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My love for the silver screen is well documented on this blog.  I am a true fan of the cinematic art form.  And, despite the dawning of the high-definition age (and the wonderful HDTV and Blu-Ray player I have at home), I have not forsaken the actual cinema as many have.  I understand the draw of watching your movies at home without anyone kicking your seat, no rude people talking, no overpriced concessions, or the like.  However, there is something about the lights darkening and the silver screen coming to life that pulls me in every time.

However, I have noticed a trend in some theaters recently that is just adding to the antagonism that people feel when confronted with seeing a movie at an actual theater.  As many films are coming out with longer run times, we’re beginning to see many theaters scheduling their film start times so close together that one showing is barely rolling its credits before the next is supposed to be beginning.

I experienced this first hand this weekend.  As I have said in previous posts, my wife and I indulge in a select few films each year in IMAX.  The experience is fantastic, but the cost premium is too prohibitive to see every IMAX film we have an interest in in the format.

“Avatar” was one that demanded IMAX for us.

Unfortunately, to our great chagrin, the local IMAX theater in Harrisburg did not get “Avatar,” necessitating a bit of a journey.  Thus, it took us some time to get to it.  But, we ventured to Reading this weekend to catch the show, unaware of the situation we were getting into.  We arrived for the 1:00 show which was sold out to a crowd that was insane in the lobby.  Luckily, we were able to procure tickets to a 4:10 show from a lobby machine and went to grab something to eat.  We returned to the theater around 2:40 to find a large line already forming for our show. 

No worries, as veterans of Star Wars lines and Lord of the Rings midnight shows, this was nothing new to us.

But, as I stood in the lobby in a crush of moviegoers, I began doing some math.  The theater had one IMAX screen.  The last IMAX showing: 1:00.  The length of the film: 2 hours 30 minutes, putting the ending of the previous show around 3:30.  Add on 15-20 minutes for previews and 10-15 minutes for cleanup, and you’re opening the theater for your now disgruntled 4:10 ticket holders between 3:55 and 4:05.

It was closer to the latter.

Thus, when the lights darkened in the steeply inclined IMAX theater many patrons were still struggling to find a seat among the quickly diminishing supply.  Tempers were already a bit raw from standing in a hot lobby made hotter by a mass of humanity for over an hour.  People’s feet hurt from shifting from foot to foot on hard tile.  People got snippy.

Now, once the movie finally began, everyone settled in, behaved, and enjoyed the experience.  But the truth of the matter is that the theater decided to jam the showings of this extremely popular film do close together for the simple reason of squeezing in an extra showing or two each day.  Like anything else these days, it’s all about the money.

I get it.  I really do.  In this economy you have to do whatever you can to maximize profits.  If you can fill that theater with $14-a-pop tickets one extra time each day, it certainly will help the bottom line.  But, what theaters, like so many other businesses, are failing to understand is that situations like this just alienate their customers.  Movie theaters should be particularly careful.  People don’t have the disposable income they once did for movies, and renting a DVD from Blockbuster, Netflix, or Red Box is a hell of a lot cheaper than going to the cinema.  And, as mentioned before, the quality of the experience has nearly equalled the theater for many of us without the downsides.

If they don’t watch out they could maximize their profits right out of business.

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