Your Voices: On the Future of Movie Theaters

Your Voices

I love going to the movie theater. For me it makes movie-watching an experience. The giant high-definition screens. The booming surround sound. Going to the theater is an escape for me. It’s a chance to get away and immerse myself in another world or another story. These are the main reasons I look forward to every chance I get to sit in my stadium seating chair and enjoy a film at a theater. But some question just how much longer theater viewing will prosper. Today I hope to hear your opinions on this discussion. I’ll talk about it then it will be time for Your Voices.


Recently there has been a lot of conversation about the future of movie theaters. Some see theaters phasing out. They note the rising prices for taking an entire family to the movies (a feeling that jacked up 3-D prices aren’t helping). Some talk about the advancements in home theater setups. Some point to the ever increasing ‘On Demand’ movies that are available in numerous places. Whatever the reasons some are questioning the life span of the movie theater experience.

Personally I think movie theater viewing is in good shape. It still offers an experience that you just can’t get at home. Now clearly there are things they could do to make the footing more firm. But as a whole, people are still going to the movies and I think they’ll continue to. It’s an interesting discussion and now lets see what you have to say.

So now it’s time for Your Voices. What are your thoughts on the future of movie theaters?

So lets get to it. Now you know my thoughts, I would like to hear yours. I hope you’ll take time to share your thoughts on the fate of movie theaters. Are the above mentioned concerns valid? Do you think theater viewing is safe and sound? Let your voices be heard. Thanks again!

42 thoughts on “Your Voices: On the Future of Movie Theaters

  1. The complaints are universal. High prices, annoying crowds, theater personnel who are indifferent or insufficient. But when the lights go down and the sound of the studio theme comes on, I am hooked. A big screen at home is not an adequate substitute for a good projection on a theater screen. Why stay at home when you can go out and have the romance of sitting with strangers sharing the experience? I don’t think that 3D is going to save movies but it has stemmed the bleeding a little. We are too quick to cannibalize the product. 4000 screens on opening weekend, out of theaters in three weeks, home video as VOD or DVD/Blu in two months, all of this makes the experience less special and turns what was once a unique experience into fast food. I don’t know what the answer is but I suspect that in a few years only Big Budget blockbusters will play in theaters and the tickets will be north of fifty dollars. The technology to create product is available to everyone and distribution is not that complicated. I just don’t know where the money will come from. A good question but unsatisfying answers.

    • It’s a complicated dilemma isn’t it? All I know is that I love the theater experience. I desperately want to see it flourish but I’m not too keen on some of the things they’re doing. Nonetheless, as you said, watching a film at home just doesn’t match watching it on a big screen. As long as they don’t go nuts, i will always find my way to the theater.

  2. However firm the consensus might be on the importance or irrelevance of movie theatres is insignificant, to me anyway. I’m no box office buff, but it seems that records are continuously being shattered and movies are being made on larger and larger budgets. Doesn’t that indicate that studios are making ample revenue? People can complain about pricing and unruly crowds all they want, but when I attend the theatre, (usually once every couple of weeks) screenings are continuously sold out, doesn’t matter if it’s 3D, AVX, or regular. Yeah, VOD is convienient and okay every now and then, but I’ll take the whole theatre going experience any day, and it looks as if a lot of the population agrees.

    • You’re right in that it seems that big movies are breaking records all the time. Not sure if the 3-D craze is factored into that but it’s a true statement. But it seems as though I hear and read so much about studios being concerned over declining ticket sales as a whole.

      • Same here, I also hear tons about piracy and illegal distribution. I always thought studios were more upset with the declining sales of physical film copies and such. It just doesn’t appear to me that the theatre experience is in jeopardy, seeing as they are continuously coming up with ways to enhance the experience, breaking BO records, and handing out larger budgets.

  3. I’m going to have to side with you and the lot of us who think the theater is in no immediate danger. It may be super expensive to go as a family, but there’s obviously enough folks who are willing to do so because (as Joseph above just echoed my thought) movies are being made bigger and bigger and more dramatic, and more imaginative etc etc so that HAS to be reflective of theater attendance. I think with the advent of different ways of communicating via social media, we may just be hearing a whole lot more noise as a result of all the different channels that are available to stage said complaints, be they valid ones or not. I hate how expensive it is to go too since I go so often, but being in the dark facing a 3-story screen seeing a BRAND NEW FLICK is just extremely hard to beat, IMO. cool post Keith

    • I love what you said and I 100% agree. You just can’t beat the theater experience. Even with its flaws and hiccups, the theater is THE place I want to watch a film!

  4. I have complaints that could go on forever and forever, but I am hoping that more theaters pop up that are like the Alamo Drafthouse. We also need more theaters with theater ninjas, to kick people out who are obnoxious, use cell phones, or just plain don’t belong. So in short, nicer theaters, more “control”.

  5. I think cinemas are in no danger whatsoever right now, especially the big multiplexes. They seem to be healthier than ever, even if they feel soulless and are constantly filled with feckless punters/staff who don’t give a crap about people who really want to sit and watch a film and enjoy it properly.
    I do worry about smaller, independent cinemas though. I think many of them are struggling to keep up with technology and the increasing prices of everything. It’s like they are being forced to move with the times and give up the things that made them unique or face closing, which is sad.

    • Great point about the smaller cinemas. We have ONE around here (and its 60 miles away from where I live) and it really seems to be struggling. Audiences just don’t don’t go there like the do bigger theaters that show tent pole movies. It’s a real shame.

  6. Good question Keith. 🙂 I think cinemas aren’t going to go away right now. There will always be cinephiles who feel something special in them, in the film, and in the theater itself. One worrying thing in our industry are V.O.D.’s, whilst they’re really good especially for on-the-go people, which defeats the purpose of movie watching. Films can now be watched on iPhones, tablets and computer screens. It shouldn’t be like that. But even so, and should people support V.O.D.’s fully, there will always be people like us who would go to the theaters; there will always be people who would rather buy the vinyl record and not the iTunes download.

    Contrary to Chris here, I think independent cinema houses are going to boom. The number of moviegoers are increasing by the minute. And in simple economics, that means there’d be more people who’d go see independently-produced films to escape the shallow mainstream screenings.

    • I hope you’re right about independent cinema houses. As I mentioned to him, the one lone independent theater that is reasonably close to me seems to barely be getting by. It’s been like this for a while. I really hope it picks up. It’s my only avenue for certain films that will never appear in the bigger theaters. I guess time will tell.

  7. Nice question. While I’m disappointed that there are less film projectors today and noisier audiences, I much prefer a theatrical screening than one at home. People have been saying for a long time movie theaters will die out. They haven’t so far and I don’t think it’s very likely going to happen.

    • I’m with you. There have always seemed to be doomsday prophets when it comes to the life of movie theaters. Yet over the years they still survive and quite well.

  8. I’d also think there’s no immediate danger to theaters. We had four or five theaters local to us, and only one has closed down in the last several years. Personally, I hate the normal theater experience. I hate the crowds (especially the younger/teen crowds) and the cramped seating. I avoid movies in 3D (not because of the premium pricing, but because the glasses are annoying and most 3D movies just aren’t done well anyway).

    I will, however, continue to go to the Dine-In theater. They have a 21+ theater, the seats are soft and recliners, and there’s real food and drink. So, I continue to pay premium pricing for the reserved seating, etc.

    • I’m with you on a lot of those gripes. I also get annoyed at the crowds. I also want nothing to do with 3-D and for the same reasons as you. 99% of the 3-D movies are cash grabs and poorly done.

  9. I grew up going to drive-ins and miss that experience more than the multi-plex experience. My kids and I always go to the movies together–when they were 4,14, or 24. Small theaters –my favorite way to go nowadays–are preferable to the multi-things. It’s too ingrained in our culture to let the experience slide. Even during the Depression and World Wars, it was the escape everyone needed to forget their troubles for a while. Sitting in the dark with that big screen in front of you is a wonderful time machine. I don’t think it will die, just our visits to it less frequent as prices rise. I’m really picky now which films I will spend my money on. Great question, Keith.

    • Great words Cindy. I still remember as a young boy playing in the back seat while mom and dad sat at the drive-in watching movies. I’d love to still have that experience available to me. I love what you said about the Depression era and during the wars. It was an escape and the movie houses were packed. I still love going to the theater, but I don’t think it’s anything like it once was. That’s unfortunate.

  10. They’re not going anywhere. Few people have a home theatre setup that’s truly equivalent to a theatre experience. And a lot of people like to use the theatre as a way to get out of the house. Not to mention, those “same day” on-demand releases are usually a: the same price as a movie ticket and b: not a major film.

    Ticket prices are a concern, sure, but the cost and rate of increase aren’t universal across the board. In my town, the price of a non-3D movie is actually down a dollar and a half from where it was ten years ago.

  11. Hi Keith, great discussion point here man. I’m with you, I think movie theater viewing is in good shape. No matter how much I enjoy home-theater viewing, there’s something so exciting about going to the movies and seeing the trailers, plus the screen/audio quality just can’t be duplicated by my home cinema.

    • Exactly! I keep going back to the word “experience”. I truly do love it. Even with the growing number of options watching in the theater is unbeatable for me.

      Thanks for hopping in the discussion.

      • This is true – as long as the cinema experience is a good one. Those with options as to where they go to see a quality presentation (over a shoddy, poorly focused, ripped-seat and stale popcorn smell one) will have more positive things to say about the cinema. The multi-plex options, with their “herd of cattle” mentality and lack of care for anything other than “bums on seats” annoys the heck out of me. Give me an older, Muppet-show style cinema experience every time – those old time cinema are still the bomb.


    This is the future of Theatre going experience. It’s essentially a specialized seat with, (I think) built in speakers, so the sounds of the movie are closer. But biggest thing is that the seat vibrates, jostles and moves along with the in-movie action. Imagine the rides at Paramount Studios or something.

    I tried this a few months ago in a Theatre. They had clips of various movies and it was a hit and miss. A HARRY POTTER scene of them running through the woods was stupid. But it was cool to FEEL the explosions in the seat as they happened on screen. The best was the car chase scene from THE EXPENDABLES. The high speed turns and bumps on screen could be felt in the seat. Bullets hitting the car, car smashing through stuff all felt more heightened when synchronized with the vibrations and movements of the chair. THAT… was pretty fuckin’ cool.

    While maybe amazing for a FAST & FURIOUS movie, doubt it’ll work with every type of movie though.

    • Sorry Shah – no disrespect intended, but I tried these seats a few years back at a local theater when viewing the movie The Expendables. It’s a rip-off — it felt like a bad ride at a fifth-rate amusement park.

  13. Oh, and to properly answer your question Keith:
    I think movie theatres will go the way of the Comic Book & Books in general. Despite how much they push digital content, apps, e-readers, etc… people will still like the feel of a physical book in their hands, the weight of a hardcover and flipping the pages with their fingers.

    A Movie Theatre experience is as much about the ceremony of the act, as the movie itself. The queues, the concessions, the timed bathroom breaks to avoid crucial scenes during the movie, leaving the theatre in the end as a collective group over hearing and sharing thoughts with complete strangers, etc. It’s all a process that cannot be duplicated with anything else. We still have 100 year old theatres playing classic movies that are free on TV, simply because the experience is unparalleled, and will remain so.

    • Very interesting comparison to the comic book situation. I love comics but I have been pushed away by the digital direction. It throws aside collecting and as a purist I don’t care to read on a tablet or computer.

      Now the movie thing could have the exact same effect (although I don’t mind watching a movie as much as reading a comic). Not sure but it certainly is something to think about.

  14. The last time this question was asked, it was in response to the advent of television stealing cinemagoers away from the movie houses. Now, television (or rather, large screen monitors/projection with expensive home cinema set-ups) have again started eating into the population going to the cinema. Myself? I rarely go to the cinema these days, excepting the big budget summer flicks like Man of Steel or Pacific Rim; I’d rather avoid the noisy, popcorn munchers and stay home with my big screen and HD surround sound (on which, i might add, I can pause and go to the bathroom without missing a damn thing) than have to fork out a hundred bucks to take the wife to the cineplex and deal with smells, noises and behavior I’d rather avoid.

    Personally, I found that as I’ve become older, and my taste in quality flicks has changed, I’m less inclined to pay a premium to see a film I’m not always sure I’m going to enjoy. With finite time and money these days, I’m less inclined to blow a wad of cash on a film with indeterminate quality than I am sitting at home, spending a third that price, renting said film on a home theater setup that does the job. Not to impugn the IMAX experience and all, but it’s what I’m happy with.

    So it boils down to the value I place on the film I’m about to see – for every Dark Knight cinema experience, there’s been an Adam Sandler anal-wart experience that I’m not so keen to repeat. If I’ve paid five or six bucks to rent a film I don’t end up enjoying, I don’t feel as ripped off as if I’d gone to see it at the cinema with full-blown costs of tickets, drinks and popcorn.

    • Great comments and just an example of why I asked the question. There are some very valid opinions on this that relate to preference but also value. I know several people that feel the same way as you do about going to the cinema. I know theaters are still making money, but it seems as if more and more people are choosing to stay at home. It will be interesting to see how this works out over the long-term.

  15. Hi Keith –
    This is a great question, and the question itself is the reason I started my site. I talk about a lot of why I think the movie-going experience isn’t what it used to be in the intro post ( In short, one of the big points I see missing from the comments here is the birth of and growth of such theater chains as ArcLight, Cineoplis, and Alamo Drafthouse. By offering an experience that is more high-end – with their plush leather reclining seats, 21+-theaters with alcohol service an special events – the ticket prices at these new chains are even higher.

    If this is the beginning of a re-imagining of the movie-going experience – specifically, more high-end theaters – then the general public will have no choice but to explore, even embrace stay-at-home options.

    • Very interesting. Thankfully none of those theaters have made their way here yet. My favorite convenience is stadium seating. Other than that I don’t need much else. Well maybe a good movie! 😉

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  17. I’m not exactly sure anything replaces the grandeur of seeing a blockbuster at the theatres for example or even just a drama. Plus, from what I can see, unless we all live on credit, not everyone can afford the whole home theatre experience and the whole kit. I love the idea of going to the theatres, not only for the awesomeness of the movie but also because its time out of the house with family or friends. Its a nice feeling.
    Although, where I am, I’m starting to go less because we’ve included the whole VIP experience and most English movies have been booted there where its forcing to pay $20 for a movie just to be served at my seat before the movie starts. It gets a tad expensive to see movies in theatres frequently with that in mind.
    Still, I say there’s still a lot of willing movie-goers 🙂 Not threatened just yet…

  18. I think the number of megaplexes will diminish–which it has already from ten to fifteen years ago. But on the plus side I think the number of art-house screens will increase, which is what happened in Miami. Miami five years ago had two art-house “thaetres”–one on the UM campus and the other operating out of a room in a small hotel with a portable screen and folding chairs. Today we have five functioning actual theatres; one of which recently expanded to an additional venue.

    So, I thinhk thaetres aren’t going away there size is just fragmenting much like television viewing. Each of the five art-house theatres cater to vastly different audiences and they rarely show the same films. On the flip-side, you will always need the national chain to show-off the big effects blockbuster film.

    • I hope you’re right about the art houses. There is only one remotely close to me (65 miles one way) and its really struggling to stay afloat. I do love it though.

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