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Last year, two movie giants gave us their opinion on the future of the movie industry. At the University of Southern California’s School for Cinematic Arts, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg discussed their beliefs on the future of cinema. The future they predicted was not a necessarily a bright one.
Lucas said that movies theaters will have to get bigger and better to keep people in theaters. He says that his 25 year old daughter doesn’t even go to the movies, she just streams everything over the internet through Hulu Plus and other online services. If you watch a lot of movies, it can much cheaper to pay the monthly fee and get all the movies you can watch instead of paying the high ticket prices per movie. You might have to wait longer to watch the movie, but for many, it is worth it. This is especially true if you are not really sure if you will like the movie, because there is no risk of wasting your money if you watch it online.
The internet isn’t the only thing that will cut in on the theater industry. The advancement of television is also sapping the life out of movie theaters. Lucas predicts that in the near future the majority of people will have huge screen TV’s in their homes, saying that the size of person to the screen will be a 1 to 1 ratio. This too, will take away money from movie theaters because people will be more apt to just watch TV and play video games instead of watching movies, and can use services like Netflix and Hulu Plus to watch movies on their giant TV’s. Also, there have been many advancements in surround sound systems meaning that you can just about get the full movie theater experience by watching it at home. This means to keep moviegoers actually going, theaters will have to get more creative.
“You’re gonna end up with fewer but bigger theaters. Going to the movies is gonna cost you $50, maybe $100, maybe $150,” states Lucas. Spielberg agrees saying that it will be the equivalent of what Broadway cost today. Families aren’t going to be able to afford going to the movies every time the “next big movie” comes out. Seeing a movie in the theaters will be a special occasion and only be done a few times a year.
This makes you think about the effect that this will have on small, local theaters. They won’t have the money to buy the latest and greatest entertainment enhancement devices and therefore can not compete with the big chain theaters, internet, and television. This means that they will lose business from two sides. One, the people who love movies will probably be more likely to shell out the big bucks to get a better movie experience, and two, the people who are less devoted to movie watching can get them online or engage in other forms of entertainment. This will, unfortunately put many small theaters out of business and they will be replaced with the big, chain theaters that can afford the cool new tech.
This leads me into the new 4D theaters. They are designed to give you a full, right in the middle of the action, movie experience. They have had them in other parts of the world for a little while now, but they are fairly new in the U.S. A South Korean company hopes to put in about 200 4D screening rooms in large theaters all over the United States, starting with Los Angeles and New York. Most 4D theaters will be equipped with rumbling or shaking seats, water sprayers, and scent emitters. There are around 1000 nozzles that can be programmed to spray out anything from mists of water to that gunpowder smell we all know and love. Along with the shaking/vibrating seats, there are bright flashing lights and large fans that both disperse scent and simulate wind.
I don’t know yet how much this new 4D experience will cost the consumer, but it is estimated to be about double the cost of a regular movie ticket. In my opinion that falls well short of what most people will pay for it, but that is just an estimation. It will be interesting to see what it will actually cost.
Will large 4D theaters coupled with advancements in personal entertainment put small theaters out of business? I believe that it will. Small theaters can’t fork over millions of dollars for the latest technology, putting them a step behind large chain theaters. Because they can not afford the new tech, they can’t compete with the internet or TV. Their customer base will fall because people that like to watch movies, but don’t want to spend the money, can wait and watch them at home and the avid movie goers will go to the best theaters there are. This means that small theaters won’t have the steady customer base to stay open. This will drive the prices up in the large theaters because they will have even less competition and they will have devoted more money into advanced new tech, thus reaching the $50, $100, or $150 dollar mark that Lucas mentioned. For this drastic price increase to happen though, small theaters will have to go out of business. No movie theater can stay competitive at those high of prices even with advanced technology. I think that the large theaters will make it their mission to force the small ones either to sell out or go out of business, making it that much harder on the little guys. It’s like when a large chain supermarket comes into a small town and has low prices for higher quality goods and puts the local grocery stores out of business. Then the supermarket can set their prices how they want.
I believe that small theaters cannot compete with the quickly advancing world of technology and that they will not be able to advance along with it. If this is the case, then there is hardly any way they can stay in business. They must improve their theaters enough to stay competitive while not spending so much they have to raise prices to drastically to recoup their investment. I do not think many small theaters will do this correctly, meaning they will close down much sooner than we might expect. The ones who can make the improvements correctly will stand a much better shot at attracting more customers and therefore staying alive much longer.
The bottom line is that the movie theater world is experiencing more and more competition from both the inside and the outside. Most small theaters will not be able to survive the pressure. Moviegoers will go to the bigger and better theaters that most small theaters can’t compete with. Also, as personal entertainment advances there will be fewer and fewer people that go to the movies, and when they do, will be more likely to splurge and go to the better theater. This will cut down on small theaters customer base so much they will not be able to stay in business.