Want to know just how clueless movie theaters are about innovating to change with consumer tastes? Take a look at this: Kevin Smith recorded a commentary for Clerks II and had planned to release it via podcast. The idea was that people could download the commentary to their MP3 player, then go back to the theater with device in hand and listen to the commentary while enjoying the flick one more time.
Except theaters didn’t much like that idea. The combination of fear that people laughing at the commentary and not at the film (thus distracting people from the movie) and their pre-existing ban on such devices led them to kill the idea.
Instead of a knee-jerk corporate reaction, there were ways they could have made this happen, but it might have been somewhat outside of their comfort zone. The theaters could have found a way to have a “commentary listening” party and promote it to people who wanted to come in and listen to the commentary. They could have piped the commentary over the sound system, turning a showing into a group experience while still enforcing their “no outside devices” policy. Heck, they could have partnered with one of the companies who make the little MP3 players you can buy at Borders that have an audiobook pre-loaded on them and rented the devices out.
All those options would have 1) Helped make people excited about going to the theater, 2) Increased brand loyalty and 3) Brought in some extra income via ticket and concession sales.
Those are three areas theaters are constantly complaining about, that they’re not making enough money and people are choosing home viewing over a night out. Here was an opportunity that was handed to them on a silver platter and they refused it because it wasn’t their type of silver platter. That’s frustrating.
Both Nancy at Advertising Ourselves to Death and Chris Gore at FilmThreat have great commentary up on movie distribution and theater going habits. You should check them both out as background to understand the sheer wrong-headedness of not trying to innovate the movie going experience.