Last year was, overall, a mediocre year for film. And, according to CBS News, theaters saw their worst attendance numbers in the last 15 years. But why?
Oh, sure, the economy. Of course that’s a reason, and a valid one. Taking a family of four to the movies is pretty expensive. Taking a look at ticket prices for Moore’s Warren Theatre, and adding in average snack prices, it’s easy to see why a movie for four is out of the question for the average family.
• Two adult tickets for a matinee: $14
• Two children’s tickets for a matinee: $14
• Large popcorn, four small drinks: $23
Total: $61, before you factor in gas.
That’s quite the investment for two hours of entertainment. And those 3D showings? Add $3 per ticket. That bumps the price up to $73 for the theater experience.
So, parents thinking economically opt to stay home. They rent the latest kid-friendly flick from Redbox for $1, buy some microwavable popcorn for $3, and a two liter of soda for $2. Total: $6. It’s easy to see why movie attendance was down last year, from an economical standpoint via a family.
From an individual standpoint? I consider myself the average moviegoer. I like movies. I like the theater experience: big screen, big sound, a crowd, the smell of fresh popcorn and hot dogs. It’s truly an experience. But, sometimes movies just aren’t worth the asking price of a ticket. If I don’t want to pay $7 to $10 (evening showing), I’ll wait until it hits the dollar theater. Or, wait until it’s released on Blu-ray.
And last year was definitely a down year in terms of my personal attendance. I wondered why that was, and I think the answer is two-fold. The first reason being because 2011 was the biggest year for sequels.
There were 28 sequels widely released last year. Twenty-eight. And many of them were for titles/franchises I don’t particularly care for, yet production companies love because they make money. Movies like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Fast Five” and “The Hangover Part II.” None of those movies appeal to me, so I didn’t see them.
The second, and larger reason, is I’m a fan of independent and foreign films. The only place to catch movies like that in the Oklahoma City area is at an AMC Theater 40 minutes from my house. Sometimes local museums have showings of more popular indie releases, like Lars von Trier‘s “Melancholia,” but they have showtimes I can’t meet. I want to see these movies in theaters, but the lack of a more local solution is making it hard.
The CBS article goes into how moviegoing is down because people’s attention and time is diverted elsewhere for entertainment, like YouTube. I can see where that could be the case, but if people really wanted to see a movie, they’d see a movie. Look at “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” It was blasted by critics, but made more than $350 million in domestic grosses. Chalk it up to people wanting to see a bad movie, sure, but people also like to be entertained. And that movie brought the entertainment a lot of people want: action, adventure, loud sounds.
YouTube, and the wide range of the Internet in general, breathes entertainment. Video games, too. People might spend $60 on a new video game, but they get hours of playtime since online gameplay is mega popular. Both avenues can give a virtually never-ending supply of entertainment, and offer a good return for the money spent. A movie theater can’t always do that.
Some might look at the number of sequels and couple it with the “movies these days lack originality!” standpoint. Sure, the two can go hand-in-hand but I don’t think they’re synonymous. Sequels have been made for years, and in 2011, sequels were the biggest moneymakers. Of the top 10 grossing films in 2011, only one wasn’t a sequel: “The Smurfs.”
And, originality can be disguised in the form of a well-adapted film. Take “The Help,” for example. It’s based off a novel of the same name, and it did extremely well in theaters, making close to $207 million woldwide, on a $25 million budget. But why?
Because positive word of mouth.
That’s something all filmmakers want their movies to have. Once people saw “The Help” and liked it, they began talking about it. On Twitter, Facebook, online forums, through things like book clubs, etc. And because the word of mouth for the movie began rocketing, the book’s sale numbers rocketed, too.
But, still, the record for lowest theater admission belongs to 2011. “The Help” did its part, but it was a rare bird in the film flock. And although 2012 is off to a strong start attendance-wise, it’ll be interesting to see what happens after the summer blockbusters end. This year we have “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” being released pretty much back-to-back-to-back. They’re going to make tons of money. People will be out in droves to see them.
Once summer ends and the comic book movie magic goes away, what then? For roughly the past decade we’ve had a “Harry Potter” movie almost every year, and half of them were released in the winter months. Wintertime can be big for movies due to the holidays: Parents take time off of work because their kids are out of school, and they go to family-friendly movies. But without a franchise like “Harry Potter” there to be the automatic go-to for a winter break viewing, 2012′s winter attendance might not be as strong as it has been, even if the final “Twilight” movie is due this year.
Sure, “The Hobbit” is slated for release in December 2012, but it also might not be the most family-friendly option at the time, especially if it’s run time is anything like the three “Lord of the Rings” movies.
It’ll be interesting to see how 2012 stacks up to 2011. I think it’ll be an up year in terms of theatergoing, but only thanks to the blockbuster. Which is something 2011 lacked.