Yesterday I quoted ESPN’s Bill Simmons about The Fighter, but in the comment thread HE reader crazynine was especially taken with Simmons’ assessment of what’s happening with the movie audience these days and how they like to watch films, and how this is demanding a sea change in exhibition strategy.
It turned out that producer Cotty Chubb (among many others) has been kicking around the same notions as Simmons, or at least ones that are fairly similar. Day and date, day and date, day and date. Yesterday Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson posted an open letter/suggestion Chubb has made to Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh.
Simmons: “The movie industry is battling the same issue as every professional sports league: How do you keep dragging consumers to your theater/stadium when (a) the home experience keeps improving (better televisions, surround sound, Blu-rays, season packages, the internet), and (b) because we’ve become a nation of multi-taskers, some people don’t want to spend two or three hours sitting in the same seat focusing on one thing?
“As recently as 15 years ago, you wanted to see every decent-to-good movie in the theater just like you wanted to see the best players and games in person. There was real urgency. [The optn was] either I see this on the big screen right now, or I wait a year and rent the VHS to watch on my crappy TV. But the necessity of seeing a movie in 2010 hinges on three things beyond ‘can I see this on a date?’
“(1) Am I getting something with Movie X’s cinema experience that can’t be replicated at home? (Think Avatar or, more recently, Tron.)
“(2) Has Movie X gained enough social momentum and critical buzz that I’ll feel left out of casual conversations if I haven’t seen it? (The Social Network)
“(3) Can I wait until Movie X comes out on Netflix, Blu-ray or cable and just watch it at home with my family? (Wall Street 2)
“Question No. 3 frightens the bejeezus out of Hollywood. Even if die-hard movie junkies will always keep hitting the theater, how do you keep everyone else coming?
“The short-term strategy: Dumb things down and snare moviegoers in the simplest of ways (making them laugh, scaring them, thrilling them, freaking them out with 3-D or blowing them away with a nine-figure CGI budget), or roll up your sleeves and create quality films that force people to come see them. The long-term strategy: A radical pay-per-view system that covers them both ways.
“If moviegoing habits are shifting toward living rooms (and it seems as if they are), why shouldn’t studios profit as much as they can? Within three years, I bet we’ll be able to watch new theatrical releases on pay-per-view for something like $44.95 — much as we would rent UFC events or boxing matches now — which really isn’t that bad of a deal, especially when two people spend $50 on a movie anyway (between tickets, parking, food and drink), and especially when parents have to waste a date night on a movie (which means a babysitter, dinner and a three-figure night by the time it’s over).”
Chubb: “For an original movie to succeed [thse days], it has to be ubiquitous in the culture; readily available however, whenever and wherever its audience wants it; priced right for the experience; and with a community-building capacity built into its presentation.
“Here’s what Kavanaugh needs to say [to the big exhibition honchos]:
“I’m Ryan Kavanaugh and I want to fill your theaters with young people eighteen to twenty-five, people who’ve slowed or stopped their movie consumption, people who will buy your popcorn and hot dogs and sugary drinks (and they’d buy expensive beer if you’d sell it to them and expensive pot if the government had any sense). I want your theaters to be full of happy people.
“Relativity bought Rogue Pictures from Universal to make movies for those audiences, young movies, smart movies, crazy movies, exciting movies, and I want people to see them. They won’t be costly big blow-things-up CGI spectaculars. Rogue can’t and won’t compete in price with those. So I don’t want to charge my audience the same as for those big spectaculars.
“Here’s my deal. If I’ve got a picture that’s going out on three or four hundred screens, I’ll let you have the movies almost for free. Give me a buck or two for every ticket you sell. You set the price for the ticket-buyer in your theaters so that you bring in the most people and sell the most stuff to them. That’s all your money and you keep it all. Price it the way that makes sense in each theater, in each market for each show. I don’t care about that so long as I get my buck or two.
“But I get to put the picture out day and date any way I want: VOD, disc, streaming, download to own, whatever the buyer wants.
“You get a growing theatrical audience and almost all the revenue from it. I get to concentrate my marketing dollars on opening the movie on all platforms at the same time, and thereby achieving ubiquity at a substantial savings. We both get to price right for the audience and the specific experience. And with right pricing and immediate all-platform access, we can build community and buzz and want-to-see.
“Some will want to experience the movie in the theater. Great! Make that experience the most fun possible. Stop the noisy pre-show bullshit. Nobody wants to pay money to see a movie and be subjected to those lame ads. They want to talk to their dates and talk to each other and then see the trailers and then shut up and see the movie on a beautiful big screen with great sound. The more exciting and fun it is for the right price, the more people will come to your theaters.
“Some will want to watch it at home, on a computer screen in the privacy of their own room or on the living room screen hanging out with friends. Why should we care where they watch it, so long as we’re both making money?
“Help me save American movies, because if we don’t, we’re all going to go out of business doing the same old dumb thing the same old dumb way.”