When I was a kid back in the dim mists of time. Family Movie night was a pretty special occasion.
Because we were too poor to go the movies.
But once in a while my Dad had a good year, so it happened now and then. It was invariably something by Disney. I remember laughing at the live-action comedies a lot more than I would today. I also have the Generation X requiste fond memories of watching whatever came out the Disney Vault, (not that they called it that back then). In fact, I think I saw Song of the South in the early Seventies, it was part of a double feature. I remember not liking it because it wasn’t completely animated. I felt the same way about Mary Poppins.
But now the American tradition of Family Movie Night is on its last legs.
Trolls World Tour, (of all things), may have killed it.
Or rather finished it off.
It was economics that killed.
While I am a family man, my older kids have hit that point in their lives where they are avoiding kid’s shows like COVID-19, so taking the entire family to the movies has been a thing of the past for great house Cataline for a while now.
Consequently, I hadn’t realized just how pricey it had gotten.
When the WuFlu blew into town, Universal Studios sent theater owners into a hyper-rage by not releasing Trolls World Tour theatrically. Instead they made it strictly On-Demand for what I had thought was the laughably absurd price of Twenty dollars just to rent.
I mean who would pay $20 to RENT a movie?
Turns out the answer is a father who doesn’t want to pay $100 for Family Movie Night.
If you take in an evening show, tickets for two adults and three kids, plus a smattering of treats you are indeed going to be shelling out nearly a C-Note. At that point a twenty buck rental makes sense.
Now how about on studio’s side of things? Does it make sense there?
That is a more difficult question. Trolls World Tour is unquestionably a success. It was launched on March 11th and Universal has still not seen fit to lower the rental price. This is on top of the fact that for three weeks Trolls World Tour was number one on Amazon digital. And by that, I mean it was number one in the store. No qualifiers needed, it was just flat out the most rented or purchased digital video on Amazon. And Universal got most of the money. There was no theater split.
Trolls Wrold Tour’s success doesn’t mean the end of movies in general. But at this point Mickey the Great and Terrible has to be thinking long and hard about how he is going to be releasing Soul when the all-clear sounds.
Family movies in theaters may shortly be a thing of the past.
This leaves the question, what about the rest of the movie categories?
A date night flick is probably a different story. While it’s not a cheap date at this point, it’s not dinner at the French Laundry either. And it’s still a reasonably low pressure environment for a girl. Let’s face it, if you get a girl to come over your place to watch a movie you’ve got better things to do than watch a movie and so does she.
I recently discovered something. That the money the studios gets from the theaters is on a sliding scale. During the opening week the studios get a criminal 90% of the revenue. With the box office take shifting toward the theaters in the next few weeks of release. Ideally, this works out to something like a 50/50 split in the end with the studios using the early lion’s share to retire the junk debt they used to finance the movie.
The problem for the theaters is, what happens if the second and third weeks box office crashes through the basement?
Imagine how happy the theaters were with Ghostbusters (2016)? Or John Carter? Or Cats? Bombs hit the theaters a lot harder than they used to.
On top of that, the studios are gobbling each other up.
Which means the films aren’t competing with each other like they used to on the grounds that the studio doesn’t want to eat it’s own lunch.
Which means there are a lot less big tent poles coming out.
Which means that the theaters are making less and less money per screen.
Which means they have to raise the prices (ticket price averages are up 105% over the past twenty years).
Which means they sell less tickest.
Which means they make less money.
Which means they have to raise the prices.
Rinse and repeat until the nickelodeon collapses. There was a reason the theater owners were so pissed at Univeral.
So, is there any kind of future for movie night? The answer is, yes. Allegiant stadium (maximum capacity 75,000) was built with one eye on the movie exhibition market. Of course, you are going to be paying stadium show prices but that isn’t a problem… For the film studios.
Okay, I’m done here.