A trip to the movies in the latter part of 2015 was far different than any trip taken prior. At one time, the process of buying a ticket was fairly simple and uneventful. In person, the process was straight-forward: Say hello to the cashier (because it is always good to be polite), inform the cashier of what you want to see and pay the price of admission. If there’s a student discount, use a student ID, because there’s no need to let a perfectly good discount go to waste. Anyway, it was all very routine, and as someone who likes routine when it comes to hobbies and interests, much appreciated. This trip, however, was different. There was still the usual of going to the cashier, saying hello, and informing the cashier of the movie of choice. After that, things got weird:
Cashier: “Okay, sir. Two for Creed. Where would you like to sit?” The question was strange, and the response must have been strange to the cashier when the answer from me was “I don’t know. I’ll figure it out when I walk in.” At that point, I extended some money to the window to pay, but the cashier wouldn’t take it. Instead, he said seats had to be chosen before paying. There was an urge to reply with something along the lines of “I’m not going to a damn rap concert. I’m going to the movies. What’s the big deal?” However, that was quickly shot down. For starters, there was no need to cause a scene and, for two, rules are rules. Instead of acting a fool, I briefly scanned the seating chart, looked at the remaining seats, and chose two. The cashier took the money, gave me two tickets and told me to enjoy the show.
There are so many ways to watch a newly-released movie that going to a movie theater doesn’t necessarily take precedence anymore. Sure, one can go to a theater and watch the old-fashioned way. Other people use movie boxes and can watch a movie from the comfort of the house (1). Let’s face it; movie theaters can get new seats, have great sound and provide all the snacks in the world, but if people can have similar things at the house, the possibility of staying at home isn’t a bad option. However, the most accurate way to enjoy a newly-released movie has always been to go to the movies, even with something as minor as choosing seats prior to getting tickets being a nuisance, a potential deterrent, and a thorn in the ass.
The cost of going to the movies, not in terms of dollars but in preparation and travel time, can play a part in people not going to the movies and staying home instead. For people who don’t have a car, they have to use other means to get to the theater such as public transportation (Collins, Hand, & Ryder, 2005). Some people choose not to go because of safety concerns which are perfectly understandable. People don’t go to the movies thinking they have to worry about getting hurt and possibly killed, but that is what happened in July 2012 when a shooting took place at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises (3) in Aurora, Colorado. The shooting that night, while rare, is still enough for people to stay home. Then there are moviegoers who are simply turned off by the behavior of others in the movies especially people using phones to talk or text during a movie (4).
However, there are positives about the present-day movie theater experiences which people find convenient in relation to how things were done in the past. Gwyther (4) wrote about how people were able to buy tickets over the phone as opposed to waiting in long lines, as was the practice in previous times. Being able to pay for tickets over the phone, or on the internet, makes the movie-going experience even more convenient for people since they can do the planning ahead of time. Another positive is that going to the movies is a social activity (Collins, Hand, & Ryder, 2005). Going to the movies allows people opportunities to hang out with each other for a couple of hours at a time. The experience of going to a movie is different as well with places like Studio Movie Grill changing the way people go to the movies. Instead of going to get dinner and a movie, SMG allows moviegoers to do both at the same time.
With the prominence of mediums like Hulu, Netflix, and Redbox, there will be some people who are inclined to wait for a newly released movie to hit one of those mediums instead of simply going to movie theaters. Maybe they are turned off by having to choose seats before buying tickets. Maybe the thought of people on the phones during a movie is enough for them to stay home. Maybe the possibility, as slim as it is, of another shooting is enough to keep them away.
Yet for others, there’s nothing that beats going to the theaters to catch a movie on opening weekend. Going to a movie that has been nominated for an Academy Award is still enough incentive to get some people to the theaters to check it out. The chance to watch a movie with a theater full of strangers is impossible to replicate at the house. Sitting next to a stranger and not knowing anything about that person outside of both people sharing a curiosity to see the same movie will always be enough for people to go to the movies. It’s all about what people are into. For me, the experience of going to the movies to see a new release continues to take precedence over watching it on a box, or at the house, or waiting until later when it hits Netflix. From the first time I attended a Rated R movie with my boys to see He Got Game in a packed theater in 1998 at The AMC Grand off of Northwest Highway in Dallas to going to see The Revenant earlier this year in a theater that was about 2/3 full on a holiday, there’s nothing like being in a theater to see a movie for the first time with all the anticipation of what’s to come.