From the desk of Agent Winchester

Movie theaters are the middle child of the movie industry. Theater owners build expensive cinematic palaces, and their employees constantly receive the brunt of criticism for ticket prices. The studios reward their efforts by attempting to steer business from them. Recently, theater chains planned to shorten the theaters-to-video cycle for a proposed $30 video on demand (VOD) premium option.

Theaters have upgraded their services by adding nap-initiating recliner seats and reserved seating, but they continue to do little to nothing to address the patrons who distract other customers by speaking audibly and taking out their phones during the show. Movie theaters and Hollywood need to team up to not only give customers an amazing experience, but they need to take several steps to ensure they stop losing customers to home theaters, the Cody program, and VOD.

The studios and theater chains can both profit by thinking outside the box. Here are some ways they can increase their profits and attract more people:

  • Half-price shows – For films at the end of their run, there should be bargain showings (and it can be specific showings – they don’t have to offer them all day) where parents pay full price and all children’s seats are half the normal price. This is exactly what the Cincinnati Reds do on certain Sundays to bring families to the ballpark. To sweeten the pot for the studios, they can arrange a QR code on the receipt where they can scan and buy the movie on VOD for $15 when it is released or a coupon for the DVD or Blu-ray. Theaters should offer certain concession specials for half price to make these showings even more attractive.
  • Spanish language shows – Theaters should begin playing popular movies en Español on Sundays to see if there is a market. This is a toe in the water move that could add hundreds of guests per theater per week with some patience. How theaters skipped shows in Spanish but now play Bollywood films in three other languages baffles me.
  • Zero tolerance show times – The biggest drawback to going to the movies is the crowd. A small (but mighty) percentage of crowds think that it is ok to talk or check their phones throughout the film. Others think it’s ok to bring a loudly inquisitive child with them to shows. There must be customers who would pay $3 per ticket to avoid these distractions. Theaters should salivate at this idea. If a show sells 300 seats, that’s $900 of mostly gross profit to have one or two plainclothesman theater employees in the house with a button to alert a manager when someone violates the rules. That way, one can identify the perp and leave with him/her/them; and there is a second undercover employee ready for the next person or persons who want to try rule-breaking next. Air Marshalls are working for airplanes, so why not cinemas? I go to the theaters much less than I used to because of other guests, so I know I’d be first in line for this.
  • Better perks for movie geeks – Movie theaters know when their slow times are. Why wouldn’t the studios help by creating monthly extra content to lure customers during those times? Have the studios come up with 30-60 minutes of extras each month that give them the chance to beat the YouTube releases and package the experience with a paid movie. Give us deleted scenes, gag reels, advanced previews, and whatever they feel we’d like as a call to action to get an extra movie date out of us. They release it for free on the internet. Why not help pay the bills by giving it to fans?

Star Wars Episode One Movie StubTheaters and studios need to offer more to earn more. These ideas have the potential to fail, and they are moves that can quickly be reversed if they don’t work. You can cancel all four options if nobody shows.

Theaters are losing business to VOD and jailbroken streaming devices, and they must be creative to continue increasing gross profit. These are low-cost ways to give fans a call to action to return.

If the studios and theaters continue to ignore these problems, profits will eventually stagnate.


Agent Winchester (@AgentWinchestr) is a movie and TV geek, husband, father, and former movie theater and video store employee. I want to be Hollywood’s Vice President of common sense and bridge what projects we want as fans to help them make even larger gobs of money.