Why Public Cinema Is Failing


A look at why the home cinema industry is starting to render public film theatres obsolete

Long since finished are the days when people across the world would flock to see a movie at the local cinema more than once a blue moon. Can you imagine October of 1994 when Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, The Lion King, Forrest Gump, and The Shawshank Redemption were all showing in theatres at the same time?

There’s certainly no mystery why home cinema is booming so robustly, what with top quality sound systems and projectors becoming more and more affordable, and piracy being treated less like the unforgiveable crime the DVD and Blu-ray disc warnings assure us it is, and more like the unavoidable and innocuous peccadillo it is.

But why hasn’t public cinema risen to meet the challenge? Many of them have assumed that by simply raising the price of admission they can survive the inevitable and imminent upheaval. Somehow in the minds of the folks in charge, this will rectify the damage that constantly lowering levels of attendance is doing, rather than worsening it. Public theatres are businesses that ultimately are forced by a capitalist economy to care more about staying in the black than being a good place to go and watch movies.

Studies conducted by worldwide market research companies, and even schools of economics, have yielded indications that piracy is resulting in thousands of jobs being lost, as well as costing economies billions in revenue. There is also evidence to suggest that illegal downloading of films often even contributes to its success. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), which made over a billion at the box-office and sold two and half million Blu-rays, was also the most pirated film of the year with almost 8.5 million downloads. Even that pales in comparison to Avatar (2009), widely considered one of the more successful movies at the box-office of recent years, however with an estimated 21 million.

With attendance rates falling by millions with each passing year for the past several, key operators are managing to return healthy profits via increased ticket prices- but not as transparently as is detectable by the public… 3D movies are no doubt a ploy to resuscitate the cinema industry in and of themselves anyway, but can the prices we’re charged for not only tickets for entry to a 3D movie, as well as ‘premium’ screenings, and VIP seating, really be reasonably argued for as justifiable?

There seems to be an exponential drop off in public cinema attendance at any rate, and the case can be argued for it being due to an array of reasons. Yet what’s certain is that many film-lovers used to enjoy the social aspect of going to the pictures, and with that social aspect becoming less and less typical, it’s debatable whether the entire industry won’t be straightforwardly usurped by the burgeoning world of home cinema in a matter of years.