It should come as no surprise that we here at Screen Rant love movies. Chances are, if you’ve visiting our site, you do too (or maybe you just have good taste in reading).
A couple of weeks ago, we posted a story on why movies in summer 2016 underperformed, and we had an overwhelming response from movie lovers who hate going to the movies in the current age. What happened that made cinephiles turn on their holiest of holies—the movie theater?
Like so many issues in life, a multitude of factors have diminished the moviegoing experience, not just for die-hard film lovers, but for anyone wanting to visit the multiplex. Hollywood has changed in recent years, and their output now reflects their business mentalities. Gone are the days of Saturday kiddie matinees, midnight movies and rainy day screenings. Those once-staples of the movie business have gone extinct, making the way for blockbuster after blockbuster, stuffing multiplexes full of the same movie for an opening weekend before disappearing themselves, relegated to home media and a haze of memory.
Business changes alone, however, didn’t kill the casual movie goer or the frequent cinema patron. Social trends too have changed moviegoing habits, as have new forms of competition from other media. So, grab a bucket of popcorn and an icy cold beverage. Get comfy in your balcony seat, and check out our 15 Reasons People Don’t Go To The Movies Anymore.
15 Movie Prices
As a kid, going to the movies required no great expense. Tickets cost $5 or less, and the snacks, though overpriced, were still affordable. Those days have long past…
Going to the movies, thanks to ballooning movie budgets and more expensive projection equipment, has skyrocketed in price. In 2015, the average movie ticket price in the US rose to an all-time high of $8.61. That’s up $0.30 from 2013!
30 cents may not seem like much in the grand scheme, but in actuality, it’s a rapid price increase. Part of the steep rise in price results from movie theaters expanding their tiered pricing. Instead of a single, general admission price, exhibitors now tack on extra charges for gimmicks like 3-D or IMAX screenings, or for “preferred” seats or over age 21 shows (more on those in a moment). In major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, movie ticket prices are much higher: about $15 for a general admission adult ticket! That number goes up when attending a posh theatre or 3-D showing, and can top out as high as $50 per person!
In other words, going to the movies ain’t cheap. Imagine paying $40-60 for a family of four to attend an evening showing of a new release. That’s major money for a good deal of the public, and that doesn’t even take into account the cost of popcorn!
14 People have No Manners
As previously mentioned, movie theaters have started adding ticket fees for certain shows to insure a certain movie experience. Once upon a time, theater owners would not tolerate small children attending movies after a certain hour or of a certain MPAA rating. These days, rather than police a screen, the management happily lets small children into just about anything (including “R” rated films) where they can scream, cry, and make all kinds of noise to distract from a film…often one they don’t want to see. What ever happened to getting a babysitter?
For that matter, even adults can aggravate to an extreme degree. People talk to one another, or talk on their cell phones, translate the movie into other languages for the benefit of their friends (seriously) and have generally given up all sense of good manners. Perhaps people have grown so accustomed to watching movies at home, they’ve forgotten how to behave in public. Said phenomenon becomes all the more insulting when taking the price into account: who wants to spend $15 on a ticket to have a bad moviegoing experience?
13 Rise of Home Media
Until as recently as the 1990s, re-releases of popular movies provided a significant source of revenue for movie studios and theatrical exhibitors. Old-faithful movies like The Wizard of Oz or Star Wars might play for matinee audiences full of kids, while adults would seek out repeat showings of The Sound of Music or Gone with the Wind—two movies that did exceptionally well in various re-releases. The rise of video helped kill the re-release market. Rather than pay a fee for a one-time showing, Hollywood learned that fans would rather pay a one-time higher fee to watch a movie at home ad-nauseum.
Still, even into the 1990s, theatrical re-releases made significant dough. They cost very little to produce, and given the obvious differences in quality from video on a 12” screen to film projected on a huge movie screen, audiences would still turn up to have the full moviegoing experience in a theater. Disney came up with a great strategy to re-release classic movies like The Jungle Book or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in a theater before they hit home video. That era has past: with more films available on some form of home media, re-releases have dried up as a source of revenue.
12 Improved Home Theater Systems
With the rise of home video came a new push to improve home theater systems. Even into the 1980s, plenty of homes still had black and white televisions, or at the very least, tiny TV screens to play their favorite movies. As home media advanced in popularity, though, manufacturers began to offer more expensive and elaborate home theater options—and consumers would often pony up the extra money to buy them. Foremost, TV screens have grown exponentially in size, even in the past few years. In 2009, for example, about 32% of TV owners had a screen 40” or larger. Compare that with today, where a whopping 83% of all homes had a screen over 40” in size. In fact, about a third of all homes now have a screen 50” or larger!
Greater screen size isn’t the only improved technology to allow more intense home viewing experiences. Blu-Ray and DVD have allowed audience members to see a movie at home with theatrical quality—sometimes better. Surround sound recreates the theatrical experience in the home from an auditory standpoint, while high-definition TVs can even allow viewers to watch a movie in digital 3-D at home. Movie lovers willing to spend the money on expensive home theater equipment actually can have a theatrical experience in their own homes. No wonder they avoid the cinema!
11 Price of Snackage/Parking/Gimmicks
If movie ticket prices have gotten out of control, so too have cinema gimmicks. Theater chains love to nickel-and-dime patrons for all they can. Again, consider a family of four going out to the movies in a metropolitan area like Los Angeles. Besides the $15 a head ticket price, patrons also often have to pay to park their car, anywhere from $5-10. That price goes up should the family want to spend extra time around the theater, shopping, dining or just hanging out. Then, before finding seats in the theater, many families might choose to stop at the snack bar. A large bag of popcorn costs, on average, $8 (even though it costs the theater about $0.90). Of course, salty popcorn demands a drink to go with it, and a large soft drink runs over $6! Maybe someone in the family doesn’t like popcorn, so add in the cost of an alternative snack like nachos: $5.50.
So then, what’s the cost for our hypothetical family of four to see a movie in a major city? Assume the family pays $60 for tickets, $5 for parking, $8 for popcorn, $13 for two drinks (split between the four) and $5 for nachos—that’s a whopping $91! That cost also doesn’t factor in add-ons like 3-D or preferred seating, which would push a night at the movies into costing well over $100.
10 The “Event” Mentality
Blockbuster movies have become a wild revenue source for Hollywood, though at a certain price: the “event” movie mentality often can result in less ticket sales in the long run.
Major movies now arrive in theaters with a great deal of fanfare: midnight showings, marketing blitz, toy and merchandise tie-ins and internet buzz. A movie opening has become a major pop culture event. For that reason, audiences tend to flock to a movie on opening night. That creates problems for more casual moviegoers: instead of a relaxing movie, people now fight to get tickets to certain showings, rush to get good seating, and have to fight large crowds for everything from parking to going to the bathroom! For a good portion of the population, that crowd mentality becomes a major deterrent from going to see a new release. That crowding can also have another effect: for the movie lover who has a conflict or can’t get tickets to a certain screening, the “event” mentality can make them feel as though the moment as passed. Rather than see the film on their own, they’ll stay home and catch it on home media. Between people not wanting to fight the crowds, and people just plain left out of the event, theaters lose a significant portion of ticket sales.
9 Rise of On-Demand Competition
The MPAA has long frustrated filmmakers and studios by demanding a certain kind of content in a movie, depending on the rating. Said ratings can often be arbitrary, even ironic: a movie that has a gay kiss would, until recently, get slapped with an “R” rating, while a movie with insane violence could walk away with a “PG.” Recently, however, auteurs have a new venue for storytelling: on-demand distribution.
Though the term is somewhat new, on-demand really started with the inception of HBO back in the 1970s. Viewers could find anything from kiddie cartoons to decidedly more adult material on the channel. In recent days, however, on-demand has exploded as a cutting edge artistic medium—one much cheaper than going to the movies. Mike Nichols directed Angels in America for HBO after Hollywood declared the play unadaptable due to length and content. This year, ESPN premiered OJ: Made in America, an eight-hour look at the O.J. Simpson trial on their on-demand app (it ran on the network as well). Netflix, of course, has created a phenomenon with Stranger Things, a sci-fi telenovel that was not subject to any censorship, and which patrons could watch for only $10—the price of a single movie ticket (or less). As if on-demand weren’t the most economical choice (since patrons can watch a show like Stranger Things on their own time, with their friends, and an unlimited amount of times for a flat fee), the business model of on-demand allows filmmakers a greater leeway in terms of creative freedom. Rather than submit to censorship by the studio or MPAA, a filmmaker can produce an entire film or series with a creative carte-blanche. It may or may not do well, but the director/writer/any other creative mind will have made their film as they see fit. For audiences, uncensored content can be quite refreshing. The creative storytelling and cheap price of on-demand also keeps audiences at home.
8 The Internet
Much as television once eroded the standard movie-going audience, so has the internet kept viewers at home. Though internet service does have a cost, most homes regard it as a necessary utility like electricity or water. Unlike the service of the DWP, however, the internet also offers a good deal of entertainment. Besides the obvious venues like Hulu, which can offer fans a way to catch up on their favorite TV shows, social media, online gaming and other net-based entertainment provide enough distraction for someone who would otherwise pay a visit to the local cinema (emphasis on pay).
Consider for a moment: you, dear reader, are reading this article on the web right now. In a non-internet age, you would have had to read it in a newspaper or magazine. Even if you read every other article in said periodical, you would eventually run out and have to wait for the next issue or edition of the publication. In the internet age, you can read anything here on Screen Rant, new or old, at any given time of the day or night. In essence, you’ll never run out of content.
Even for audience members unsatisfied by reading articles on the web, the internet offers no shortage of games, chat rooms or funny videos of cats on YouTube to help pass the time. Movies still have their fans, but for someone just wanting general entertainment, the internet offers a cheap, easy alternative to the expense of going to the multiplex.
7 Cinematic Television
Television has come a long way from grainy pictures of cheap, cardboard sets and bad actors turning out a show every week. In the 1990s, Twin Peaks upped the bar on TV storytelling. It attracted a major director—David Lynch—to the medium of television, who insisted on using movie conventions to create the show. Besides pushing the envelope in terms of sexual and violent content, Twin Peaks filmed on location and sported more elaborate production values than its contemporaries. Lynch also brought respected actors like Kyle McLachlan and Piper Laurie to the show, which added to the quality of the performances. In all, the quality of a TV broadcast could suddenly match that of a theatrical film.
Other series followed suit: The X-Files and E.R. introduced cinematic conventions like the stedicam or digital effects to improve their quality of content. By the 2000s, HBO and Showtime had gotten in on the game too. Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Queer as Folk and Weeds all featured big-name talent, uncensored content and high-quality productions to rival the big-screen entries from Hollywood. With TV having transcended its low-budget, pedantic roots (to some degree, anyway), audiences not wanting to deal with the restrictions of quality or rising cost of going to the movies suddenly had a great alternative. They could just stay home!
6 Too Many Damn Commercials
People really hate commercials, hence the rise of the DVR, which allows viewers to speed past the advertisements during breaks in TV programming (much to the bane of the networks). People once looked forward to going to the movies to avoid sitting through commercials. Nowadays, the expensive ticket price isn’t even enough to avoid the advertising!
Take a popular theater chain like AMC: before every movie, audience members staking out their seats must endure up to 30 minutes of commercials before the movie starts. Said advertising might include anything from local businesses to cellular carriers to their “First Look” reels, which help promote forthcoming releases. And all that’s before the 10-30 minutes of movie trailers that run before the feature! Like any business in the “freelance” economy, paying a fee only promises the bare minimum of service, rather than a quality product. Viewers generally don’t like being force-fed advertising after paying an already-high ticket price!
5 The Franchise Mentality
As a general rule, sequels tend to reap the best box office hauls at the cinema. Sequels benefit from a built-in audience: the people who saw the previous movie. Likewise, reboots tend to capture a larger population of ticket buyers, thanks to the established franchise name.
It’s this mentality of franchises that Hollywood has adopted as its main source of revenue—just look at the movies that came out in 2016! While that can help keep some viewers coming back to the movies, it certainly alienates others who would rather stay home than sit through another superhero movie or reboot of a beloved film like Ghostbusters.
Just look at how the marketplace has changed in recent years. In 1996, for example, the top ten highest grossing movies of the year contained summer blockbusters like Independence Day and Mission: Impossible, of course. Most interestingly, though, it also featured dramas like A Time to Kill and comedies like Jerry Maguire and The Birdcage. Compare that with 2016. Though the year isn’t over yet, the top grossing movies are all either animated family films (Finding Dory, Zootopia) or sci-fi/action sequels (Captain America: Civil War, Jason Bourne). That may seem great for business, but considering that in 1996 movies sold over 300 million more tickets, clearly the franchise mentality inspires some moviegoers to stay home.
4 Lackluster movies
Alright, somebody needs to say it: movies kinda suck of late. Besides the obvious exhaustion of seeing the same kind of movies over and over—action pictures, generally sci-fi or superhero based and animated comedies—studios tend to focus more on including a certain genre staples rather than telling interesting stories or creating unforgettable characters. Movies like Warcraft or Gods of Egypt used the same kind of junky production designs, ridiculous action and deluge of special effects as Civil War or Batman v. Superman, but had nowhere near the box office takes…because they were bad. Likewise, even die-hard fans of the Ninja Turtles stayed away from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (in part because of the low quality of the previous outing), while even major stars like Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt couldn’t buoy The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
The reason? In short, major studios have become more focused on creating high-profile movies on a certain release schedule rather than quality product. The mentality hurts good movies as well as bad: X-Men: Apocalypse, a fun romp with the mutant heroes, had a release date set before the last movie in the franchise, Days of Future Past, even made it to movie screens! Suicide Squad underwent heavy reshoots and studio tinkering after Warner Bros. set a release date that would only allow director David Ayer six weeks to write and prepare the movie for production! This focus on making a release date over quality greatly hampers the final product, so it should come as no surprise that people would rather save their money for other things, or to wait and catch a movie on Blu-Ray at home.
3 Too Much Product Placement
With the franchise mentality and enormous cost of movies these days, studios have had to look for creative ways to manage production costs. One tried-and-true method of saving money: sell screentime to other companies in exchange for product placement. Why else does James Bond wear a Rolex watch, or would Starfleet cadets have Nokia hardware in Star Trek? Manufacturers will pay millions of dollars for even just a few seconds of product placement, which can range from anything like a watch or stereo to even just a corporate logo in the background. Batman v. Superman has obviously placed the Turkish Airlines and Jolly Ranchers logos throughout the movie.
For a long time, audiences didn’t seem to mind product placement, though recent movies have become so saturated with product logos, viewers have become annoyed. Subtle placement of corporate sponsors is one thing, but mind-bludgeoning saturation of product logos make a movie feel more like a commercial. The ham-fisted placement of products has a jarring effect on audiences just wanting to get swept up in the drama of a movie. Hollywood shouldn’t expect moviegoers to pay high prices for tickets to sit through glorified infomercials!
2 Too Many Distractions
The 21st century has become the era of short attention spans. Between near-constant commercials and product placement in TV and movies, the 60-second news cycle brought on by Twitter, and the combined access to online and telephonic outlets offered by cell phones, it’s a wonder anyone can even complete a….wait, what were we saying?
Right. Distractions have become part of human life in the contemporary era, which can make going to the movies tough, even for people who want to be there. Though theaters insist people silence their cell phone, that doesn’t prevent incoming text messages, emails or Facebook notifications from constantly pulling attention away from a movie to a note from a friend or the office. Even worse, fiddling with cell phones distracts everyone around the device-using individual thanks to the flashes of bright light that break the darkness of a cinema. Not only do the distractions interrupt the moviegoing experience with rude behavior (see above), the would-be viewer who knows they'll face constant interruption and distraction during a film can force them to stay home.
1 Too Many Tentpole Movies
With the franchise mentality that so has addicted Hollywood comes another dangerous phenomenon: the tentpole movie. Now, Hollywood tentpoles are nothing new: even in the silent era, studios would release lavish, expensive megaproductions in hopes of attracting a huge audience and raking in the box office dough. Sometimes, a tentpole can help a studio expand from being on the back bench to becoming major players in the industry. Austin Powers helped New Line make enough money to compete with older Hollywood studios and produce Lord of the Rings. Other times, a tentpole can condemn a studio to bankruptcy. New Line, once created/elevated by tentpoles, found itself harpooned by one when The Golden Compass bombed.
Constant tentpoles also can make audiences stay home. Rather than have a movie slowly attract an audience, studios can overhype a product to the point where audiences are sick of a movie before it even debuts in cinemas. That same overhyping can also kill a good movie. In 2016, Sony staked everything on the Ghostbusters reboot. Overhype made the movie—a decent comedy in itself—seem lackluster compared to expectations, and the negative press can keep audiences away. Ghostbusters also illustrates the other problem of tentpoles: if even one movie flops, it can have dire effects on the studio. Gone are the days when Hollywood would produce a number of low-to-mid level films of different genres in hopes of getting everyone to go to the movies. Now, they try to get everyone to go to the same movie, when some folks would rather stay home than sit through another epic production.
Do you have another reason for not wanting to go to the movies? Tell us in the comments!