Screen Junkies » movie theaters Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Wed, 06 Aug 2014 00:58:01 +0000 en hourly 1 The Original ‘Ghostbusters’ Is Coming Back To Theaters Thu, 05 Jun 2014 22:45:12 +0000 Penn Collins I ain't afraid of no ghost! Are you afraid of no ghost?

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Do you like the movie Ghostbusters, but hate watching things alone? You are in luck, because, amid all this hubbub surrounding a third installment of the franchise, we’ve forgotten that the film will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Yes, yes. We are old. “Where does the time, go?,” etc.

The film will hit 700 theaters on August 29th.

This would all be much more interesting news if the film hadn’t had a theatrical run in 2011, presumably in honor of its 27th anniversary. That’s the anniversary when the film can rent a car without having to pay a premium.


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The Dumb Discussion Over Texting In Movie Theaters Wed, 02 May 2012 16:01:42 +0000 Penn Collins No sexting during 'The Hungry Games'!

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Last Wednesday, the movie theater industry assembled its board of elders, including Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles, IMAX CEO Greg Foster, and Tim League, the CEO of Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse. In a panel, in front of a crowd, the three discussed what could be done to court the oh-so-powerful teenage market.

When asked what teenagers love to do, these non-teenagers replied “texting!” Amy Miles claimed that teenagers are a powerful constituency with all their Twilights and Harry’s Potter, and The Hungry Games and whatnot, but that they may be souring on the movie-going experience because they aren’t allowed to use their cell phones to text or sext or draw something while the movie plays.

Miles suggested allowing texting in films that are aimed at teenagers, which as best I can tell, means about 91% of the movies that are out there today. Then the teenagers will be happy and the studio system won’t collapse into itself the same way the music industry did. If only the music industry had allowed texting while listening to albums, all this could have been avoided. A tragic lesson learned.

Since when do teenagers tell us what to do? We are adults. We tell teenagers what to do. I understand that theater receipts are down by and large, and that teenagers are attending films less frequently than they used to, but I really enjoy hearing these theater owners try to blame something besides the fact that they kept jacking up ticket prices for regular and 3D movies until no one anywhere had any desire to see a film.

In candor, this sounds like a terribly short-sighted way to address the problem of waning theater attendance. Unlike live concerts and sporting events, where texting and camera phones snaps are de rigueur, movie theaters are pretty solemn locales. There’s no talking and nothing in the way of distractions. There aren’t ancillary laser shows, jumbotrons, nor cheering crowds. Rather than going to theaters to feel like they’re part of something, theater patrons go to lose themselves in the movie and forget that they exist for a couple hours. That’s hard to do when the dark room is peppered with tiny flashing screens and muffled taps of people reconnecting with the outside world.

Sure it’s arbitrary, and stupid teenagers today seem to never ever want to cut the cord to their circle of friends, but they inherited a theater system from us. They don’t tell us what to do. We tell them what to do. Because they have to. At the risk of sounding a little parental here, there’s nothing wrong with setting up boundaries. Kids manage to survive airplane flights without texting, and they even continue to fly in spite of being incommunicado.

Granted most adults weren’t raised suckling the teat that is wireless connectivity, but it’s my hunch that keeping theaters sacred will have minimal effect over the near term and will actually behoove theater owners in the long term. While Amy Miles and IMAX’s Greg Foster were talking about a sea change, Alamo’s Tim League carried on with his very public “fuck texting” stance, saying:

“Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater. I love the idea of playing around with a new concept. But that is the scourge of our industry… It’s our job to understand that this is a sacred space and we have to teach manners.”

While I don’t believe that it’s the theater owners’ job to teach manners, I understand what League is saying. Movie theaters have become a sacred place in the fabric of America, and just because a generation of kids doesn’t like to be away from their cell phones, we shouldn’t completely change the nature of the place.

Miles has said she’s considered “testing these concepts” (allowing dumb teenagers to text) at screenings of teen-friendly movies. She then cited 21 Jump Street as an example, which is odd, because it’s rated R, meaning that relatively few teenagers would actually be there. Unless they snuck in, in which case, we’ve got a whole other set of problems on our hand.

The problem with this idea is that arbitrarily deeming on film to be text friendly and another to not be is just confusing to both teens and non-teens. Would it be listed online whether or not I’m going to be annoyed. Would I start texting if I was in Twilight: Breaking Dawn and bored off my ass? Probably. I would probably text anyone and everyone I could to avoid the film.

It’s not too big a leap to expect people to start bringing in iPads to movies, if they’re not doing it already. I’ve already had to berate several people at concerts for holding up those godforsaken tablets to record the concert, blocking everyone’s view. I’m sure that the bright, giant display wouldn’t enhance my viewing experience during Toy Story 6, either.

I’m no Luddite when it comes to new technology, but I just don’t see the upside to allowing texting in theaters on any level. Teenagers love their phones. That’s terrific. There are going to be places in the world that don’t allow them. Funerals, churches, some restaurants. They can learn to deal. Sure, it might cause these theater owners with teenage kids some heartburn, but my guess is that everything will work out okay in the end, but a stance must be taken. If theater owners are indifferent or lax in their application of this policy, then some kids will get turned off from movies on principle, while others continue to text, ruining the experience for everyone in attendance.

Which is why I say use that nifty cell-phone blocking technology in theaters. No one texts, ever, and if anyone has a problem with that, they can wait to see the movie until it’s available on a torrent site. No. Wait. I meant “on a legitimate OnDemand service or Netflix.”

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Baja Innovations Has A New Way To Butter Your Popcorn (Not A Metaphor) Wed, 01 Feb 2012 23:56:03 +0000 Penn Collins In the future, every kernel will glisten, and every finger will be greased.

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Doesn’t it just grind your gears when you order a large buttered popcorn from the theater, but find that the popcorn isn’t completely covered in butter when you get to the nether regions of the bucket?

Bradley Cimo of Baja Innovations f*cking hates it when that happens. In fact, here’s what he said was the impetus for his new invention, the Flavor Funnel:

Myself and friends and a million other people have always been disgusted by how the butter runs out once you get down to the middle of the popcorn. This helps distribute the butter more evenly.

He’s DISGUSTED by this phenomenon. The thought of not having the lowest depths of his popcorn covered in artificial butter revolts him. But Bradley Cimo is a man of action, so rather than complain, he has taken arms against a sea of unbuttered troubles, and by opposing, will end them.

The Flavor Funnel is a plastic funnel-ish tube that runs down the middle of your popcorn, with holes scattered throughout, so that it may gently weep butter throughout. I’m glad that Mr. Cino is addressing this underbuttering problem head-on, as a large popcorn buttered in the traditional method doesn’t contain more than 1600 or 1700 calories, so this should be an innovation welcomed by not only theatergoers, but angioplasty balloon manufacturers and companies that make prosthetic feet for diabetics.

Actually, the Flavor Funnel addresses that question right here, saying that the goal of the Flavor Funnel is to maximize flavor using the same amount (or less) butter, though I would say that a device that presupposes that you should stick your popcorn under a buttere machine for 20 seconds might not be considered a harbinger of health.

May your song never die, Bradley Cino.

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Manure Prices Plummet, Movie Ticket Prices Drop Accordingly Tue, 01 Nov 2011 21:29:38 +0000 Penn Collins If you saw this picture and thought "Tyler Perry," you're a horrible racist.

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Movie ticket prices have dropped across the nation, from a prohibitive $8.06 to a dirt-cheap $7.94.

Ok. The difference itself may not be mind-blowing, but the fact that the trend of rising ticket prices is reversing is saying something. Namely that audiences are less willing to see movies if they’re really expensive. (I don’t even have an economics degree. I just figured that out. Swear to God.)

However, don’t get too excite that prices are falling across the board. This figure is likely just an indication that people are less willing to pony up for 3D films than they used to be, and your standard ticket prices are the same unreasonably-high bullshit they’ve always been.

But this could send a message to theater owners (theaters set ticket prices, not studios) that people aren’t willing to pay what they once were. The 3D novelty has worn off, and attending movies, especially in big cities, is becoming cost-prohibitive.

Do I propose some sort of global candy-smuggling initiative aimed at letting theater owners know that the only way we’re willing to absorb higher ticket prices is if we do so with pockets full of Pretzel M&M’s and gray-market Red Vine?

Yup. That’s what I’m doing right now. First person to put a good name to this movement in the comments gets the satisfaction of knowing they helped change the world.

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Will We Keep Going To Theaters To See Movies? Fri, 21 Oct 2011 22:02:44 +0000 Penn Collins Movie theaters are scared that they're losing you to your home theater. Here's what they're doing about it.

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This past summer, movie theaters experienced the fewest tickets sold since 1997. Of course, ticket prices are at an all-time high, so box office grosses didn’t reflect the abysmal traffic, but the fact is clear: fewer people are going to see movies.

With technology where it is now, the fear is that the industry (both studios and theater owners) don’t have the market on theater experiences cornered anymore. HDTV’s have gotten pretty big and loud, making the technical aspects of the home experience more and more similar to those of a theater. Further, the window of time between theatrical release and DVD release has shrunk, enabling patient consumers to get their gratification a little sooner than they used to.

We’ve seen domestic box office revenues fall off over the past year from $6.8 billion to $6.42, mostly due not to reduced traffic or falling ticket prices, but the abandonment of 3D screenings, resulting in a lower ticket price. In fact, 2D tickets prices have been rising, indicating that fewer people have been going to see movies. As this New York Times article demonstrates that, since 1999, ticket price increases have outpaced the Consumer Price Index by more than half. But there’s only so much that a consumer is willing to pay before abandoning the whole thing on principle. If a movie ticket costs $10, then the cost rises to $12, then perhaps a consumer will see 20% fewer movies. But if you raise that price to $20, they won’t see half as many movies. They will see closer to zero movies because they’re pissed off.

So while theater owners have been unilaterally raising ticket prices to realize spikes in the near-term, are they slowly alienating theater-goers in the long term?

Without a lot of forward-looking data at my fingertips, common sense dictates that the industry isn’t doing itself any favors with the current customer experience. The push-down, pop-up effect of high ticket prices, partnered with rising parking costs, brokerage fees online, and 3D surcharges has made theater-going more of an ordeal than ever before.

In the face of lower demand for the theater product theaters, studios, and even audiences are trying to figure out what the current theater experience is worth and to whom.

Historically, a premium was placed on moviegoing because it was, quite simply, the only way to see a film. Then, with the rise of VCR’s and video rentals and sales, a threat presented itself, but the gap between the home experience (crappy TV, crappy VCR) and the theater experience (big screen, Dolby surround) was big enough that the video cassettes didn’t serve as a substitute for the experience. However, DVD’s and video on-demand have changed all that.

Huge cheap TV’s have become ubiquitous, as have Blu-Ray discs and digital cable services. Movies are, as the saying goes, at your fingertips. Further, torrent technology has given a whole marketplace access to screeners and hotel PPV films, undermining the studio’s VOD and DVD release strategy (and, it merits noting, gives the studios precisely zero dollars in revenue).

In summation, there are many reasons not to want to go through the trouble and expense of going to the theater. But are there any reasons to still want to go?

Of course there are. But right now, those motivations are hard to quantify. Which, as one could guess, is driving the industry crazy with infighting in determining what the value of getting a patron into a theater at ticket price X dollars instead of capturing them with DVD’s, VOD, or not at all. It’s easiest though to examine the low-hanging fruit and who is easiest to capture in the theaters.

The Die-Hards

Die-hard fans of any genre (Tarantino, comic book movies, Twilight) won’t accept anything but the best for the initial screening of a new film, and “the best” still resides within the walls of a high-tech theater. However vocal these people are on the Internet (and they’re EXTREMELY vocal), they don’t constitute the lion’s share of ticket sales for a theater.

The Social Patrons

When a bored group is tasked with deciding on an activity, it’s a foregone conclusion that someone will suggest movies. Because while they may be more and more expensive when compared to watching them at home, the social aspect of going to see a movie on a date or with friends is pretty much commensurate with every other activity, though it has gotten more expensive.

The Blockbuster Audiences

A blockbuster gets to be a “blockbuster” by infiltrating popular culture to the point where one pretty much feels like an asshole for not having participated in this element of the zeitgeist. So, rather than feel like an asshole or be the only one out of the loop, people will pay a premium to see a film at the first opportunity (usually the theater, though there may be exceptions on the horizon). Unfortunately, manufacturing this type of demand costs marketing dollars (or requires a clever title like Snakes on a Plane), so to keep people coming to the theater in the face of mounting obstacles, studios might have to pay more and more to get the same returns.

So there are groups that have proven themselves inelastic when it comes to ponying up for the traditional theater experience. However, all these groups are vastly outnumbered by:

The Casual Moviegoer

This segment will continue to dwindle unless something changes. Right now, waiting four months so that four people can watch a film on a couch for $9.99 is a perfectly good and attractive substitute for paying $80 all-in and having to brave the multiplex. Especially if the film is one that reads just as well in low-tech surroundings.

That last part is important. If the industry is able to create a markedly different experience, like they were able to throughout most of the modern era, then it could find itself once again with a competitive advantage. One that will be leaps and bounds ahead of a cheaper substitute. 3D was knocking on that door, but headaches, ill-fitting glasses, and annoying surcharges all took the wind out of that movement once the novelty of the technology wore off.

So, now theaters are desperate to produce something that even the finest home theater can’t. They are even doing it withou knowing. About a decade ago, new theaters such as Angelika and Landmark integrated coffee, gourmet food, and even wine into their theaters, most likely in an effort to simply appeal to their yuppie customer bases and generate a few extra bucks from sales of these products. But what they ended up doing is differentiating themselves from other theaters (which they probably meant to do) and also from the home experience (which the probably didn’t). Coincidentally, it’s these very theaters that have the most to lose at this moment, with IFC releasing many of their films on VOD the same day that they are released in theaters. These moviehouses need a leg up more than anyone else based on that fact alone. Couple that with the fact that they’re showing indie films which aren’t known for their box office muscle, and they’ve got a problem.

Multiplexes peddling Hollywood fare can’t depend on wine and coffee to lure in many of their customers, so they’re going in a very different direction. A Korean company, CJ 4D Plex is working on changing the way audiences experience a movie by adding spraying water, shaking seats, and, naturally, smells. While getting sprayed, shaken, and odor-ed while watching a film doesn’t sound like a good time to me, it does show how far theaters will go to maintain an experience distinct from the one in your living room.

Will audiences return to theaters with the siren lure of affordable wine or gunpowder smells? Maybe some will, but the theaters are beginning to realize, with the availability of substitutes, that audiences are a lot more price sensitive, so the simplest solution is probably the one they want to hear least:

Drop your prices.

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