“While all markets have varied challenges, it is particularly important for small-town theaters to establish relationships and build trust within the community."
The days of Hollywood blockbusters may be over, though not all movie theaters are hurting.
Movie attendance has decreased about 3.5 percent in 2015, reports the New York Times, but ticket sales remain steady for small, local theaters.
B&B Theatres McPherson Cinema IV reports pretty normal numbers over the past years, partly due to the community feel. The B&B Theatres company owns 50 locations across the midwest.
“Our McPherson location is performing well and meeting projections. B&B Theatres as a circuit is up considerably compared to the industry-at-large over the past twelve months,” said Paul Farnsworth, district marketing and public relations manager for B&B Theatres. “While all markets have varied challenges, it is particularly important for small-town theaters to establish relationships and build trust within the community. Concerning peaks and valleys in box office attendance, there are a number of contributing factors. Economic considerations and the quality of onscreen content have two of the broadest and farthest-reaching impacts on overall attendance. Those are largely out of our control, however.”
The issue at hand is that filmmakers and their sponsoring companies aren’t making back what they spend on high-dollar adventure films.
Industry researchers report that the past few years have seen decreases in revenue for filmmakers. “Ben-Hur” cost Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures at least $150 million to make and market, reports the New York Times, but it took in only $11.2 million during its first weekend in theaters.
Part of the problem could be boredom with the same type of film, or too many sequels when audiences can find similar content through streaming services at home, reports Business Insider. By “cannibalizing content,” audiences are forced to choose between films and will normally go with less expensive content online or through a streaming subscription.
Instead of overspending on an underachieving film, the industry is condensing into fewer, higher-earning hits. The highest grossing films accounted for 33 percent of total box office in both 2015 and 2016, while the same group covered 18 percent over 2011 to 2013, wrote Cowen and Company entertainment expert Doug Creutz in his report “Another Memo to Hollywood. Prediction? Pain.”
In 2016, 25 percent of box office sales came from five films, Creutz writes, which is well above the 16 percent earned by top films from 2001 to 2014. Creutz and other industry researchers predict big changes to how movies are made in the future, but until then, movie theaters may just need to hang on.
For small cinemas, the best solution to projected decreases in attendance is to build up consumer loyalty.
“To keep our attendance on an upward climb, B&B Theatres focuses on our guests and their experience at the theater. Our staff is trained to put the guests’ needs first,” Farnsworth said. “We have a hugely successful loyalty program — Backstage Pass — which is free to join and which rewards guests for frequent attendance. Our social media presence is catered market-to-market, and our Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube posts encourage guest interaction and response.”