As many of us know, movie tickets sales are down. We can blame the expensive pricing, on-demand services like Netflix, the upgrades to our home theater experiences and the competition of video games and social media that sucks away our entertainment time.
So what is a theater to do in this day and age to entice people to get in their cars and travel to see a movie again?
Movie houses are implementing a variety of new theater gimmicks to attempt to lure people back, from iMovie applications using your smartphones and tablets, cushier seats, dine-in movie additions and the latest “4D” technology that attempts to create full sensory fun with the seats rocking and rolling. Other gimmicks include water spraying, gusts of wind and a mist of smells (actually, I am not sure how they project the smells … maybe scratch and sniff?).
There are newer niche theater chains popping up, such as Alamo Drafthouse. This chain offers state-of-the-art equipment to enhance your movie experience, reserved seating, a full menu (including libations) and special movie nights for teens and parents with babies (Baby Nights are born!), The Alamo chain also serves up foodie nights and date night packages (vouchers for babysitting services included).
Maybe the niche theater chains will catch on. It certainly sounds good, doesn’t it?
Creating an extra special evening surrounding the movie in question is a solid idea, and they certainly have considered what the patrons want and need, the extra touches, to get them into the theater seats. Especially with the new reserved seating format, these types of theaters are using audience development.
Theater Gimmicks Come with Expiration Date
However, the gimmicks that are being added to traditional theaters won’t work in the long run. They may entice people to try these “enhancements,” but they won’t build relationships and get people to keep coming back – creating loyal, consistent movie patrons.
Once you experience the gimmick, you know what it is like. The people that hate it will not return. The people that like it might come back again a few times, but the novelty will wear off. Remember how 3D was supposed to do the trick? Well, it didn’t.
Gimmicks are simply, well, gimmicks to get the butts in seats. It will not grow audiences for the future, and instead, the theaters will be searching for the next expensive gimmick to continue the marketing charade.
What these theaters really need is audience development. They need to roll up their sleeves and get to know their patrons in order to provide the desired services people want. I applaud the niche theater chains, and I look forward to finding out about the results of their audience-friendly ideas.
For the regular theaters, quit throwing money on gimmicks and start spending on what people really want – good customer service and amenities that are worth the inconveniences of going to a theater.
* * *
Shoshana Fanizza has been in the arts all her life with an additional background in marketing, customer service and sales. Since being bit by the audience development bug in 2006, she has dedicated herself to helping artists and arts organizations, all over the world, build happy and loyal audiences. Contact her if you want to build a supportive base for your art at Audience Development Specialists or on Twitter @AudienceDevSpec.