Movie theaters of the future

Movie Theaters

When I was a kid, my mom and I used to go to the movies almost every weekend. Sometimes we even watched two movies! Movie theaters were comfortable and cool during warm Hawaii afternoons, and we always indulged in snacks. Today, I don’t go to the movies nearly as often. With the high price of movie tickets, I have to ration the movies I see.

My mom recently asked me what I thought about “The Premier,” a new “cinema experience” with reserved seating, a gourmet menu, and craft beer and wine at Consolidated Ward Theatres in Honolulu. I was impressed by the idea, but skeptical about the price. I couldn’t imagine paying more than I had to for movie tickets, and I don’t drink. I agreed with my mom, who emailed, “I, for one, would not be willing to spend MORE money to see a movie and eat their food, no matter how good.”

That said, I still enjoy going to the movies and I don’t want to lose neighborhood movie theaters. I really appreciate how Hawaii movie theaters are trying to innovate. Consolidated Theatres offers “Crybaby Matinees” (movies for parents and babies, with dimmed lights and softer volume) and the “Hana Hou Picture Show” (a retro film series). Regal Cinemas offer collectible tickets, movie merchandise, and more comfort (select theaters have Regal King Size Recliners with padded footrests).

It’s hard to compete with the convenience and price of streaming services and pay-per-view. To survive, movie theaters need to offer something that they can’t: a valuable and exclusive theater experience.

Here are 5 more ways that movie theaters could create a meaningful experience for movie-goers with exclusive screenings:

* Cast and crew talks. For any movie or documentary, theaters could invite cast members, writers, directors, and crew to do a panel discussion, exclusive interview, or question-and-answer before or after the movie. They could charge an additional ticket fee for an autograph or photo, as the Other Realms did when Marvel’s Stan Lee visited Honolulu.

* Multicultural gourmet experiences. For films set in other countries, theaters could invite guest chefs to introduce movie-goers to different cuisines or regional cuisines. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – theaters could partner with a local restaurant or a culinary school whose students could benefit from advertising and experience in a “Hell’s Kitchen”-like evening.

* Night of improv. For comedies and romantic comedies, theaters could invite a local improvisation group, comedy club, or school drama club to perform skits based on the movie. Again, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, especially since it gives performers and students stage experience.

* Live-action demonstrations. For action movies, theaters could invite stunt coordinators, stunt-men, fight choreographers, and even martial arts instructors to give live demonstrations. Movie-goers could how to take a punch or fall (without being knocked out by ticket prices).

* Costumed characters. For kids movies, theaters could invite costumed characters for photo ops and meet-and-greets after the movie, similar to “Breakfast with Santa” or “Brunch with the Easter Bunny.” But limit the merchandise, please.

If movie theaters continue to offer “experiences” that are exclusive, meaningful, and interactive I think theaters will do well.

How often do you go to the movies? Do you remember the first movie you saw at the theater? What would make you go to the movies more?

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