CinemaCon: No Reality Check For Exhibitors

Movie theater owners got just the kind of event they wanted — but not the one they needed — last week at CinemaCon. Exhibitors should have used the four-day event in Las Vegas to share thoughts about the serious problems they collectively face as both attendance falls and Hollywood studios begin to slash their output of big-budget movies. Instead the execs largely ignored controversy. Attendees high-fived each other on the soaring box office sales in early 2012, assessed new technologies designed to make movies look and sound more realistic, and tried to make sense out of the studios’ slick sales pitches for their upcoming slates. Here are a few thoughts about what event leaders could have done to make the event more useful:

— Talk frankly about industry problems. From the sound of things at CinemaCon, exhibition is in great shape — and reporters or Wall Street analysts who say otherwise are overly excitable or don’t see the big picture. But the numbers tell a different story. Admissions and admissions per capita have fallen over the last 10 years, and hit new lows in 2011. While there are several reasons, one of them is that lots of people no longer see the movies as a bargain. Theaters have compensated for the declining admissions by raising prices for tickets and concessions. Both have outpaced inflation for most of the decade. Yet the strategy appears to have run out of gas. Continued price hikes will backfire as consumers remain uneasy about the economy — and revel in the less expensive entertainment alternatives they have at home on their HDTVs and computers. (more…)

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