Yesterday, I started a series of articles discussing the declining moviegoing experience.
Today, I will address #3 and #4 in the list below ... what I personally think are the reasons movie attendance and box office sales are down.
1) Social factors eroding theater experience (talking, cell phones, babies crying, etc.)
2) No ushers and/or chaperones
3) No enforcement or clarification of rules
4) Theater chains being too politically correct to realize the need for #2 and #3
5) Declined discipline in schools and at home
6) Obtuse political message and agenda movies
7) Overhyped movies that cost millions to promote
Yesterday I left you with ... You'll be interested to hear what one theater chain locally to me did and then later stopped, because of pressure from theater goers who protested to national headquarters about the action being taken at this chain to curb problematic moviegoers. I loved the policy ... had I known there was a protest to stop it, I would have called with commending phone calls to counter it.
A local Consolidated Theaters venue called Cherrydale Cinemas implemented a new policy in the summer of 2005 for a brief period of time. I liked it. Here's what they did.
The movie previews played as normal then the lights came on, the film stopped and the manager came out and stood front center with two ushers ... one on each side.
He said (something close to) ...
"Welcome to Cherrydale Cinemas ... thank you for coming to tonight's show. Due to recent complaints we need to make sure you are aware that there is no horseplay, no talking, no cellphones, and no smoking. If you must talk, keep it brief and at your best whisper. If you must answer your cellphone ... you must have it on vibrate and leave the theater to answer it. There will be no warning, this is your warning. You will be removed from the theater if we catch you and you will not be refunded. Enjoy the show."
That took less than one and a half minutes ... I enjoyed that movie ... there weren't any problems. I would say 9 times out of 10 when I go to the competing Regal Cinemas (called The Hollywood 20) there is some sort of talking problem or cellphone problem.
The clarification of rules either by management or by on screen placement needs to be implemented. The message, just as this message pointed out, needs to clarify punishment for breaking the rules too. There is no affect in saying, "Please silence your cellphones" with some cellphone company's logo. The cutesy commercials that cellphone companies do talking about people who have cellphones in movies, only serve as what I call ... "filler rather than thinker".
To relate another story to you ... recently, I went to see the movie The Hills Have Eyes ... now this isn't the kind of movie you would call a horror classic ... to be honest, it would only be memorable if it was a 1st date, a birthday, or otherwise something special.
Same best friend and I (that I mentioned before) are taking a break to watch a matinee of this low budget horror film. About 15 minutes into the movie we hear a guy talking very loudly on his cellphone ... but we can't see him. There are only five other people in the theater ... My friend and I included.
My friend, who has grown less tolerate of these incidents and still recalls "the day I stood up to the rude" got up, found that the guy was talking just at the door. He leans over the railing and says, "Could you take that outside? We're trying to watch a movie."
Apparently the guy grumbles, my friend sits down and rolls his eyes. About 15 more minutes pass ... the action in the movie has just gotten intense. The guy returns with candy, a tub of popcorn, and a drink ... barely being able to hold all of it and quite frankly looking like he was about to drop something.
As he's walking up the aisle (going all the way to the top back row corner) ... he's mumbling ... we could hear an occasional expletive as he trimmed his eyes our way. For a minute or so, we could hear him mumbling. Then, he gets back on his cellphone. I tell my best friend that I will go out and tell management and get an usher. I return with an usher who sits with hands folded; near the bottom for about 5 minutes and then leaves. "Mr. Mumble" is quiet for the rest of the movie. As the credits are rolling, "Mr. Mumble" walks down, leans over, and tells us, "It was uncalled for to go tell on me, you pussies, and if you have a problem, we can meet outside."
We went to management expressing our concerns over this incident. The theater manager told us he noticed the "weirdo walking out" and he gave us a "standard apology" and offered us passes for another movie.
Being proactive, we asked the manager why he couldn't have just taken the guy out and why they let a few people ruin just about every movie. He told us that "corporate" had made it clear that no patron should be removed unless causing physical harm or after receiving two warnings. He also said that recently, Regal Cinemas had issued a "note to management" that you must catch the "perpetrators" in the act ... not just go by what another patron says.
In some ways, I can understand this policy. But there comes a time when a manager should be allowed to be a manager. It was obvious, by our dress, our intelligence, and our general demeanor that we weren't trying to "lie to get free tickets" or just complaining because we are complainers.
After this incident ... both of us pledged that we would write Regal Cinemas ... we both received canned responses even after requesting that we not receive such. The response isn't even worth republishing ... it just serves to clarify what I have already told you and give a fake apology ... it's almost like a computer program pieced together an email and mailed it off.
Which gives me an idea and a solution for the problem that theater chains are causing ...
Movie Theater Chains need to move into the 21st Century. Movies could become completely automated and technologically adavanced. This would (over time) save money, cut down on costs and reinvigorate the moviegoing experience.
Here's what I'm talking about:
1) Automated tickets ... slide your credit card or insert cash into a machine / slide loyalty card if you have one ... get tickets
2) Place ticket into validation machine at the door to your theater
3) Vending machines for candy, popcorn, and drinks ... not just standard machines ... you could even have the robotic bartending type robots.
4) If (really a matter of when) movies come to theaters via download or by DVD ... movies start automatically ... no "film technician" needed
5) Cellphone jamming inside the theater ... or walls with cellphone signal jamming paint.
6) Infrared lasers that criss cross theaters blocking video recording (but are invisible to the eye)
7) A human usher in each theater ... which would mean a reduction in staff.
The "humans" could also be movie critics ... I would love to read real reviews from real people that aren't biased about movies ... movies that they may be forced to watch that they otherwise might not see.
Over time, ushers wouldn't need to be in theaters full time.
I think it would even be a good idea for a podium in the corner with a special seat for such an usher to sit ... like he or she was "lording" over the theater. There are obvious auxilliary benefits to having a podium like this as many theaters rent out space for presentations and business meetings.
Keep tuning in ... I'll tackle the last three issues in the next installment and deliver a final solution that I plan to present to theater chains.