National Film Day sounds like another artificial holiday designed to spread the meme, such as National Twin Day, National Dog Day, or National Bubble Day Celebration. But that comes with a bonus: On Saturday, September 3, in 3,000 movie theaters across America, you can get a movie ticket for just $3. And with it comes a window into what happens in cinemas.
Three dollars is a big deal. The average movie ticket price in America has been hovering around $9 for about five years, and if you live in a major metropolitan area, you can pay double that. This means that going to the movies is still the cheapest option for a night out, especially if you don’t succumb to the smell of slightly burnt popcorn. But $3 is better than $9.
The Day Sale was announced by the Film Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the National Association of Theater Owners, the trade organization for all of America’s major theater chains as well as hundreds of independent theater owners. More than 3,000 theaters (which means more than 30,000 screens) will participate in the $3 ticket deal, which includes chains like AMC and Regal as well as House of Art theaters, and major movie studios bought as well.
This step is kind of nice. If nothing else, it’s a good incentive to risk a movie you wouldn’t watch in the theater otherwise. And it might be a smart move for theaters, too. September 3 is the Saturday before Labor Day, which has long been a dismal weekend for box office revenue. (Beach tempts.) But it’s hot outside, and it’s a vacation, and a cheaper ticket can be a good temptation to include cinema in your Saturday plans.
National Film Day – which could become an annual thing akin to Black Friday, if it works – sounds like an omen… well, Something. I probably don’t need to tell you that the movie industry is getting hurt, and theaters are getting the brunt of it. The causes are plentiful and overlapping: the flow, the epidemic, and the sometimes bad experience that some theaters provide.
However, Americans are not ready to give up movie theaters. This summer, in fact, audiences in North America are back in droves, with ticket sales exceeding $3 billion. Top Gun: MaverickAnd the Doctor Strange in a multiverse of madnessAnd the Jurassic World DominionAnd the Minions: the rise of a puppyAnd the Thor: Love and Thunder They were the five highest-grossing films of the summer, and represent five of the six best-grossing films so far this year. (VI, BatmanIt ranks fourth on the chart, but was released in early March.)
Three billion and the change in ticket sales is still 20 percent less than in the summer of 2019. But there’s a good reason for that: There were about 30 percent fewer widely released films to watch. If released on a large scale, that basically means a blockbuster movie from a big studio, the kind of movie that would be played in every multiplex in America.
You may have felt this deficiency. Thor: Love and Thunder It was the last major franchise movie to be shown, and it opened on July 8. There have been great and popular hits since then, such as Jordan Peele’s no (Currently No. 12 of the year) Novel adaptation Where Cordads sings (No. 18), Brad Pitt Starr Express train (No. 20), as well as a host of smaller niche films such as emily the criminalAnd the Bodies Bodies and BodiesAnd the Resurrection. Earlier summer movies like Elvis (No. 10) and black phone (No. 16) was hit as well.
But for those who gravitate toward support movies with current IP — and that’s a lot of people — this summer movie season felt like it’s over after the 4th of July weekend.
why? Again, there are a range of influencing factors. During the first two years of the pandemic, movie release dates continued to be pushed into the future, when studios hoped to open theaters in major markets. They need revenue from ticket sales to recover the budget for these films. (Live streaming isn’t a sustainable business model for big-budget movies.) But it does mean that other movies have been pushed into the future, either for story reasons or just to give the movie as much space as possible. Likewise, the pandemic has made filmmaking more complex, and the larger the film, the more difficult (and more expensive) to edit. This results in fewer films.
The next big IP movie – i.e. movies that are virtually guaranteed to gross tons of money right out of the gate – is black AdamDC Comics movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, due out October 21. And October 21 is very far away.
August is traditionally a slow time for movies, so this is not unusual. But last summer, for example, versions were included suicide squad (which went to theaters and HBO Max on the same day), free man (which ended up at number 10 on the year-end list), and candy man (which landed at No. 20). 2020 was a wash, but August 2019 saw the release of Fast and Furious Gifts: Hobbs and Shaw, Plus the king lion And the Spider-Man: Far From Home It was only a few weeks of its highly successful releases.
All of this means that people who take advantage of the $3 ticket offer will have a limited set of options. Since they’re not crowded by other support poles, the Summer Shows still linger in theaters (Top Gun: Maverick It’s still in nearly 3,000 theaters across the country). Specialty shows for August are also on, and a few new movies will open over the weekend, including Three thousand years of longing (From Mad Max: Fury Road Director George Miller) and Honk for Jesus, save yourselfStarring Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown.
Overall, though, Sale Day feels like part of a broader effort to get people to theaters and convince them to make going to the movies a part of their lives again, even if their couch fits. You can see it in many theater chains’ membership programs, such as Regal Unlimited Movie Pass, AMC Stubs, and Alamo Season Pass. Some independent theaters have created similar programs, designed to create loyal customers while providing a strong revenue stream to support single ticket sales.
And there’s always MoviePass, a sinister fun program that crashed and burned amazingly in 2019 after nearly a year of letting subscribers watch an unlimited number of movies in theaters for about $10 a month. (Then I started cheating people.) It came back, sort of, with a new business model (including “levels” and “credits”) that might She helps him survive, after the company’s original co-founder, Stacy Spikes, reclaims ownership. But the jury is still out.
The next few months are crucial to figuring out what the future of theaters might be, and trying out a $3 ticket feels like a way to remind people that they’re, in fact, doing like going to the movies, and that it might be great to do it again like that. Trailers for films releasing this fall, which have traditionally been a time for prestigious films and awards, often tout a “in theaters only” plan. Even Netflix, which typically shows its movies in limited theaters for a week or two before launching on the platform, appears to be testing the waters of a longer theatrical release with films like Rian Johnson. Glass onions: Unlocking the mystery of the knives and Alexander Gonzalez cool. And since HBO’s biggest experiment — releasing blockbuster movies in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day — has been a fiasco, savvy CEOs can rethink their digital plans first.
But did you know? I have no idea what will happen. Nobody’s doing it, and anybody who says they’re doing it is probably trying to get investors involved in some of the new plans. Movie theaters have struggled to prove their relevance since the birth of television, and every new technological innovation has posed an added challenge. There is just as much value in seeing a movie in a theater as there is a value in going to a concert or play, not least because it injects elements of community and interest into the experience that is hard to match at home. But there are a lot of factors in the mix, and whether theaters survive is largely down to the people in the seats.
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