I am a big fan of CBS Sunday Morning. Last Sunday, Filling movie theatre seats with gimmicks, was one of the featured stories of the day. As many of us know, tickets sales for movie theaters are down. We can blame the expensive ticket pricing, the addition of Netflix and other on demand services, the upgrades to our home theater experiences, and the competition of video games and social media that sucks away our entertainment time. So what is a theater to do in this day and age to entice people to get in their cars and travel to see a movie again.
Gimmicks? Theaters are implementing a variety of new gimmicks to attempt to lure people back into the theaters. From iMovie applications using your smartphones and tablets, new cushier, plusher seats, dine-in movie additions, and the latest “4D” technology that attempts to create full sensory fun with the seats rocking and rolling, water spraying, gusts of wind, and a mist of smells (actually, I am not sure how they project the smells, maybe scratch and sniff?).
There are new niche theater chains popping up, such as the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in the Denver area. This movie theater chain offers state-of-the-art equipment to enhance your movie experience, reserved seating, a menu of all sorts of food and beverage choices (including libations) to enjoy, and special movie nights for teens and parents with babies (Baby Nights are born!), foodie nights and date night packages (vouchers for babysitting services included).
Maybe the niche theater chains will catch on. It certainly sounds good, doesn’t it? Creating an extra special evening that surrounds the movie is a good idea, and they certainly have considered what the patrons want and need, the extra touches, to get them into the theater seats. Especially with the new reserved seating format, these types of theaters are using audience development.
However, the gimmicks that are being added to the regular theaters, I do not think these ideas will work in the long run. They may entice people to try these “enhancements,” but they will not serve to build relationships and get people to keep coming back, in other words, to get people to be loyal to going to a theater to watch a movie. Once you experience the gimmick, you know what it is like. The people that hate it will not come back. The people that like it, might come back again a few times, but the novelty will wear off. Remember how 3D was supposed to do the trick? Well, it didn’t.
Gimmicks are simply, well, gimmicks to get the butts in seats. It will not grow audiences for the future, and instead, the theaters will be searching for the next expensive gimmick to continue the marketing charade.
What these theaters really need is audience development. They need to roll up their sleeves and get to know their patrons in order to provide the desired services people want. I applaud the niche theater chains, and I look forward to finding out about the results of their audience friendly ideas. For the regular theaters, quit spending money on the gimmicks and start spending money on what people really want, good customer service and amenities that are worth the inconveniences of going to a theater.
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Chief Audience Builder, ADS