Sunday, May 15, 2005

Why should the kids have all the fun?

Beer and wine: Coming soon to a theater near you?
go to original article ... or email me for article text
"'This isn't a theater that's showing Disney movies and bringing in blockbuster-type stuff," she said. "It's an older crowd, and if an individual wants to see an independent show at the Plaza Frontenac and wants a glass of wine in there, I think that's perfectly fine.

As for the Tivoli Theatre, Resnick said no alcohol would be served during its midnight showings, which is when the theater receives the majority of its underage audience. Like restaurants and bars, theater staff would card individuals purchasing alcohol."
The idea of serving alcohol at movie theaters had fallen out of fashion (or at least off of my list of things that are really important in this business) with me because I viewed alcoholic beverages simply as higher margin concessions products. If you read the blog, you can probably get a sense for how I feel about building a movie theater on concession sales.

However, I spun off on a really interesting line of thought after I read this article regarding the movement to bring alcohol into select St. Louis area theaters . This quote recognizes a long understood segmentation of the movie going public into the family-oriented, and the adult. It always seemed a little strange to me that theaters and multiplexes all seemed to cater to the family oriented group considering how all of the buying power resided in the adult group. I eventually realized that "family films" were more often than not responsible for the highest attendance and thus the largest amounts of revenue.

But now I realize that I wasn't carrying out the reasoning far enough. One might presume that greater public response to family oriented films indicated that more people were interested in seeing them. But now it's not that at all. People aren't more interested in family oriented films (despite the sweeping conservative trends that call for "family values"). In the end, it would seem, that there's more money to be made in the family arena because the marketing dollar will be more effective when selling this films.

But here's the part that really bothers me. Who does the studio marketing machine feel it's important to target? Kids. And generally the younger population. Which begs the question, why would you target kids? Because they're the easiest to sell and don't know any better.

It may not seem like rocket science, but I think it's the really importantant observation. Basically, the Hollywood marketing strategy(and if I felt like more of an authority, I would say the American marketing strategy) is to proudly boast about the virtues of whatever they're selling until they start to see a response in sales. And even if they're lying or wrong, there's no one to call them on it because they call the ensuing response a "market" and use that as their justification.

They're banking on the fact that people will believe things are what they want them to be and buy them regardless, rather than evaluate them for what they are and exercise their discretion. And the people this works the best on is the young crowd who have the least experience distinguishing one thing from the other.

The reason this bothers me is that it's more effective than it's sinister exploitative surface seems to indicate. It would seem like the problem would only manifest itself in the occasional bad movie, or bad trailer that doesn't really describe what the feature is about. That the only negative outcomes would be a couple of moviegoers getting burned and learning their lesson the hard way that you can't believe everything a marketing campaign tells you. But it has shaped the face of the whole exhibition industry. The prevalence of the multi and megaplexes that cater to "family oriented" movie goers are around precisely because their ease of exploitation has trickled down into "smarter" business for the theaters.

And as a result, adults have nowhere to go for films.

Luckily, I think the trend is reversing itself. I see the industry-wide recognition of the earning potential of independent films (and hence the subsequent presence of an independent distribution branch at each major studio) as one signal that people are starting to realize that adults want to go to the movies. I think the rising trend of including alcohol on the list of things you can enjoy with a movie signals the same thing.

Movies are not just entertainment, and like literature and the printed media, there is a place for film and going to the movies in everyone's lives. It's the exhibitors' turn to start reacting. Just like the megaplex was a reaction increasing demand for blockbuster general appeal films, there needs to be a response to the huge potential for films that interest individual groups and even individual people.


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