Stupid Irrational Customers

“Pursuing the Scarcer Moviegoers,” an article on why folks are staying away from movie theaters, demonstrates the unconscious witlessness of theater owners. To whit:

Mr. Fithian insisted that going to the movies is not too expensive, compared to other out-of-the-home leisure activities. “If consumers seriously analyzed their options, they’d realize that the cinema is the best value for a buck,” he said.

Stupid consumers. If they only behaved rationally!

And it seems theater owners primary mode of response is to harass…. their customers! “‘”We have to attack rude behavior – fighting, bickering, talking too loud,’ Mr. Fithian said.”

In my experience, it’s not other people that have made me by-and-large give up on movie attendance. My reasons are echoed by statements from actual consumers made in the article:

  • bad advertising subjected on a captive audience (that also makes viewing times 20 minutes longer than stated)
  • overpriced concessions (yes, I know I don’t need to eat in the theater, but I like popcorn snacking)
  • Oh, right, there’s very little worth seeing

But instead, the theater owners seem to think the solution involves blocking mobile phone transmissions. While, yes, mobile phones are an irritant, they are a minor, minor aggravant compared to the misery that the theater owners themselves foist upon their customers.

It fascinates me how openly hostile businesses can be toward their customers, and then act SHOCKED! when customers start leaving them in droves. People have so many choices, so many options now, but theater owners act as if they’re the only game in town when it comes to movies, and so have a captive audience that must succumb to their whims.

Some day, some smart company (probably a movie studio, maybe a distributor, probably a savvier player like 2929 Entertainment) is going to engage in a customer research study of film consumption. Get all ethnographic, quantitative, and simply go deep in understanding how films fit in people’s lives, and all the opportunities there are for satisfying customer’s with this material. And this company is going to realize all sorts of benefits by giving people what they actually want in this time-shifted, home-theater, dvd-player-in-the-car, bittorrent-movies-on-my-laptop-on-the-plane world.

4 thoughts on “Stupid Irrational Customers

  1. Moviegoers and theater goers, what exactly are they? Historically, a theater is a place where people come together to witness a performance, preferably a spectacle. Audiences at The Athenian Theater of Dionysus were not generally docile, nor in the Roman Coliseum or Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

    The Globe, much like similar theaters in France and elswhere at the time, was a virtual zoo of human behavior with whores and food sellers loudly flagging their wares and liberal interplay between the educated and the generally illiterate folks in the audience. Writing about it now puts me in mind of a typical American baseball game.

    Early day movie audiences were somewhat of the same make up and behavior. With the advent of sound on film, audiences became a bit more subdued, the better to hear the scratchy dialogue.

    And so we developed the mid-Twentieth Century habit of sitting in gaping silence before the huge images before us.

    I prefer to screen films without distraction, but I also prefer to screen them in theaters with other patrons who have chosen a particular film, expecting a satisfying experience. We form, for a couple of hours, a de facto community. Of course, when I was growing up with film, movies were a mass medium, which they are no longer. Where I used to attend movie theaters at least a hundred times a year–or more, I now maybe hit about ten, in a good year.

    Interestingly, again as I write, almost none of my movie theater screenings of the past ten years or so come to mind. But one that I doubt I will ever forget was attending a matinee screening of Robocop from the back row of a bargain theater in a Black neighborhood. The young kids in that audience to deeply into the movie, and shouted warnings to the good guys and insults to the bad guys whenever the action mounted. And did they ever cheer when Robocop wasted a would-be mugger or rapist! Robocop was a very good movie, those kids made it great viewing.

    And then there was the afternoon during the first release of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, well before it received all its eventual nominations and awards.

    At this time, the film was deemed a flop and the theater was almost empty. But at the conclusion of almost every musical number or routine, the scant and scattered audience rose up cheering, giving the performers and creators several standing ovations. It’s a shame they weren’t there to join in the fun.

    Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with this. Obviously, I am not able to answer my opening question. Maybe you can.

  2. It’s about the “content” stupid. I don’t go to the movies much anymore because there just aren’t many movies worth the expense or trouble.

    And yes, once I’ve made the decision to go – I don’t want the movie experience ruined by loud talkers, gum snapping/chewing, cell phones, etc.

    My tolerance for these things is a lot lower the older I’ve gotten. And my expecations for a good movie experience for the money have gone up the older I’ve gotten. I’m probably not part of the target demographic for most movies anymore.

    Once in a while a movie comes along that makes all of what comes with the current state of the movie experience – less of an issue – again about the content – especially entertaining, very funny, thought provoking, epic, great effects, etc. It could be any of these, but these qualities have become rarer now – or so watered down and homogenized that movies just aren’t worth the trouble.

    If it’s a seemingly interesting movie – I can wait to rent it at the local video store – then enjoy from the comfort of home.

  3. A story in today’s LA TIMES

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-movies25dec25,0,2484965.story?coll=la-home-headlines

    includes this comment,

    “China has 900 million peasants, and they need spiritual nourishment,” said Rao Changdong, 62, one of the founders of the movie caravan, whose volunteers fund the project almost entirely out of their own pockets. “VCDs and DVDs are fine, but they are limited to the small family and small screen. Movies are better because it’s more about community interaction and the big family.”

  4. “China has 900 million peasants, and they need spiritual nourishment,” said Rao Changdong, 62, one of the founders of the movie caravan, whose volunteers fund the project almost entirely out of their own pockets. “VCDs and DVDs are fine, but they are limited to the small family and small screen. Movies are better because it’s more about community interaction and the big family.”

    This excerpt from an LA TIMES article tells another story of a mostly lost enjoyment.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-fg-movies25dec25,1,3993361.story?ctrack=1&cset=true