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Thread: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

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    CELEBRATION TIME RBA's Avatar
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    With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    May 27, 2005
    With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    By LAURA M. HOLSON
    LOS ANGELES, May 26 - Matthew Khalil goes to the movies about once a month, down from five or six times just a few years ago. Mr. Khalil, a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, prefers instead to watch old movies and canceled television shows on DVD.

    He also spends about 10 hours a week with friends playing the video game Halo 2. And he has to study, which means hours on the Internet and reading at least a book a week.

    "If I want to watch a movie I can just rent it on DVD," he said. "I want to do things that conform to my time frame, not someone else's."

    Like Mr. Khalil, many Americans are changing how they watch movies - especially young people, the most avid moviegoers. For 13 weekends in a row, box-office receipts have been down compared with a year ago, despite the blockbuster opening of the final "Star Wars" movie. And movie executives are unsure whether the trend will end over the important Memorial Day weekend that officially begins the summer season.

    Meanwhile, sales of DVD's and other types of new media continue to surge. With box-office attendance sliding, so far, for the third consecutive year, many in the industry are starting to ask whether the slump is just part of a cyclical swing driven mostly by a crop of weak movies or whether it reflects a much bigger change in the way Americans look to be entertained - a change that will pose serious new challenges to Hollywood.

    Studios have made more on DVD sales and licensing products than on theatrical releases for some time. Now, technologies like TiVo and video-on-demand are keeping even more people at home, as are advanced home entertainment centers, with their high-definition television images on large flat screens and multichannel sound systems.

    "It is much more chilling if there is a cultural shift in people staying away from movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the Exhibitor Relations Company, a box-office tracking firm. "Quality is a fixable problem."

    But even if the quality of movies can be improved, Mr. Dergarabedian said, the fundamental problem is that "today's audience is a much tougher crowd to excite. They have so many entertainment options and they have gotten used to getting everything on demand."

    Last year Americans spent an average of 78 hours watching videos and DVD's, a 53 percent increase since 2000, according to a study by the Motion Picture Association of America, the film industry's trade group. DVD sales and rentals soared 676.5 percent during the same period, and 60 percent of all homes with a television set now also have a DVD player. DVD sales and rentals alone were about $21 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group.

    Discs are now released just four months after a film's debut, and the barrage of advertising that accompanies the opening in movie theaters serves ultimately as a marketing campaign for the DVD, where the studios tend to make most of their profits.

    By contrast, movie attendance has increased 8.1 percent from 2000 to 2004, according to the association. Many in the movie industry point to that figure as a sign of overall health. But attendance was down in three of those five years, and the sharp increase in attendance in 2002 is attributed to the overwhelming success of "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones."

    More recently, the number of moviegoers has dropped, sliding 4 percent in 2003, 2 percent in 2004 and 8 percent so far in 2005.

    Time spent on the Internet has soared 76.6 percent and video game playing has increased 20.3 percent, according to the association. Last year, consumers bought $6.2 billion worth of video game software, an increase of 8 percent from 2003, according to the NPD Group, which tracks video game sales.

    This does not mean that the $9.5 billion theatrical movie business is anywhere near its last gasp. It still plays a crucial role for the studios in generating excitement. But movie makers recognize they have to be more on their toes if they want to recapture their core audience.

    "There are a lot of distractions," said Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the "Pirates of the Caribbean" in 2003 as well as the successful "CSI" television franchise. "You need to pull them away from their computers. You need to pull them away from their video games."

    Consider Matt Cohler, a 28-year-old vice president at Thefacebook.com, a Silicon Valley company that creates Internet student directories on college campuses. Mr. Cohler likes movies, but lately, he said, little has grabbed his attention.

    He liked the new "Star Wars" and a documentary about the collapse of Enron. But of the Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn big-budget thriller, "The Interpreter," Mr. Cohler said, "It was only O.K." He has few plans to see anything else this summer, and said he was content to spend his free time online or writing e-mail.

    "I feel quite strongly that, with a few exceptions, the quality of movies has been declining the last few years," he said.

    Amy Pascal, the chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment's motion picture group, said, "We can give ourselves every excuse for people not showing up - change in population, the demographic, sequels, this and that - but people just want good movies."

    She predicted that "Bewitched," a romantic comedy about a producer who unwittingly hires a "real" witch for the lead role in a remake of the television show, would have a broad appeal. "If it was a straight-ahead remake of the show," she said, "we would have been guilty of doing the ordinary."

    Jill Nightingale, 37, who works at IGN Entertainment in ad sales, is the type of moviegoer - older, female and important to studios - that "Bewitched" should appeal to. But video games increasingly have taken up time she otherwise might spend watching television or going to the movies. The last two theater showings she said she attended were "Star Wars" and "Sideways," which she viewed in December.

    She plays a video game for 30 minutes each night before bed. Two weeks ago, five friends joined her at her San Francisco condo to drink wine and play "Karaoke Revolutions" on her Sony PlayStation, where the would-be American Idols had a competition, belting out everything from Top 40 hits to show tunes.

    "Party games are great for dates," she said. "A few years ago I would have been at a bar or at a movie."

    But what could well have the greatest impact on theater attendance is the growing interest in digital home entertainment centers, which deliver something much closer to a movie-style experience than conventional television sets.

    Brian Goble, 37, a video game entrepreneur, said he had not been to a movie theater in two years, except to see "Star Wars" with his wife and four friends. Instead, he stays at his home in a Seattle suburb, where he has turned the basement into a home theater with a 53-inch high-definition television screen and large surround-sound speakers. He no longer has to deal with parking and jostling crowds, he said, a relief now that he has two children.

    " It's really just not as comfortable and fun as being at home," he said. "You can pause, go to the bathroom, deal with a crying kid."

    Mr. Goble rarely watches video-on-demand ("The quality is poor," he said.) Instead he has an account with Netflix and orders his movies online. When the Nicholas Cage movie "National Treasure" was released last November, for instance, he added it to his Netflix list so he would be sent a copy when it came out on DVD.

    His prime regret about seeing the final installment of "Star Wars" was that he could not watch it at home. "The only reason to go to the theater these days," he said, "is because it is a movie you must see now."

    Personnally, I think the decline is due to crappy movies over the last two years.

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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    The MPAA will blame piracy, it's the only thing they can sue
    Go Gators!

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    Oy Vey! Red in Chicago's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    i avoid the show because there's ALWAYS someone talking or a cell phone ringing...people getting up and down to go to the bathroom or concession stand

    all that for the low low cost of $10 :thumbdown

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    Member TeamCasey's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    I never go to the movies. I can own the DVD for the same price and watch it in my own time.
    Pots and Kettles

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    Hey Cubs Fans RFS62's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    I've got a pretty nice home theater setup. We watch a lot of movies at home. But there are still movies that are far better seen on a good screen. I like going to the movies, but Mrs. '62 far prefers staying home and watching DVD's.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
    ~ Mark Twain

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    Dunnilicious creek14's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    When I first glanced at the title of this thread, I saw "With Porn, DVD's and TiVo..."
    Will trade this space for a #1 starter.

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    Mod Law zombie-a-go-go's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    There's no substitute for the theater when it comes to horror films, IMO.

    Otherwise... yeah, I'll just stay home and wait for the DVD. I probably won't even go see Star Wars.
    "It's easier to give up. I'm not a very vocal player. I lead by example. I take the attitude that I've got to go out and do it. Because of who I am, I've got to give everything I've got to come back."
    -Ken Griffey Jr.

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    The Mad Monk Jaycint's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    I'm really indifferent to going to the theatre or watching at home. The main reason I would go to the theatre would be in the event that it was a movie I was really anxious to see and I just didn't want to wait for it to come out on dvd (plus I love the movie popcorn ).

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    RZ Chamber of Commerce Unassisted's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    Nothing beats a cheap weekday matinee in a nearly-empty theatre. If my only option is to go at times when the theatre isn't nearly-empty, then I'll wait for the DVD or grab it with the DVR in a couple of years.
    /r/reds

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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    I remember hearing on the news that some places were going to start using a cell phone scrambler so people could not use their phones while watching a movie?

    Anyone else ever hear that?

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    Habitual Line Stepper halcyon's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    Speaking for myself, I can say that Tivo (and devices of that ilk) or DVDs hasn't curbed my desire to go to the movies. I just don't go cuz the costs are ridiculous for the product put out there. Generally, I have to be very bored or very interested in a movie before I decide to attend.

    While on the topic of Tivo, a friend of mine was recently thinking about buying one. He was soliciting opinions from everyone he saw, including cashiers and the like. More than one person told him, "I LOVE mine! It's changed my life!" I'm not sure what that says about those people...or my friend, who would probably agree with em now

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    Just The Big Picture macro's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    A decline in cinema attendance was predicted way back when VCRs and VHS rentals became popular. A funny thing happened, though, and cinema attendance actually boomed. This new wave of change may be legit, however. A 27" TV with tiny speakers and a VHS tape were still a far cry from the experience that people could get at the cinema. But as the article said, today's TVs and sound systems, along with the digital clarity of DVDs, come pretty close to matching the theatre experience. Plus, DVDs have all the added features thrown in for people who like that sort of thing.

    Amy Pascal, the chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment's motion picture group, said, "We can give ourselves every excuse for people not showing up - change in population, the demographic, sequels, this and that - but people just want good movies."

    She predicted that "Bewitched," a romantic comedy about a producer who unwittingly hires a "real" witch for the lead role in a remake of the television show, would have a broad appeal. "If it was a straight-ahead remake of the show," she said, "we would have been guilty of doing the ordinary."
    I wasn't sure whether to laugh or roll my eyes at this quote. While trying to make a point that not all of the new movies are crappy, she brings up a remake of an old television series as an example!

    I saw something about the "Dukes Of Hazzard" movie on TV a day or so ago and remarked to my wife that "Hollywood must be completely out of ideas -- what are they going to do when they run out of old TV shows to remake?"

    In recent memory they've throw at us: Starsky and Hutch, Garfield, Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched, Brady Bunch, SWAT, The Untouchables, Mission Impossible, Lost In Space, Mod Squad, Scooby Doo, Leave It To Beaver, Beverly Hillbillies, Adams Family, Charlies Angels, Dragnet, Little Rascals, Munsters, Shaft...and I'm sure I'm missing many.

    And if they're not reheating television leftovers, they're reheating their own leftovers in the form of sequels. I'm not saying that all of these movies are bad (although most are), but that Hollywood is taking the easy way out waaaaay too often.

    If Hollywood decides it needs to change something, I hope they decide to make movies with...(brace yourselves here)...a good plot! Instead, I fear they'll drag out bigger and better special effects instead.

    All-in-all, I think the decline in cinema attendance won't continue forever. It will level off at some point. That may not come before the numbers have dropped considerably from where they have been, though. One step the industry could do would be to drop the price of tickets. Supply and demand may force that drop at some point, I don't know. Maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing?

    Help stamp out, eliminate, and do away with redundancy.

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    Baseball card addict MrCinatit's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    i'm a self-proclaimed movie geek, but my trips to the theater are fewer and fewer. last movie i went to see in a theater was I, Robot - not a great choice, IMO, mind you.
    the local theater here only plays the "Hollywood favorites"...and let us face it, many of the best movies are not coming from Hollywood anymore. Yeah, i like to watch a movie with a guy blowing up terrorists in a high-rise as much as anyone - but after a while, one searches for more. Miss Congeniality 2 ain't gonna get it anymore.
    of course, the setting also has a lot to do with it. in seeing Return of the King, i sat near what was probably one of the stupidest human beings on the face of the earth, who had such ground-breaking comments as "boy...sure is taking them a long time to get to the mountain!" "Doesn't that hurt their feet?" and "Are those people supposed to be dead or something?"
    and why parents insist on bringing their kids to some movies is beyond me. The Ring is not a good movie to bring your kids to. The Perfect Storm is going to be a long and boring movie for many kids (as well as adults). Let's not even go into the infamous Schindler's List experience, where the lights had to be turned on three times to get people there to shut up. Next time i go to the movies, i will be armed with extra rolls of duct tape. and, no, it will not be for the theater's duct work.

    of course, there is another thing which home viewing can offer which a theater cannot - a pause button. And real food. Seats which don't have something "funny" under them.

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    Member 15fan's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    I vaguely remember what it was like to have the time & disposable income necessary to do things like play video games and go to the movies.

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    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: With Popcorn, DVD's and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home

    Quote Originally Posted by RFS62
    I've got a pretty nice home theater setup. We watch a lot of movies at home. But there are still movies that are far better seen on a good screen. I like going to the movies, but Mrs. '62 far prefers staying home and watching DVD's.
    I agree. A few movies are epics which simply must be seen on the big screen of a theater. Unfortunately, those films are rare.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."


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