Girl watching comedy movie in cinema with friends.
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LOS ANGELES — Cinema is still big. It’s the multiplex that’s getting smaller.
Since 2019, the total number of screens in the US has decreased by about 3,000 to just under 40,000.
The consolidation is a direct result of the Covid pandemic, which temporarily closed movie theaters and caused a surge in streaming subscriptions. Many regional chains have closed completely, while others have been forced to reassess their financial base. For many, that meant closing stores or selling leases.
“In general, think about retail itself being rearranged. There aren’t many stores of the same brand in the market,” said Rolando Rodriguez, president of the National Association of Theater Owners. I think people are more selective and we don’t see these 30plexes anymore because of the economy we need.”
Rodriguez said most of the newly constructed locations will range from 12 to 16 screens, while locations with larger existing footprints will include arcades, bowling alleys, bars, and other complementary activities for moviegoers. We plan to reuse the space for .
Cinemas are being forced to innovate even as Hollywood production returns to normal, releasing more films than studios were able to offer in the early stages of the pandemic.
As space shrinks, theater operators are investing in the basics, improving sound, image quality and seating, as well as enhancing food and beverage services, events and alternative programming. The aim is to improve the baseline experience for moviegoers, regardless of the type of ticket they purchase.
“When people get into the habit of watching, they do better,” said Larry Etter, senior vice president of family-run regional chain Marco Theaters. I think it recreates the habitual effect of going to the movies on Friday night or Saturday night or whatever it is.”
Already, the industry is seeing improvements in ticket sales. According to Comscore data, 2023 box office grosses will reach $958.5 million by Monday, up nearly 50% from last year and down just 25% from 2019.
That’s a notable improvement from the box office gross of just $98.7 million for the same period in 2021.
Traffic has improved, but remains below pre-pandemic levels. In his 20 years before the pandemic, the industry averaged 1.1 billion tickets sold annually, according to EntTelligence data. Even with Covid restrictions lifted in 2022, more than half of the tickets were sold that year. .
Cinema operators are happy that studio production has increased, but they no longer take audiences for granted.
To that end, the operator has started upgrading the projectors. Over the last few years, cinema operators have been removing traditional digital projectors and installing laser units. This is done to reduce costs over time and improve image quality for moviegoers.
“It’s a little more expensive, but it will produce a better product on screen,” said Marco Etter. It’s sustainable because you’ll be using about 60% of the utility that you were using before.”
Etter explained that traditional digital bulbs have to be replaced after about 2,000 hours and generate so much heat that theaters have to pay a lot for air conditioning in projector rooms. Also, the laser he components can last for 20,000 hours, so you can use them for years without needing to replace them.
Many theater operators have told CNBC they are planning similar upgrades to their sound systems, saying they are partnering with companies like Dolby to bring high-quality speakers to their auditoriums.
Warehouse Cinemas President and CEO Rich Daughtridge said: “For me, that’s the baseline. I feel like I need to create the best sound and picture experience to get people to pay to come to the cinema.”
General atmosphere during the IMAX Private Screening of the movie First Man held at the IMAX AMC Theater in New York City on October 10, 2018.
Lars Niki | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Across the industry, theater chains both large and small are replacing outdated stadium seats with recliners to improve the overall cinematic experience.
“[We are] Alamo Drafthouse CEO Shelli Taylor said: We will make renovations where necessary to truly refresh and ensure that we continue to provide the premium experience that people have come to expect from Alamo as they grow.”
These improvements are part of a broader trend that started before the pandemic. Consumers are opting for a more premium theatrical experience for blockbusters. We choose to pay more to see movies on big screens and specialty theaters.
According to EntTelligence data, 15% of domestic tickets sold in 2022 will be for premium screenings, with an average ticket price of $15.92. The average price for a standard ticket is $11.29.
So far in 2023, its premium ticket average is high at $17.33 per ticket. Disney’s Avatar: Path of Water in premium format and 3D.
Blockbusters have always been the driving force behind movie theater ticket sales. Before the pandemic, cinema owners relied primarily on studio advertising (trailers, TV spots, posters) to promote their content and drive moviegoers to their theaters. Now they’re putting more into that mix.
Loyalty programs, direct marketing, and special events are some of the recent tactics operators have employed to attract viewers. AMC is First-ever advertising campaign 2021 will feature Nicole Kidman, with the tagline “We make movies better.” The company has invested approximately $25 million in this campaign.
Small budget chains have to be a little more creative.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with distributors just talking about more effective and efficient ways to market their movies,” Warehouse’s Doutridge said. , with better trailer placement [putting] Sell tickets at the right time. ”
“I think there are a lot of things that are easy to achieve,” he said of mailing lists, loyalty programs and social media for personalized marketing.
The Warehouse, which is about to open its third location, is running promotions ranging from margaritas with movie tickets to a special “daddy and daughter” date night show. During the pandemic, Warehouse Cinemas took advantage of Solstice Studio’s release of “Unhinged” to host a Carr-his smash event during Week 5 of the film in theaters.
Most recently, the chain ran a campaign called “Pajamas and Popcorn,” offering free popcorn to customers who wore their pajamas to the cinema. During its promotion, the company showed an Indiana Jones movie and the classic animated dinosaur movie “The Land Before Time.” Tickets were $5 each.
The “Land Before Time” show sold 1,400 tickets, Doutridge said.
“It was one of those events that just popped up,” he said. “We didn’t expect it to do so much business.”
Medium-sized chains like Alamo Drafthouse delve into the whimsical. When Oscar favorite “Everything Everywhere All at Once” hit theaters, the theater chain asked ticket buyers who went to a “feast” event to mark the film’s famous hot dog finger scene. I handed out hot dogs.
From A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once”.
The company also partnered with the Lincoln Zoo to stage an outdoor screening of “The Lion King” at the zoo’s lion’s den prior to the opening of its new location in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood.
Alamo is not the only chain store food innovation and drinks. Concessions have long been a staple of movie theaters, but in recent years theater owners have expanded traditional popcorn and soda fare.
Operating more than 20 movie theaters in eight states, Cinepolis is a luxury dining-in-theater chain offering a variety of food and beverages, from chicken wings to lobster tacos. Cinepolis hosts special dinners “movies and meals” coinciding with certain new movie releases.
“For us, food is essential to the local experience,” said Luis Oroki, CEO of Cinepolis, adding that more and more people have large HD TVs in their homes and order from top restaurants. I mentioned that it is now possible.
The trend is unlikely to abate, and industry insiders are optimistic about the future of the cinema business.
“Unfortunately, I think we’ve had a very bad publicity side of things during the Covid process,” said Rodriguez of the National Association of Theater Owners. “Hey, it’s right behind us. Theaters are fine.”