Last summer, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted the death of the film industry as we know it. Gone will be the days of quiet, independent films at the box office that enjoy a short and successful (or not) run at the theaters before consumers are able to purchase for home viewing. The delineation between film and TV will be nonexistent; there will simply be content, and the consumer will choose the medium and venue by which to take in their entertainment. The theater experience will be akin to that of a Broadway show, with high ticket prices to see long-standing, tentpole fare in one-of-a-kind ways. And while I’m not quite as radical in my views of the future for film, the realization donned on me that these two directors aren’t as far off as I thought.
Like many film fanatics, I ventured out to see David Fincher’s new psychological thriller, Gone Girl, this weekend. Yes, I loved it as much as Ryan did, but what stuck with me almost as much as the film was the new identity of the theater I viewed it in. I saw Gone Girl at AMC Marlton 8, a newly renovated multiplex that features plush, leather recliners, gourmet concessions, and the latest in audio and visual theater technology.
It exemplified everything that’s magical about movies (big screens, experiencing great films with a live audience), but without the collateral damage (uncomfortable seating where everyone is on top of each other, stale concessions priced at a premium, I could go on). The amenities come at a price, but the theater experience was downright fantastic and one I will gladly patronize in the future, with the exception of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic, Interstellar.
Because Interstellar features IMAX footage, I will be finding the biggest IMAX screen I can to enjoy it, most likely the United Artists IMAX in King of Prussia, where I enjoyed Gravity in IMAX 3D last year. That is to say, the film industry will get me out of the comfort of my home theater once again to pay a premium for a flick I could easily consume much more comfortably and inexpensively a few months later. Why? Because the theater is once again a superior experience, unlike it has been in recent memory.
The future of the movie theater has abstracted itself from the need for exclusive, blockbuster-grade content. The ticket price now rests on the quality of the experience to combat emerging trends in how people consume their entertainment. And if the business continues to improve upon this model, you won’t hear the general public saying, “meh, I’ll wait for Redbox,” nearly as often.