Going to the movies used to be an occasion to remember; televisions were scarce, resolution was low and TV shows were lacking. The search for entertainment was greater and travelling to the cinema didn’t seem like too much of a stretch. With the introduction of home-streaming phenomenon Netflix and its aggressive spending on original content, movie theatres have more to compete with – now that journey to the cinema seems more like a marathon.
The entertainment market is in transition; digital advances mean instant enjoyment is just a swipe away. With smartphones, laptops, games consoles and the internet, consumers are acclimated to swift entertainment, and cinemas are lagging behind. Last year, summer box office takings were at their lowest level for more than 20 years according to the BBC. In August, they were a shocking 35% lower than the same month the previous year.
The generation of habitual cinema-goers is getting older and the internet babies are taking over. As Stephen Follows, a film data researcher said, “The traditional median age of going to the cinema was 24. If you lose at the youngest age and gain at the oldest, it’s a net loss and you lose out on the most lucrative audience.” Breeding a culture of impatience – social media being the main perpetrator – the internet makes our quest for entertainment uncomplicated, and we’ve got used to it. Netflix capitalises on this; it can be switched on in a flash, dispensing instant gratification to a generation obsessed with it.
“The internet makes our quest for entertainment uncomplicated, and we’ve got used to it. Netflix capitalises on this; it can be switched on in a flash, dispensing instant gratification to a generation obsessed with it.”
Trying to pry digital devices from the hands of millennials is a tough job. Recognised for their high expectations of experiences and efficiency, the entertainment industry needs to up their game to compete with its technological contenders. Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations told the Boston Herald, “Movies are not the only game in town…it’s cell phones. It’s streaming. It’s instant entertainment, and the movies aren’t that. They’re playing catch-up.” Essentially, people in modern culture are impatient. Used to instant results, they don’t like to wait for things. If they opt for a physical experience over a speedy digital one, the experience has to be flawless and memorable, or in their eyes, it’s not worth the effort – this is exactly where cinemas fall short.
“Recognised for their high expectations of experiences and efficiency, the entertainment industry needs to up their game to compete with its technological contenders.”
Screen and Shout
But let’s not forget, a night at the movies can still offer things Netflix cannot; an atmosphere, surround sound, a huge screen and as acting veteran Martin Scorcesse put it to GQ “Everything [at home] around the [iPad] frame is distracting…it is not the best way [to watch a film].”
Increasingly, we are seeing minor additions being made to the cinema experience to try and convert these stay-at-home viewers into cinema fanatics. From reclining comfy-sofa seating to having dinner and cocktails delivered mid-movie and self-service concession stands to avoid queues, venues are slowly filtering in additional features. Joel Lee from Make Use Of suggests private screening rooms and incorporating a more all-round sensory experience such as IMAX could help tease visitors in.
Cinemas are adapting to tempt younger customers. When experiential marketing is at an all-time high, businesses are having to compete harder for attention. Kate Jinx, programmer at The Golden Age Cinema in Sydney, told news outlet ABC, “I think to stay afloat as a cinema you have to make it a bit of an event. We wanted to bring the romance and charm of going to the movies back.”
“I think to stay afloat as a cinema you have to make it a bit of an event. We wanted to bring the romance and charm of going to the movies back” – Kate Jinx
Some suggest it’s down to a decrease in franchises such as Batman and others blame home-streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime but if the world is changing around them, cinemas need to jump on board and adjust to keep themselves relevant.