Walter Mencken 7 p.m., Dec. 10
Unlimited Theater Movies for $50 a Month? Nope.
We are all guilty of theater-hopping on at least one, two, or, if hard-pressed, maybe even a couple hundred occasions. Once upon a time, movie theaters stationed stub-checking ushers at the front of each auditorium between shows. Today, most theater chains stop short of instructing concessionaires to remind patrons that they are free to get up and roam around the multiplex at any time during the course of their stay.
I know wealthy people (if you had their money you'd throw yours away) who brag about their personal buy-one/get-one free policy at the AMC La Jolla. Walking out of one movie and into another without purchasing a ticket is tantamount to stealing, but it is difficult to both obey a rule that is so inadequately enforced and resist the temptation of a free movie.
Earlier this year I finked on a teenage girl and her boyfriend as she tried to covertly "escort" him through the side door of Reading's Town Square 14. The bosky lass displayed terrible form and even worse style. From a distance, a large lobby standee obstructed a good chunk of the left side of the exit doors. Why did she instead choose to make the door all the way to the right her boyfriend's free entry portal?
Furthermore, what kind of jadrool allows his best gal to do the dirty work for him? It is not as if Town Square is some grungy stall theater in Times Square c.1976. The point of entry was a side-door that opens on a well-traversed mall located just minutes down the road from La Jolla. She should be the one waiting outside while Sir Walter Really performs the inside job. To make matters worse, when the usher told him that he would either have to purchase a ticket or hit the road, guess who trod out to the box office to pay for the rental of an additional seat?
Hey, at least it was 35MM.
These are precarious times for motion-picture exhibitors. What with skyrocketing ticket and concession prices and more and more movie theaters cropping up in living rooms across the land, can it be long before theatrical exhibition goes the way of the Give-A-Show Projector? Am I a horse-faced hypocrite for basically applauding theater-skipping in an AMC only to turn around and boast about “narcing” on a pair of high-schoolers I had bounced from a preferred chain?
The ultimate "fly on the wall" moment: Luis Buñuel meets Sam Fuller!
Yes, I awaken each morning thanking Buñuel above that I am fortunate enough to live in a town that has Reading and Landmark Cinemas. There will be ample opportunity to experience Harry Potter and Transformers on the big screen. We're lucky that Landmark extended their run of Page One: Inside the New York Times for at least another week. Le Quattro Volte will be fortunate to play out the week at the Gaslamp. This weekend the lines for Transformers snaked around the block while a friend and I sat alone watching Earthwork. What the hell are you people thinking? Give independent cinema a chance.
Movie-theater chains should offer a frequent-viewer program that rewards loyal patrons with a two-for-one deal during select days of the week. The cheapest ticket in town is Reading's Early Bird Special. Any show before noon will set you back a mere $5.75 and they'll throw in a free cup of coffee or hot chocolate!
Say you take in a 7:20 showing of Mr. Popper's Penguins, followed by a 9 o'clock viewing of Le Quattro Volte. (That could be the funniest sentence I ever wrote!) The going rate for an evening performance is $12. For an extra charge, why not let customers stick around for a second feature? I can hear it now: "Would you like to upsize that feature to a combo for an extra $3?"
Legalizing twofers would drastically reduce the number of freeloaders. The public will still think that they are getting away with something when paying only $3 for an extra movie. Theaters can then use some of the extra money the added number of patrons will spend at the candy counter to bring about the return of the stub-checking usher.
Even if they tried it on a once-a-week basis (Twofer Tuesdays), studio number-crunchers would never entertain my dream. Of the $15 ticket charge, do you think that 20th Century Fox would agree to a 50/50 split between their $55 million Jim Carrey crowd-pleaser and a transformative $1.5 million Italian film about an old goat herder, a baby goat, and a tree?
If you think that my idea of the ultimate bargain show is far-fetched, take a gander at this. Patterned after Netflix’s all-you-can-watch model, New York-based MoviePass was set to unveil its $50 a month, one-film-a-day subscription service in the Bay Area this weekend. (An additional $3 surcharge will be tacked on for presentations in IMAX and 3-D.) According to Bloomberg, the project met with strong opposition when AMC, Landmark, and Camera Cinemas claimed they weren't informed of the MoviePass service in San Francisco this weekend and refused to participate in their trial offer.
With adult admission prices averaging between $6 and $12, if a typical moviegoer were to take in three bargain shows and three evening performances a month (or nine early-bird matinees), the total would come to $54. How many civilians can take the time to visit their friendly neighborhood theater more than once a week? As much as I would love to average a movie a day, there aren't 30 films released each year, let alone each month, worth looking at.
Not unlike gift cards, there is always the chance that people won't have time to see even four movies, and some cash will be left over when the pass expires. And the more butts in seats, the higher the concession sales. Lower prices for the consumer, higher attendance numbers for the studios, and more Coke and corn sold to help line theater coffers. Let's hope that Hollywood greed does not cause them to pass on Moviepass.
More like this:
- Celebrating SD's Last 2 Drive-in Theaters (1st DI Opened 79 Years Ago Today) — June 6, 2012
- Movie Poster Rejects You've Never Seen: Jaws, Batman, Supergirl, more — May 22, 2012
- Texas Instruments Predicts All-Digital Projection by 2015 — Dec. 8, 2011
- Edwards Mira Mesa Finally Gets Wise to Free Refill Scam — Nov. 22, 2011
- An Open Letter to Gerry Lopez, CEO and President AMC Entertainment — June 8, 2011