The Decline of Movie Theaters

AMC Ontario Mills’ signature reclined seating. Photo by Izel Chavez.

AMC Ontario Mills’ signature reclined seating. Photo by Izel Chavez.

A variety of streaming services have made it incredibly convenient to watch movies from the comfort of your own home, but has anyone stopped to think whether or not those streaming services are hurting the attendance at movie theaters? Or are movie theaters hurting themselves with the frequent increase in box office prices?

Within the last two years of working at AMC Ontario Mills, I have noticed a gradual increase in box office prices and a significant decrease in attendance. After recently speaking to a few customers, I discovered that attendance at the theater seems to be decreasing due to how often the theater's box office prices increase.

In 2017, the price of a standard movie ticket was around $13. For Dolby, a premium cinema concept involving 4D surround-sound and a laser projector, the cost of a ticket was around $17. During the busy summer of 2018, the price of a standard ticket was bumped up to $14.19, and a Dolby ticket now costs $18. This past summer, ticket prices had, once again, increased to $14.49 for a standard ticket, and if you are interested in watching a movie in our Dolby theater, you had better be prepared to cough up $20. The increase of box office prices are a result of AMC becoming a more "luxury" theater. With the addition of reclined seating and a full dine-in menu, corporate feel as though guests should pay more to be able to experience those amenities.

Commodities such as Netflix, Shudder and Amazon’s Fire Stick make it so that you can enjoy movies at home without having to pay a price beyond what's necessary or convenient. There is no point in spending money at a movie theater if people gain access to a newly-released film from their television. Some people may argue that these services are unable to hurt movie theaters because these streaming services don't provide access to newly-released movies, unlike theaters, these same people might be unaware of how easy it is to obtain a jail-broken Fire Stick that contains various streaming services filled with a plethora of unreleased movies.

“[I’m sure] that would include Avengers, so I would say an increase in attendance, but if we’re looking at the last month, or two months, it’s definitely declining due to school beginning," AMC Ontario Mills manager Alec Maldonado explained when asked whether or not he has seen an increase or decrease in attendance within the last six months.

I then brought up the idea of streaming services being a contributing factor to the decline in movie theater attendance.

“In reality, I don’t think it would affect [theater attendance] as much as it’s going to impact the sales of Netflix. With Netflix, you’re not getting those new releases such as the Avengers [movie],” Maldonado replied.

Maldonado then went on to explain how there are pirating websites where people can stream movies with a much lower quality, but Netflix, in particular, is not taking anything, such as attendance, away from theaters. He, as well as the other managers, do realize that attendance has been a lot slower than it usually is.

“It seems like an ideal time to throw out some opportunities to change up what we do have to give the guests that are still coming in something new and innovative,” Maldonado stated.

To bring guests back to the theater, new menu items were recently introduced, such as new milkshakes as well as new entree add-ons, to bring a crowd back to the theater. Based on my observations, these additions have not been enough to bring the crowd we once had back to the theater, and with how frequently we get complaints about box office prices, I do not believe we will see a drastic spike in attendance for a very long time.