Back in the old days, like a decade ago, everyone went to a movie theater to watch “first-run” films — especially blockbusters. We all loved the immersive experience, the better audio, the taste of the popcorn and the giant screen.
Now, not so much. Although, in this COVID-19 environment, I’d give nearly anything to sit in public anywhere, we have no choice but to watch movies on our tiny, little 75″ TVs in — surely not what the director intended — 4K’ish resolution.
And, truth is, over the past 10 years or so, I actually started to hate going to movie theaters as it was a hit-or-miss seating and dining experience. I found that, when I did go, I gravitated towards one or two of my favorite screening rooms where I knew they had a good quality projector (laser and 4K) or, at a minimum, had comfortable seating. Just in the last year or so, I found myself going to more movies thanks to AMC’s “pick-your-seat” ahead of time app. I loved that as I know which seats are good and which are bad. I even found myself deciding to not go to a movie or picking another movie simply based on seating selection availability!
But, what AMC did yesterday may have killed the experience for me — and, likely will help accelerate the adoption of the “watch-every-new-movie-at-home” through streaming movement. Basically, AMC got upset that a Universal Studios exec made a comment that, due to the $100M+ success of the direct-to-home release of the new “Trolls” movie, Universal might be doing more of it in the future. This pissed off the AMC Theatre chain so much that it has decided to ban all new Universal Studios movies when the chain reopens. Does AMC think this is 1999 — back when we had no choice but to go to a theater to see a movie?
News flash: No one is going to movie theaters right now (thanks to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders) and it’s a bit of an arrogant move to assume that people would prefer an AMC theater to their own 4K TVs and comfy couches when we can go back (in phases).
AMC, as great as its theaters are, is still filled with bad experiences. The Icee machines regularly don’t work, the popcorn is rarely hot and nearly all of the screens are 2K — yes, 2K resolution. Oh, and the fancy new dine-in menus SUCK.
So, I don’t think it’s in a good position to strongarm Universal.
In fact, here’s what I want Universal, Warner Bros, Disney and the rest of the studios to do:
1. Release all new movies via streaming at the same time you do at movie theaters — just charge us $100 to watch it! Now, before you start freaking out, hear me out. The studios need to make a lot of money on movies to keep putting out good content. Otherwise, we end up with A&E-like content for all levels of entertainment. So, as they will be trading off the revenue that a movie theater chain pays the studios to run movies (typically 80+% of the ticket prices), let them charge those of us who are dying to watch new movies $100 to watch the first two weeks of release. And, if you think about it, that’s not too far off what many of us pay for a night out at the movies when you thrown in food, babysitting, tickets and parking.
2. On the third week, lower the rental fee to $50 to stream a new movie! That’s cheap for a family of four to watch a movie — certainly cheaper than four tickets to get inside any AMC theater — so the studio still makes its money and you get to watch it from your couch and not worry about it every time the person sitting next to you in a theater coughs.
3. On the seventh week, make the stream cost $25. This is very reasonable. Then, keep it at that price for four to eight weeks, at which point you lower the cost to something like $10 or $6 or whatever you would normally charge to “rent” a streaming movie now. Remember, most of those movies you rent are four to six months removed from the theatrical release, so this is in line with that plan.
If AMC wants to bully other studios, it can go right ahead. But, it better provide a more compelling argument than it did pre-COVID-19 to make me want to go see movies on a big screen once society reopens. Sure, I want to see all giant films there (e.g., Star Wars, Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5, Avengers, etc.) but, I am perfectly content to see almost every other movie in my pajamas on my couch.
So, be careful what you wish for AMC as you might very well, FINALLY, give it to us! Pretty please?