Undoubtedly, one of my favourite past times is a trip to the wonderful and perhaps only place on the planet that can transport you to just about anywhere that you can possibly imagine – the cinema!
Films are a great way escape the boundaries of reality and in my opinion there is no where better to experience a great story than at the cinema with a huge screen, great sound system, surrounded by others who are also there to share that experience and adventure of the characters on the screen.
For me, it really is a magical place.
But a couple of weeks ago, I really started to think about just how inconvenient the cinema actually is; most modern day multiplexes are located out of town, usually next to or near to a retail park, meaning that travel and parking is going to be a consideration of your trip – especially when you plan to see the latest blockbuster on the opening weekend.
Then, comes the pricing. How did the cost of a movie ticket become so expensive? I’m fortunate, in that I have a Cineworld cinema close to me, where I can sign up for their “Unlimited” card that allows me to see as many films as I wish, at any time, for £15 a month. But when I first signed up for the card a good few years ago, it was only £10 month. Why the 50% price increase, I can only speculate.
What’s more, that’s only half the story. Look at the polar opposite of the cinema; the home entertainment system. In the past 10 years, our home TV screen technology has exploded from flat screen TVs, to LCD/LED displays in high definition, with silky smooth audio and slick features. The Internet, helped by games consoles and media centres, has spawned and created and then subsequently disrupted DVD outlets with the likes of LoveFILM, NetFlix, Blinkbox and a host of others where movies are available to be streamed into the home, on our expensive displays at the touch of a button.
No travel required, no worry about parking and sold out movie theatres or the noisy kid behind you who insists on kicking the back of your chair. The home entertainment business has evolved and changed to fit with our ever more connected lives – you don’t even need to be at home anymore as movies have been pushed to your tablet, laptop and phone devices (I’m not saying that movies should be watched on a phone, but its an option for some).
Meanwhile the movie theatre remains pretty much the same as it did 30 or 40 (perhaps more), years ago. Yes, they’ve had to keep up with technology and fit more expensive and sophisticated projectors to keep up with the HD flat screens in our homes, but my question really is, what do they have left in their lockers to innovate to keep them around over the next 10 or even 20 years?
The last innovation that I can recall at the cinema is 3D technology. However, even that has been done before (yes the innovation has been in bettering the technology, but its nothing original, but increases the cost of your ticket). 3D has reached the home too for those who enjoy that type of thing.
I’ve recently read about some cinema chains installing rumble packs on the back of some of their seats to give movie goers what they are calling the 4D experience – something the gaming industry (which lets face it, is also in the same business of entertaining its punters in the same way as cinema), did a long time ago to immerse its players into the experience they saw on the screen.
Where is the next innovation in cinema? What is the next technology or strategy that could change the cinema forever and invite more through their doors and into that magical place that can take you to places that you can sometimes only imagine?
Perhaps I’m wrong and cinema doesn’t need to innovate further beyond what they already offer us – a good story and a magical experience? Maybe keeping it simple really is the answer, but for that to happen, the price point needs to be tweaked as they do battle with your advanced home entertainment systems and on demand services.
The argument that the cinema is a social place was made to me as I discussed this topic with others; where else would people take their date if the cinema no longer exists? Where else would you go before/after a good meal with you friends? Would their closure be an even bigger problem in a society that is already losing their shopping experiences to the Internet?
A quick scour across the Internet shows that daters no longer want to see movies; drinks, meals, activities and places to get to know one another are the replacement for sitting with a stranger in a darkened room for 2 hours with no interaction.
Only society can provide the answers for these questions, but as the Internet offers us more choice and more options, to me the answer is pretty clear.
All it takes is for Hollywood or a big brand studio to figure out how to bypass the cinema to make money and disrupt the entire cinema industry. One day it will happen and only then will we have our answers.
Its either that or cinema theatres need to find that innovative draw for their movie going customers. Someone pass the popcorn, this will be an interesting one to watch…..