1. Obviously, the absence of a must-see mass-market movie. […]
2. Ticket prices are too high. […]
3. The theater experience. […]
4. Refreshment prices. […]
5. Competition from other forms of delivery. […]
6. Lack of choice. Box-office tracking shows that the bright spot in 2011 was the performance of indie, foreign or documentary films [this has arguably been the case since 1989 with Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape]. On many weekends, one or more of those titles captures first-place in per-screen average receipts. Yet most moviegoers outside large urban centers can’t find those titles in their local gigantiplex. Instead, all the shopping center compounds seem to be showing the same few overhyped disappointments. Those films open with big ad campaigns, play a couple of weeks, and disappear.
The myth that small-town moviegoers don’t like “art movies” is undercut by Netflix’s viewing results; the third most popular movie on Dec. 28 on Netflix was “Certified Copy,” by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. You’ve heard of [him]? In fourth place—French director Alain Corneau’s “Love Crime.” In fifth, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“—but the subtitled Swedish version.
The message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It’s the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can’t depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.