The movie business is in trouble. I don't think anyone would deny that with the advent of new technologies such as video games, the internet and especially digital distribution (both legitimate and illegitimate), the movie business is under greater threat than ever before. So, if your business is under threat, what do you do? Well, I may only possess one degree in business, but I'd probably talk to my consumers, see what they want, and maybe try to improve my service delivery. As I keep saying, your business exists to create and service customers, not just to make money.
But then, dear reader, I stumble across a couple of articles that discuss a new idea to get people back into cinemas - "Tweet Seats!" Basically, during a screening of a movie, you'll now be allowed to get your phone out and Tweet about what you're seeing. What a brilliant idea!
Or not. Christ, there's dumb ideas and then there's ideas like this. The movie companies clearly think that the young kids will only go into a movie theatre if they can use their smartphones, but they couldn't be more wrong. So allow me, a lone blogger who has no experience in the film industry but watches plenty of movies, to give the movie industry some free advice to stop people downloading films, and get them back into cinemas:
1. Social media is not the answer.
Carrying on from above discussion, I think we can all agree that getting stupid teenagers to Tweet their opinions about the latest Twilight film will not get people flocking back to cinemas again. Social media is a wonderful tool to market your film, if used correctly. The example that stands out to me is Paranormal Activity, a film that only achieved a wide release because the fans went online and demanded it. Encouraging people to create "awareness" of your film by Tweeting during every session may seem like a good idea on paper (hey, any publicity is good publicity, right?) but in reality it's going to make people avoid your film, since nobody over the age of sixteen likes seeing phones used in a cinema. Use some common sense, people!
2. Telling us piracy is wrong is not the answer
Piracy is wrong? Gee, now that I know that, I'll... uh... continue to watch the movie I just paid for? Look, I'm not here to debate the ethics of piracy, but movie companies need to learn that beating your chest and bellowing "IT'S ILLEGAL! STOP DOING IT!" is not going to stop people doing it. It just won't. Anyway, I can't believe I'm typing this, but movie studios, the people who are in the movie theatres aren't pirating your movies, you know. There's no point telling them you not to pirate - they're already not doing it! Nothing fills me with more joy than being told I'm a criminal just before I see a movie.
3. Thirty minutes of ads is not the answer
And speaking of ads, why is it that after I've just paid for my movie ticket, I have to sit through upwards of thirty minutes of ads before I see any of the actual movie? I realise there are a number of valid reasons why there are both trailers and advertisements before movies, but Jesus Christ guys, it's getting a bit ridiculous. It's gotten to the point where I can leave home when my movie session "starts", drive to the cinemas, park, buy my ticket, use the bathroom and I'll still have time to spare before the movie starts! Like I said, I understand that it's necessary (I like trailers, and ads for local businesses is good, targeted advertising), but it's just too much. Ten minutes of ads, fifteen tops. Not thirty.
4. Reboots and remakes are not the answer
I don't know whether it was watching J.J. Abrams Star Trek, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, the 2010 versions of The Karate Kid or Clash of the Titans, the trailers for the new Spiderman and Batman films before going home to see Hawaii Five-O and Charlie's Angels on television, but I'm beginning to think perhaps Hollywood has a dependence on old ideas. Look, movie studios, I'm not against using an old brand to launch your new movie, but if you're going to do that, you need to at least try to make your film different from the original. Otherwise, the public has every right to criticise you for lack of originality. Justifying a remake by saying "We're updating it for a modern audience" is a load of horseshit. King Kong, Psycho, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars are just as poignant today as they were when they were released decades ago. If you're going to remake an intellectual property, then at least make it a DIFFERENT film from the original. I know it's TV, but compare the original Battlestar Galactica to the 2003 remake. They're very different shows, but both retain the core premise of humans being attacked by robots. The 2003 series, though, brings in themes of terrorism, war and paranoia - this is updating it for a modern audience. Not just giving all the characters access to mobile phones and occasionally mentioning Facebook.
5. 3D is not the answer
But by far my biggest gripe with modern cinema, the reason I avoid the movies so much, is this damn 3D bullshit. Many other people have ranted at length about 3D (like respected film critic Roger Erbert, or heck, even this guy), but personally, I hate 3D because it actually takes me out of the experience rather than draws me in. When stuff leaps out of the screen, all it does is remind me I'm watching a movie and not actually inside the world the director has created. It's obvious why the movie companies are pushing 3D technology so much - because it gives them more money! 3D tickets are often double the price of an ordinary ticket, so it's the perfect solution! Er, no actually. Any "solution" to a business problem that involves doubling your prices is downright suicidal. If you're going to charge us twice the price of admission, movie companies, you need to offer us a little more that cheap plastic glasses so that the explosions are prettier.
So what is the answer?
It may be easy to say, "just make better movies", but this is a profoundly short-sighted view that doesn't take into account the larger issues I've brought up here. If movie companies want us back in cinemas, they need to cut the crap, and start treating us with a bit of decency. Each of the five points I've discussed above are things that are annoying people. Any industry that's getting concerned about their future should be listening to what their customers want and addressing their complaints, not by shoehorning more technology into the product. Good businesses build relationships with their customers, so that the customers will be loyal and want to come back.
After all, why do people pirate? Because the service is better.
© 2011 by The Free Man