Category Archive 'Movie Theaters'

02 Jan 2012

Movie Theaters: A Dying Industry

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Two boys debate attending the American Theater in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1938.

Roger Ebert explains why movie theater revenues are in free fall. Only blockbuster movies are currently keeping the whole system afloat.

I guess that’s just how things work.

You have the movie theater business, an industry whose pioneer days were a century ago. That business prospered and bloomed, but for decades now what was once a luxurious escape experience has been subjected to the careful ministrations of bean counters and corporate optimizers who have turned movie theaters, once palaces, into cheap industrial warehouse spaces operated robotically and understaffed with inadequate contingents of the bitter and indifferent working for the minimum wage.

It takes hundreds of millions for special effects, movie star salaries and blowing up all those expensive cars, but at the actual delivery end the industry has whittled every possible penny out of quality of service.

Their problems are compounded by the aging US population. Even hard-core cineastes like myself (I ran a film society at Yale) today feel out-of-place in today’s theaters. Adults buy videos or watch films on cable or the Internet these days. Teenagers go to movie theaters for the same reasons teenagers always went to movie theaters.

The film industry is being confronted by the same kinds of changes in technology and the arrival of handier and more competitive methods of product delivery that confronted the music industry, and it seems that these dinosaurs are no more able than the other dinosaurs to cope positively with new challenges and opportunities.

Old industries wind up being run by rentiers, but dramatic innovation requires visionaries and risk-takers. The motion picture industry today is run by corporations, what changing times need are the equivalent of the aggressive businessmen, recently off the boat from Poland and Lithuania, the Warners, the Zukors, the Goldwyns, and the Mayers, who created the studios and the industry in the first place. But that kind of leadership is not going to come from inside today’s industry establishment.

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