I see the Cineplex here in Oshkosh is undergoing a major re-branding. A shiny flier in the mail tells me about the comfy new recliners in their "auditoriums" (apparently they aren't "theaters" anymore) and the new restaurant style dining available there--even if you aren't seeing a movie. I had to laugh when I saw that "carryout is available". Can you imagine asking the wife "Hey, want to get carryout from the movie theater tonight?" Hopefully their menu prices aren't based off the same skewed philosophy that $12.50 for a tub of popcorn and a soda is a "value". And because this is Wisconsin, you can now get a beer or a glass of wine and take it with you back to your seat.
I know why theaters are making major changes like this. The "home theater experience" gets better every day--with 4K Ultra High Definition screens, surround sound stereo systems, your own comfy recliners and the ability to make your own popcorn and crack open your own soda for $1.25. Plus, you can watch almost any movie you want at any time you want through the myriad of streaming services available by subscription. But there is still a way for theaters to draw more customers--without pretending to be restaurants and brewpubs: Show better movies.
For years now, I have segregated Hollywood offerings into four categories: 1--Movies definitely worth seeing in the theater as soon as possible. 2--Movies I would consider watching on demand at home. 3--Movies I might watch on one of the cable channels and 4--Movies I would only watch if forced to after being abducted by ISIS terrorists.
An ever increasing percentage of new releases are falling into category 4. The flier sent to promote the "all new" theater includes a list of "blockbusters" I wouldn't pay a cent to watch--like Angry Birds, Neighbors 2 Sorority Rising, X-men Apocalypse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Honestly, you could be serving the best Southern BBQ and beer made by Trappist Monks in the lobby and you still wouldn't get me to set foot through the door for that dreck.
And theaters are also hamstrung by studios completely turning their backs on people who actually have more money to spend on entertainment and "fine dining"--Baby Boomers. Which of those movies listed above would you expect someone over the age of 55 to pay money to see? Heck, who over the age of 35 would want to watch any of those?
It would not surprise me if we saw the death of the multi-screen Cineplex in my lifetime. The shared, communal experience of watching, laughing and crying together is no longer desired by younger people. They would rather "live tweet" the movie about giant fighting robots and superheroes while watching on their smartphone with the 3-D virtual reality glasses.