The Next New: Movie Theaters Become Bedrooms To Survive

By: Keith Nelson Jr (@JusAire)

Go home. Get some food from the fridge. Choose from the millions of movies on the on-demand streaming service of your choice. Done? You have just entered the prototype for the movie theater of the future. Movie ticket sales have been on a decline for over 10 years with this summer box office ticket sales experiencing a 24% drop from last year; the worst in eight years. With Netflix planning to stream the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sequel simultaneous with the film's theatrical release (which movie theater owners are pissed about) it is time for the movie theaters to stop fighting technology and compete with the bedroom. 

Why would movie theaters become bedrooms?

The first five years of the 21st century were a nightmare the movie industry thought they could sleepwalk through. DVD sales surpassed movie ticket sales until 2009, video-on-demand began to gain popularity and movie studios lost over $1.3 billion in United States in 2005 due to piracy, the worst year for box office sales of this short century. The decline in sales could be attributed to these factors, but the real culprit is the central paralyzing arrogance of movie execs. In the midst of the summer box office debacle that was 2005, Robert Shaye, the CEO and chairman of New Line Cinema movie studios revealed to The New York Times the lackadaisical mentality movie executives had before the advent of DVD’s and P2P file sharing:

You could still count on enough people to come whether you failed at entertaining them or not, out of habit, or boredom, or a desire to get out of the house. 



Yes, the magic of the cinema lies in its ability to transform movie viewing into a larger than life experience through its gigantic screens and commercial grade sound systems. That was distinct to movie theaters until people realized they could buy their own home movie theater for less than a car and the average T.V. went from a boxed coffin to LCD screens big enough to make Zordon consider moving. Did movie studios and theater owners begin spending millions of dollars in innovative ways to lure moviegoers during this mass exodus? Heck no. They did what any business did when its century old money making machine begins to stall: raise prices. The average ticket price increased by roughly 19% from $5.81 in 2002 to $6.88 in 2007 and as a result the movie industry experienced its first ever $4 billion summer box office gross in 2007 as it sold 20 million less tickets than in 2002. 

Any precedents?

Content is king and convenience is its drawbridge. 

In 2013, AMC increased attendance by 84% in the 25 theaters the company outfitted with recliner seats. After the 2013 box office only rose by 1% compared to 2012, AMC announced in July 2014 that they would invest $600 million over the next five years to place recliner seats in 1,800 of its 5,000 auditoriums. American movie theater owners are not the only ones looking to increase attendance. China's box office is expected to surpass the United States' by 2018 and responded to the adverse effect mobile devices have on the attention span of moviegoers by instituting a “bullet screen” initiative which allows moviegoers to text about the film and see it appear on the screen. Silencing the annoying person who can not help but share their opinion about a movie WHILE it's playing may prove to be China's greatest contribution to the world since they started making everything (This article was NOT made in China, by the way).

In 2000, before the decline in ticket sales, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., Regal Entertainment Group, founded ticketing service Fandango to compete with After initial confusion from moviegoers over the fragmented advance ticketing market in 2002, an 84% growth in unique visitors to from June 2003 to June 2004 coincided with a 60% ticket sale increase over the same period. Three years later Comcast purchased the company for a reported $200 million after the ticketing service increased the number of screens it sells tickets to by nearly 30% to over 15,000 in 2007 from 11,500 in 2004. In March 2014, Fandango basically Trojan Horse'd its way into people's homes to get them to the theater by selling tickets directly through Samsung Smart TV's, ushering in the new generation of integrated movie theater experience aka "movie theater bedrooms".

How Will It Work?

Competition solely through imitation is a practice in futility that leaves the imitator's future inextricably tied to the advancements of its competitor. Rows full of Lay-Z Boy recliners ensure added comfort but survival will be predicated on reinventing the bedroom. The recliner seats will also react to the action on the movie screen with vibrations as well as strobe, wind, fog, rain and scent-based effects similar to the "4-D theater" technology Seoul-based CJ Group installed in Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14 this past summer. The next time a sex scene comes on in a theater, you'll have added reason to stay seated:

The movie theater bedroom will come equipped with an app which informs moviegoers of the bathroom and concession stand with the shortest wait time and allow them to order their food through the app to be picked up at express lanes. The San Francisco 49ers debuted an app with the same features at its newly constructed Levi Stadium this summer. The vast majority of the time spent attending a football game doesn't involve actually watching football action and even if you leave your seat during the action there's thousands of high-def flat screen TV's around the stadium broadcasting the game. While movie theaters would be remiss to broadcast movies over thousands of televisions, an additional, optional fee will be offered when consumers purchase tickets for a premium service of the app which allows fans to continue the movie from their smartphone when they head to concession stands and bathrooms. To prevent patrons from screen sharing with non paying customers, the stream will only commence for a time that is close to the expected time of arrival to the destination, factoring in average time of retrieval of food/bodily waste release.