Sunday, May 28, 2006


A Rant About Cinema Chains

My TV is pretty decent. It's by no means massive or impressive, but it is widescreen. If I was so inclined, I could easily trade it in for something truly spectacular for a few thousand. I don't have surround sound, but it is something I'm planning on setting up fairly soon. My living room is very comfortable, with couches you can stretch out on or fill up with friends. It's a short walk from the normally well stocked kitchen or one of our several toilets. We have several video stores within a few minutes drive.

Considering the fact that pretty much everyone these days has a similar "home theatre", I sometimes have to wonder what the cinemas are thinking. Say a movie that I want to see is released. I can wait a couple of months and then hire the DVD for no more than about $5. I can then watch it on my reasonably-sized TV, complete with my soon-to-exist surround sound. If I'm so included, I can watch it with a beer in my hand and a bowl of popcorn, which might add as much as another $5 to the price. I can have some friends over, start it whenever we're all ready and even pause the movie if someone needs to go to the toilet.

Alternatively, I could line up to pay $15 for a ticket (and maybe pay another $10 for warmed up old popcorn), stand around for ages, maybe have to line up to get in, fight for a seat and put up with anyone who decides to be a jerk. Sure, the screen is bigger and the sound is better, but really, not by that much.

Of course, going to the movies is still fun. But every time I go, I'm seeing less and less advantage. The cinemas aren't stupid, and I'm sure they know this. But their solution seems to be to increase their prices more, make things less nice and then complain that DVD sales are killing them.

On Friday night some friends and I were going to see X-Men 3 at Hoyts in Belconnen. I figured that standing in line to buy my ticket was going to be pretty boring, so I when to buy my tickets online. After going through the entire process - including entering my credit card details - the system decided to inform me that actually, that session was sold out. I wasn't convinced, so I decided to try and ring Hoyts to find out. After navigating their phone system, I was left with two options:
  1. Call their session times hotline and pay 84c a minute for the privilege of being told what time the movie would start
  2. Try and talk to a real person, only to have the phone system decide (after 6 rings) that "no operator is available. Exiting system!" and hang up on me.
Fantastic. Wonderfully helpful. We decided that we'd try to buy tickets anyway, and if that failed we'd just go and grab a drink. Turns out they weren't sold out. So I didn't miss out on paying too much money to stand in two different lines for ages.

That massive TV is looking better and better...

I think you'll find that box office takings only account for around 18% of a movies overall revenue. So, in a sense, the "Cinema Release" is really just a big ad for the DVD, which is where most of the sales come from.

Expensive tickets and food are really just a case of supply and demand. When ticket sales dropped dramatically with the inital uptake in DVD sales, Cinema Tickets did drop a little. At the end of the day, People still think that they'll have to pay more for the 'privelige' of going to the movies, so prices are set to live up to those expectations.

Additionally, you can't take your girlfriend over to your house and try and snog her in the dark. Well, I suppose you can. But teenagers can't...
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