When is the last time you actually sat in the movie theater to watch a film? What movie was it? How much money did you spend on the entire experience? How soon are you likely to go to the movies again?
These are the questions that came to mind for me as I looked at a recent Bloomberg article on how movie theaters are working to find ways to get people out of their houses and into the movie-theater seats again. With streaming services abundant with content, movie theaters are fighting a losing battle against comfortable couches, improved home theater systems, and kitchens full of snacks and alcohol.
The last movie I saw in the theater was Girls Trip. It was at the Grove in Los Angeles, and with parking, movie ticket, popcorn and drink, the solo trip to the theater ran me almost $40 altogether. The only reason they got the money is that I wanted to support my black sisters and their film; otherwise I would have spent that money on a few bottles of wine and watched something on my comfortable couch in my pajamas.
It takes a lot to get me to actually go see something in the theater because quite frankly, I feel like we get robbed every time we go. The tickets are high, the snacks at the concession stand even higher, and unless you get there early or go to a theater with assigned seats, the likelihood that you will be uncomfortable, with negligible legroom, is quite high.
So what are some things that movie theaters could do to win us back? I have a few ideas.
1. Lower ticket prices.
Listen. It should not cost damn near $20 to go to the movies. I don’t pay that much for Netflix, and I can stream stuff all day long every day of the month if I want to. Hell, the bootleg man will sell you five movies that are in theaters now for $20, so what are y’all doing? (I’m not endorsing buying bootlegs; I’m just saying … )
Back in my day, we used to be able to go to the matinee for half price. Those days are long gone. These days, a matinee ticket is only $1 or $2 off the regular price, and that is not a deal, my friends. Stop trying to milk us for every penny you can get from us. We want to come enjoy the movie, but we don’t want to go broke before we even sit down to watch.
2. Lower concession stand prices.
If I have already paid $20 to get into your theater, why are you gouging me at the concession stand, too? In what universe does $6 for a small soda seem OK to you? Or $5 for a box of M&M’s that has less candy in it than the small bag I can buy at the corner store for $1.50? Get your hand out of my pocket, movie-theater concession stand. This is highway robbery.
3. Start allowing outside food.
While there are some theaters that already do this, the great majority don’t, and I end up having to carry my big purse to sneak everyone’s snacks in. It’s not cool.
Here’s the deal, though: You are charging all that money for stale popcorn, small candy and overpriced soft drinks. The least you could do is look the other way when we come in with our fried chicken, hamburgers and french fries. A lot of us like to enjoy a meal with our movie, not snacks.
If we are going to pay upward of $20 to see the film, at least let us save money by bringing our own food. It’s only fair.
4. Make the seats more comfortable.
It will be 2018 in less than a week. Why are the seats in your theater still built like it’s 1972? Why is there no legroom? Why don’t the seats recline? Why don’t the armrests lift? Why aren’t the seats plush? With as much as you charge us to get in, you’d think you would have improved the most important part of the theatergoing experience.
5. Sell alcohol.
So yes, there are movie theaters that do this already, but the vast majority do not. This needs to be a thing. A strong drink or three might make me forget all the money I spent on that damn movie ticket and help me relax in those uncomfortable-ass seats.
In summation, if you want my dollars in 2018, you are going to have to do more, movie theaters. I plan to show up for Black Panther and The Lion King because black—but beyond that, I refuse to spend my money on a moviegoing experience that is less than stellar.
Get your bars up.