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Are movie theatres on the way to extinction?

Chains need to fix various patron annoyances or end up the internet’s next victims.

movie theatres

Movie Theatres:

1 minute read

A couple of pieces related to movie theatres caught my eye over the weekend, both of which combined to get me thinking about whether cinemas are destined to be the next business to go into a death spiral.

The first was a Globe and Mail story about Netflix’s ambitions to take on and disrupt Hollywood, while the second was a blog post by writer Sarah Jane on Talk Film Society about why she no longer goes to the movies.

The Globe’s lengthy story looks at how Netflix, having already created its own successful pipeline of TV shows, is now aiming to do the same with films. With the new Brad Pitt movie War Machine recently debuting on the streaming service rather than in theatres, Netflix is now bringing its big guns to bear against Hollywood.

The key quote comes from chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who at the Cannes Film Festival last week said:

“We’re living in an age where everything is at our fingertips and there are very few things in the world that you still have to do at a certain time and place. I know why I have to be at the airport at 8 o’clock to be on my flight, but I don’t know why I have to be at the theatre at 8 o’clock to see the start of my movie.”

That timeliness issue is just one piece of the puzzle – the Talk Film Society post fills in a few more. In her post, Jane talks about the death of etiquette at theatres – how many movie-goers now have no qualms about talking or using their phones throughout the show, regardless of how distracting they may be to other patrons.

Worse still, theatres don’t seem interested in cracking down on such activity. As Jane outlines in her piece, she’s lucky to have had ushers ask talkers to quiet down. Never do violators get removed.

I wrote about the last piece of the puzzle in a previous post, where Cineplex – the theatre chain that controls 80 per cent of the market here in Canada – can’t even field a mobile app with basic functionality. If you missed that one, the long and the short of it is that Cineplex has once again broken its app with its latest update.

Put it all together and you aren’t left with a good picture.

Requiring patrons to show up at specific times in a world that is otherwise on-demand and then making it difficult for them to even purchase your product isn’t a recipe for success. Subjecting them to annoyances once they show up and then refusing to do anything about it is the cherry on the see-you-later sundae.

Theatre attendance is declining in both the United States and Canada. If movie theatres don’t clean up their acts and get with the times relatively soon, they may indeed end up the internet’s next victims.

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