Monday, January 26, 2009

Up your ticket prices!

Been to a movie in 2009 yet? Better bring the debit card or a little extra cash. As our economy continues a slow grind to lethargy, theater owners and the corporate executive offices that control them are raising ticket prices. Time to do some shopping and maybe a bit of rethinking if you're enough of a movie fan to be concerned.

On a recent trip to the movies here in frost bound NJ, a trip to see Doubt in a badly maintained and not-so-state of the art movie theater (a 12-plex) cost each ticket buyer $10.75. Aside from being up by about a buck over a few months ago, that price turns out to be one of the highest in the area. A quick scan at Fandango revealed an average evening ticket varying from 10 bucks to the $10.75 I forked over on Saturday night. For those keeping score, the lowest of three major theater chains I checked was Lowes, averaging $10., Regal came in 2nd at $10.25 and Reading was the culprit - with the $10.75 price, the not so great sound & picture, and the dirty, sticky floors thrown in as a bonus. Forget the snack bar, of the four of us, no one paid a visit.

A year ago, reports were being published that the price of corn (of all things) was pushing up the price of a movie ticket. Not so incomprehensible when you begin tracing out the chain of profit for theater owners. The snack bar, both a traditional source of profit for the theater and piracy for the customer, was credited with keeping those ticket prices down. Whoops... Willie Nelson fills up his pickup with bio-fuel, farmers begin selling off acres of crops for ethanol and theater owners are paying more for popcorn. Guess what? They'll make it up on the ticket. (You'd think those $4 cokes would do the trick.)

Now, with the economy tanking, studios want a bigger cut to cover expenses, theater owners have to cough up more money for more weeks with each new release and... guess what? They'll make it up on the ticket. 

Without getting into the dream that 3D will descend from the entertainment heavens and somehow so dazzle audiences that they won't see the extra two or three bucks added on an already rising price, let's just stick to the cold two-dimensional reality for now. A consumer/seller rule of thumb... when you don't feel like you're getting what you paid for, you stop buying. The important part of that last line? - the .  As in period, end of story.

Here's a fact colder than hard cash... I can buy a DVD new release, practically anywhere without benefit of sales or promotions, for $19.99, less than the price of two movie tickets. Kick in new release Tuesday sales and that price drops to $14.99 to $17.99. Go online for a digital download and you're at $14.99 to as low as $9.99. Chuck owning for renting and you're at $3.99. Get extravagant and rent in HD for $4.99. Take a date to the movies, let alone take you're family, and this math gets brutally simple. And the brutal side starts to fall squarely on theater owners, who right about now are looking as ignorant as they look greedy.

This stuff's been discussed before. If you want to compete with home video, 50 inch flat screens and living room surround sound, not to mention all of the great ways to make gourmet popcorn right out of the microwave, you've got to deliver value for your ticket price. No matter what that price needs to be. It's amazing how quickly the above argument disintegrates when the theater is completely state of the art, crystal clean, stocked with smiling staff, fresh gourmet coffees, reasonably priced candy and plush roomy seating. Yeah, 3D will be fun but let's not forget the basics. Get your act together. We love going to the movies but we'll be the one of the first to jump on the soapbox to tell you to shutter your doors if you think for a minute your audiences are anywhere near as dumb as your next Adam Sandler movie. In the meantime, you should be thinking about lowering, not raising prices.

Think the last movie you saw at a theater was worth the price? Is going to a movie anywhere near the value of buying or renting DVDs? Will digital rentals close theaters? Will 3D save the day? This and more as Moviedozer Dailies continues into 2009. As always, let us know what you think.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Monsters & Lizards in 3D. Now that's marketing.

So much for the Bud Bowl. Jeffrey Katzenberg is putting on his Ringmaster's hat again and trotting out his two most favorite things in order to take center stage in the advertising follies on this year's Super Bowl airwaves - animation and 3D. With the biggest promotion of digital 3D technology to date, Super Bowl XLIII will be the venue to showcase Katezenberg's pet DreamWorks animation project Monsters vs. Aliens, due in 3D theaters on March 27th.

Katzenberg has never thrilled us with his sense for great stories or artistic creativity, but we love this guy's passion. We've said it here before, if you think 3D is just a blip on entertainment radars you'll be racing for the storm cellars when this technology finds a great script. 3D is in it's infancy again and this time it's not only growing up fast, but it's primed to surpass the hype of its new technology to legitimately become an entirely immersive format for diverse entertainment. Don't want to take my word for it? Let me say it with numbers -
-There are at least 15 new 3D projects in hard development from movie studios over the next two years, including projects from DreamWorks, Disney, James Cameron, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. In fact, DreamWorks is on record as reporting all of their future projects are planned to be released in 3D.

-Though there are more than 1,000 3D equipped screens currently in the US, industry estimates expect to see a 4 to 7 times growth of that number in just the next 18 months.

-It's not all about movies. Sports leagues and special events are going to be vying for 3D theater screens as well. With the success of Disney's Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour 3D movie last year (which set the Fandango advance ticket sales record) and the NBA experimenting with live 3D games on satellite at your local cinema, there's as much interest outside of Hollywood as inside.

-More than half a dozen companies will be presenting 3D technology products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, just underway in Las Vegas. Among them is Fox Sports.

In an effort to make potential moviegoers keenly aware of 3D, hook kids solidly into the anticipation of 3D as an event this summer, and (some clever undertones at work) capture the imaginations of sports fans perhaps reflecting on the possibilities of dropping a few bucks to watch next year's Super Bowl from the comfort of a cineplex seat (complete with a buffet layout in the lobby), NBC, DreamWorks and Pepsico have launched the distribution of 150 million free pairs of 3D glasses. That would allow more people to experience 3D on Super Bowl Sunday than voted in this year's historic Presidential election.

For the trouble of picking up the free glasses at any one of thousands of retail displays (yes, they're just paper, but the improved technology of the lenses means there's no point in digging through the box of your kid's Spy Kids 3D DVD or any 1950's memorabilia you may have lying around), you'll experience a decidedly inferior effect than is now available in digitally equipped movie theaters, BUT you will have the fun of seeing both an extended trailer of the new DreamWorks animated release Monsters vs. Aliens as well as the bonus of catching last year's favorites, the SoBe Lifewater Lizards in a new 3D commercial. If you don't get the glasses, expect everybody to be teasing you with what you've missed. And don't tell me football fans, famous for painted faces and foam fingers, are too cool to wear some paper glasses for a couple of minutes. (One of these companies should be running a contest to have fans send in they're Super Bowl 3D glasses party pictures.)

And if all that's not enough, NBC is giving you a reason to hang on to the glasses for at least one extra night. If you're a fan of the show Chuck that is. They'll be a 3D episode of Chuck airing Monday night to continue the 3D hype (and likely attract some new viewers to the show in the meantime). The only thing overlooked seems to have been shooting the live Bruce Springsteen halftime show in 3D. Who missed that one?

Here are links to a some of the posts we've written for Dailies about 3D.

Read up, this is a technology you'll come to appreciate in 2009 and won't be able to avoid in 2010. And sports fans - I mean you. To get the official scoop, the Super Bowl 3D promo ad is embedded below with thanks to YouTube.