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How do you solve a problem like movie theatres?

How do you solve a problem like movie theatres?

Jan 29, 2018

A recent story and podcast in Bloomberg highlighted that movie theatres are working hard to get people going back to watch movies on the big screen, but I think cinemas are going about it all the wrong way.

A lot of people assume that one of the reasons people are staying away from the movie theatres is because of how good the technology has become for home entertainment. And that might be true in some cases, but I’d wager a bet that very few of us have entertainment systems that rival a high-tech theatre.

The truth is, at least for me, we stay home more and more because of the people who do go.  It’s not a generational thing, sometimes it’s people on their phones, other times it’s talkers, but whatever it is, it’s definitely getting worse.  Whether I go to an independent theatre with four people, or a packed movie on opening night, it seems that there’s always someone there who just spent a ton of money to not watch and enjoy the movie.

And yes, I definitely look for it now. I’ve become so paranoid that someone is going to run the movie-experience for me, I basically ask for it.  But we’ve tried everything. We try early morning screenings, midnight screenings and every thing in between, and it’s always someone. Which is frustrating because going to the movies isn’t cheap and it’s actually quiet hard to do, and all it takes is one person to ruin it.  So more often than not, especially if it’s a movie I really want to see, I wait until I can watch it at home, just so I can watch it without the stress of being disrupted by anyone but my cat. (Note: This reminds me to open a Kitty Movie Theatre someday.)

So how do you solve it?

The last few times I’ve gone to the movies, we make a point of going to Landmark’s new theatres that have reclining seats. We go for many reasons, but the comfortable seats isn’t really one of them. But the seats to play a role: mainly that the seats are so big, it allows for less people to be in your theatre, so the odds of someone being disruptive is greatly reduced. We’ve had more luck at enjoying movies at Landmark more than anywhere else. Here in Calgary, Landmark is about to open its third luxury theatre and if you haven’t been, I definitely recommend you checking it out. Another reason I love Landmark’s new theatres is the concession, because there’s just one line, so no more stress about picking the right line and seeing the line beside you go twice as fast. You can also order your popcorn on the app and pick it up from their app, although we haven’t tried it yet.  So it’s good, but that’s not how I’d fix movies.

Cineplex is introducing these types of theatres too. They’ve just refurbished Sunridge to include recliners, with plans for a VIP theatre to open in the south sometime soon.  At these theatres, you’re actually served food and drink right at your seat.  We’ve enjoyed a similar experience in Brooklyn at the Nighthawk Cinema, although that was more of an independent theatre, so it’ll be interesting to see how that transfers to Cineplex’s giant-sized theatres. But I’ll never argue with you if allow me to watch movies with wine in my hands.

And the problem isn’t exclusive to big theatres. Last year, my cousin’s movie Werewolf was playing at an independent movie theatre for one screening only. There were five people in the theatre. We had to beg them to stop talking. Like, we asked them three or four times. To the point where their friend came up and offered us cash as an apology. What? That’s nuts. Why did you pay money to sit in a theatre and talk during a movie? You can literally do that anywhere else for free. (The movie is really good, by the way. It just won a big award.)

But on top of all of that, here’s how you actually fix it: Let me listen through headphones.

Simple. Set up a bluetooth for the audio for the movie, and then let me bring my own headphones in and enjoy. All of sudden all the talking and food crunching disappear and I can just enjoy the movie experience. And, because I’m always thinking of how you can make money: Sell earphones, like they do on airplanes. You can listen with your regular boring ol’ ears, or for $10, you can get your own headphones.

Think about it, it’s a good idea. I found someone saying it wouldn’t work, but their thoughts are based on the theatre providing the headphone’s. If I could bring my own, I would invest in a really good pair and they would be my “movie theatre headphones.”  The other good part is that not everyone has to adapt to it, so it’s not disrupting or expensive to incorporate it.

Okay, that’s my idea. How would you fix movie theatres?


  1. WriterWriter

    Y’know what’s a great idea – and far less costly than headphones? A dedicated person who introduces the film, tells (not asks politely; TELLS) people to shut their phones off, and to be quiet during the film AND confirms people who talk, or who put their bloody feet on the seats, or disrupt others from enjoying the film WILL BE REMOVED.

    It is incomprehensible that adults are incapable of sitting down for two hours (how the hell do they fly anywhere?) and to bloody shut up. I’ve been to children’s films where the kids are dead silent and the adults are chattering away….

    Can’t sit through a two-hour film? Feel compelled to run your mouth? STAY HOME! NOBODY spent $14 to listen to inane chatter.

  2. It’s kind of a terrible idea.

    Half the experience of a movie theatre, these days at least, is the massive sound systems they have installed.

    Surround sound with more channels than I can count.

    A wall of subwoofers behind the screen so I can FEEL the explosions.

    Sound is a huge part of the experience. Headphones can’t even come close to replicating it.

  3. Headphones is a great idea! Also bring back ushers who seat you and then kick out the ruiners

  4. Aida Diop

    Great post! I have the same headphones dream.