How Movie Makers can Get Better Cinema Revenues in 2015

The data are in, and it looks like cinema revenues are continuing to decline:

Despite a fantastic Christmas at the box office, 81 million people didn’t buy movie tickets this year. Not only were this year’s domestic admissions of 1.259 billion off 6% from 2013’s 1.34B, but the number of tickets sold hit their lowest level since 1995 when 1.211B people went to the cinema.

Some of the stats here are interesting. The number of people contributing to cinema revenues also tanked. Meaning even though the tickets were much more expensive, so few people came that revenues were still down over all. The crowds haven’t been this small since 1995.

Apparently no one is thinking that maybe so few people go to the theater because of the higher prices. Which leads me to my first point:

  1. Cinema revenues would increase if theater tickets were less expensive.

I really don’t think movie theaters have thought this one through. I took my family to see the newest Hobbit movie in IMAX HFR 3D, and we enjoyed it. But I won’t be doing it again. Probably ever. It cost $120. And I was actually quite surprised they didn’t also charge me for the unborn child my wife was carrying. They charged full price for my two-year-old, and he refused to even keep th 3D glasses on.

I’m not complaining about the free market, or the price the market bears, or anything like that. I think the free market is actually indicating that the market won’t bear the currently exhorbitant prices being charged at the cinema.

And, as far as overhead is concerned, theaters would be greatly benefitted by getting more bodies into the theater throughout the year. Because here’s a fact: they show the movie whether there is one person there, or three hundred. The overhead for showing a movie to a deserted theater is the same as showing it to a packed house. Which means that increasing the number of theater patrons would probably increase total revenue. I don’t think they have quite found that sweet spot for their prices yet.

  1. Cinema revenues (or at least profits) would increase if more theaters showed good, old movies.

Theaters don’t have to show only new movies. Theaters could buy showing rights for old movies for much cheaper, and most of us would much rather see an old, good movie with our kids in the theater rather than seeing some stupid, new movie hovering at 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Think about it. Wouldn’t you love to see Star Wars in theaters again? Or Casablanca? Or an old technicolor musical? That would be awesome. Film makers could produce high definition remasters for much less than the cost of making a new movie, theaters would show them in limited screens (especially for seasonal showings of seasonal classics) and cinema revenues would increase. And movie makers and distributors could release fewer movies and still make money.

  1. On that note, cinema revenues would increase if film makers made better movies.

Seriously, there are so many stupid movies being made right now. It has gotten so bad, that people are used to thinking, “I’ll wait til it comes out on DVD (blu-ray, whatever).” If movies in general were of a higher quality, I think people would be more willing to invest in them at the theater.

When you combine these three tips together, I think you have a winning strategy. Unfortunately, I have no say on any of these things.