Rollercoaster Ride

In the movie industry right now, one of the biggest challenges for the Motion Picture Association of America is balancing between theater owners, who are desperate to keep getting people in seats, and content providers ranging from Amazon to Netflix to Comcast, who by expanding the video-on-demand and streaming market, are making theaters increasingly irrelevant. It’s one of the reasons there’s such a huge push for 3-D, and for innovations like the ones that turn movies into theme park rides for movies like Super 8.

I think the problem for theaters is a matter of perception, rather than innovation. An adult, one-day ticket to Disney World is $82. But we’re conditioned to believe that Disney World is a special treat, perhaps a one-in-a-lifetime experience that’s worth the extravagance. Movies are reasonably competitively priced in comparison to Disney World tickets: if you spend $11-$20 for two hours, you’re paying $5.5-$10 per hour in comparison to the $10ish per hour you’ll get if you spend 8 straight hours at Disney World. But we’re conditioned to think of the movies as much more routine entertainment. What theaters need is a combination of innovation, good story-telling, and a Disney-level advertising campaign. No one’s going to beat back the demand for quicker and more multi-platform delivery, and that’s probably not a winning battle for theaters. They need to make the affirmative case for their medium.