: "The Incredibles"). Same rule goes for films for any audience outside men 18-34. Just because a movie has 5 women in it, is labeled "chick flick", does not mean women will flock. Make it a GOOD chick flick and we'll talk.

5. Stop insulting your audience. This is a message to some of my fellow screenwriters: The audience is NOT stupid. If you portray characters which closely represent your audience as being stupid, backward, redneck idiots, it will not do well. People will allow themselves to be poked fun at, if it is genuinely good natured. If you are trying to sell a political agenda, red and blue staters can smell it. Tell a good story and everybody wins.

These are just some of my new ideas for getting people back to the theaters. Your thoughts??


Moses said...

all great ideas... I think the time when you can just show "a movie" is over. Time to offer the audience something else.

Shorts would help, hell chop off twenty minutes of just about every movie (most of them would be better for it) and give us something at the end of the flick, or the beginning, and not those blopper takes either. A "making of," or interviews with the actors about the flick, or maybe an actor short or something. DVD's got plenty of cool stuff, show it at the movies as well.

I think movies need to turn into more of an event. Not sure how to do it but throwing money into marketing crappy movies won't help. As you said, the audience isn't stupid.

Otis Frampton said...

Simultaneous theatrical and home video release.

If I could go to the theater or Best Buy tomorrow, I'd much rather buy "War of the Worlds" sight unseen than pay $9 to sit in a cold theater, suffer through ads and previews, deal with noisy audience members and watch a print that looks faded on its first showing.

My home theater usually wins out over the movie theater these days.


Anonymous said...

'represent your audience as being stupid, backward, redneck idiots'...that's 80% of Will Farrell's releases this year (snickers)....two words 'plasma screen', I think you hit on it. Home entertainment is getting affordable and better nowadays so theatres need to improve even more to make it a viable option. I mean I always watch movies naked so theatres really need to offer me something to come out (just kidding)...great post

Cecil E. Rudd said...

I love your ideas! I think one of the biggest problems with movies now is if you wait a few months you can watch it at home on DVD. Also, the shorts would be great, as long as they are done well and not just some stuff hollywood puts together to promote some of their other trash.I would also like to see hollywood market some of the lesser known movies with some of the money they use on so called blockbusters. Why not market a cool indie like Saving Face http://www.sonyclassics.com/savingface/ with 5 to 10 million and only use 20 million of the 50 or so million that they are using on Batman Begins.

Raymond Tan said...

Shawna, sorry but I don't have any comments about movies (yet!). I am not sure if your email at the Site Unseen is still being used.

Hope that you still remember me. In your "daily blatherings", you described me as one of the "close encounters" or something like that. You see. I first emailed you in 1996. But the email bounced. Several years later, I found your Site Unseen again and this time the email address was still being used. Sounds familiar?

Hope that you could reply. My email is raymond_tan@stanfordalumni.org and following your example, I finally have my own web page at http://www.geocities.com/raymondtan1964. Take care!

Nick K. said...

Some excellent suggestions.

Besides the dismal quality of many of Hollywood's latest, my problem with going to the movies has been the people.

I'm amazed that people just whip out their cell phones and start talking in the middle of the movie. Or talk amongst themselves at full volume.

Not sure what the studios or theaters can do about that.

BigMac said...

Good ideas.

Scott said...

Bring back the drive-in.

There is are a few drive-ins that are close to me (La Verne, CA) and you get two movies for 5 bucks! And those speakers have been replaced with your own car stereo so the sound is pretty good. Plus, the kids can watch something else out the back window or fall asleep.


Joshua said...

Hey Shawna, I agree with all your suggestions save the last one directed at screenwriters (create realistic characters, etc) - not that screenwriters shouldn't do that very thing - I think that you're simply forgetting that screenwriters as a rule have very little say in what ends up onscreen in terms of character - unless you happen to be the director and producer. I attended a screening of Hustle & Flow attended by the writer / director and he told us how the studios turned the film down - they would only consider it if he dumbed the lead character (a pimp) down and made fun of him (I wrote extensively about this on my blog, click on my name and check it out) and ultimately it was funded outside of the studio system. So you're right about the writers, but let's assume that we good writers are already doing that, now we just need to keep uninformed development folks from adding stereotypical characters cause it's "funny" -

But your other suggestions are right on the target. And I would add one - tell everyone you know NOT to see a film on opening weekend (if you must see it in theatres and not on DVD) - instead wait until the THIRD weekend - This way we get away from the whole opening weekend numbers thing -

Fun Joel said...

Amen Shawna. Wise points. In particular, I've been saying for years that movies should be priced differently based on demand. "Hot" movices should cost more, and bad ones should cost less. I'm not 100% sure, but I vaguely recall this being the case years ago when I was in Israel for the year (1989-90). May not be the case, and/or may no longer be so. But I wish it were!

Tom Rath said...

I got the impression that DVD windows were shortened in response to piracy. That is, Star Wars was on the Internet the day it was in theaters, so they'd rather sell to a hungry audience than drive them to the alternative. Frankly, the artificial scarcity that Disney produces increases my contempt for the company and likelihood of piracy even if I'm in the window for the movie I want. Do I want to check on whether they'll stoop to selling me their movies before I go to the store cash-in-hand? No. Offer the library. Take the unpopular titles off the shelf, sure, but the "Disney vault" is hostile to customers.

Also, some people just won't go to the theater (think: odd working hours, no babysitter, had too many rude neighbor experiences, etc.). For some movies, people say wait for it to come to video. Do you want their money now, or later? Will they even remember the movie they were kinda interested in a year ago?

"Lesser" movies already have a different pricing structure. They go direct to video. Offering a better theater experience is a good idea, but otherwise I think prices have to come down. The price for a couple at a theater is pretty close to buying the movie to watch at home (where you can pause it for bathroom breaks and have a gourmet meal in front of it if you want). The only draw the theater has anymore is a superior experience. People will go see Star Wars "on the big screen" because their small screen is not adequate to really "get the effect." I don't see any reason to see any movie on an expensive big screen if I can spend about the same and see it at home on (as some have pointed out) increasingly impressive home theater systems.

Going to the theater can be a nice escape, even for a lesser movie, but if all you want is to see what happens in the movie, it's not such a good deal.

A "sitters in theaters" idea is pretty good, but I doubt the theater owners really want to build on a day care (which is what they'd have to do to handle toddlers not yet ready for movies over 20 minutes). Stashing the kids in an existing theater has problems too, but this comment is too long already.

Your other remarks seem to be along the lines of "make better movies." It's hard to argue with that.