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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What could your local multiplex do to get your butt into a seat?

Yahoo! Movies UK & Ireland posted this recently:

With cinema ticket prices getting higher and higher and piracy still a problem, one cinema chain has come up with a novel way to get punters back into the multiplex – free screenings.

Cinema giants Vue and Metrodome Group have joined up to offer free tickets for a series of films at various Vue cinemas including London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Credit Crunch Cinema kicks off on the 15th May with a series of screenings of low-budget films – for more information email creditcrunch@metrodomegroup.com.

That’s if you’re reading this in the U.K. and Ireland, obviously.

“The concept of credit crunch cinema was born in direct response to the negative and depressing financial crisis which dominates our news on a daily basis,” said Metrodome’s Giles Edwards. “What better way to relieve people from the stress of the credit crunch than to provide escapism in such an exciting and accessible way -free cinema!”

While the free films on offer are hardly ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Terminator Salvation’, the price of going to the cinema (once you tote up drink and food costs) nears £20 these days so a free trip to the multiplex – no matter the movie, does sound appealing.

Now, I’m totally spoiled, as a movie geek. I know this, and I’m profoundly glad of it. I get to see pretty much any movie that’s opening in New York City for free. Yeah, it does mean that I need to work crazy hours beyond seeing those films — writing reviews, etc. — to maintain that privilege. But honestly, that barely registers as a cost. And I do make an effort, as a professional film watcher, to see movies that I probably wouldn’t bother with if I went back to being an amateur film watcher.

But that’s me. Would you go to a free screening of a movie that wasn’t on the top of your must-see list? What could your local multiplex do to get your butt into a seat?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • David

    What my theater does, and it gets me there every weekend, is $4 tickets before noon on friday saturday and sunday. They also have a points system that earns me free sodas, popcorn and even tickets sometimes.

  • Althea

    Cut the price in half. That’s it. In Dallas, even the matinee prices are too high. Studio Movie Grill has an 11am show for $5, and that’s the lowest in the area. Luckily they do have the blockbusters. I may see Star Trek after all.

  • Hank Graham

    The local Regal cinemas here in Seattle are doing it–the East Valley 13 is $3, all times and all days.

    The problem is they haven’t publicized it. It’s a little like they’re embarrassed by it. so they haven’t pushed it.

    At $3 admission, I’m seeing a lot more movies.

    Movies were always meant to be cheap entertainment, and that’s something the studios have forgotten as they’ve pushed up the ticket prices over the last 20 years, going for every little oomph for the opening weekend box office.

    I think they’ve forgotten their core competencies.

    Hell, look at the modest box office successes that have gone on to be recognized as classics, and which didn’t get pushed much when they were in the theaters. That’s a list that includes “Shawshank Redemption” and “The Princess Bride.”

  • cinecat

    Yeah, lowering the price would be a good idea. The $12.50 the downtown theatres charge for a movie is too much, especially when one of them charges that price whether it’s a matinee or evening show. (They have a points-for-free-admission program, though.) The cheapest ticket in Vancouver is something like $8.00.

    But that’s probably not going to happen.

  • Fuggle

    Take a page from my favorite theater ever: Austin’s own Alamo Drafthouse, at least for some showings.

    No kids at all under 3 (or maybe it’s 6), and talking once, at all, ever (once the trailers begin), will get you a warning. Talk again and you’ll be removed, without refund.

    Also:

    Offer me a reasonable sized soda for a reasonable price, or at least a chance to buy a normal bottle’s worth (in a slightly bigger cup so I’m not being cheated on ice) for convenience-store price.

    Maybe some better popcorn, and while I’m at it, bring back white salt – hell, invest in a fifty-buck food processor or something and stock plain white ultrafine popcorn salt. I made some myself once, and now popcorn’s just not the same without it.

    Ticket prices being lower would be nice. Hell, cut prices by 40% and I’d probably see lot more movies, in fact cut prices by half and I might even see more than twice as many movies.

    With digital projectors and the like, I am digging this idea of using down or off hours to air cheap showings of classic films and ‘smaller’ name fare; and more of those … Fathom Entertainment (I believe?) event things – I got to see the first Bleach movie (subtitled!) on the big screen, and’m sad that I missed the Death Note one, because stuff like that moved me – a chance to see, on the big screen, films that I never thought I would be able to really see in America except through piracy or waiting forever for an import.

    …Though it’s not just the environment the multiplexes create, it’s also what we’re going to see, and hex knows I’d go more if there was more I wanted to see in theaters.

  • My “local multiplex”, eh. Hmm. My local movie theatre is a one-screener. I still haven’t seen the second half of Face/Off because when I went there to see it, a thunderstorm came up and the power died, and after sitting in the dark with a handful of others for twenty minutes, they sent us home with a rain check that I never got around to using.

    It would take more than a free movie to get me to the nearest multiplex, which is 45 minutes away. The hassles of city traffic and parking would outweigh the price of admission and I’d say, as I usually do, I’ll wait for the DVD.

  • HDJ

    At my local Clearview Cinemas I get free movies for having Optimum Online. Which is free movies for me, and it gets my butt in the seat. Another thing that could get me seated is if they had some special premieres like, have some on that worked on the film come in to town and promote the movie , have like a little Q&A before the movie, that would get me over there.

  • HDJ brilliantly said:

    Another thing that could get me seated is if they had some special premieres like, have some one that worked on the film come in to town and promote the movie , have like a little Q&A before the movie, that would get me over there.

    By gar, that would do it for me too! I hadn’t even thought about that. I drove three hours to put my butt in a seat to watch the Ann Arbor, Michigan premier of Pleasantville because Jeff Daniels was there live and in person to introduce it.

    Great movie. Amazing actor. And singer/songwriter. And RVer. And supporter of local theatre. Yep, that would do it.

  • Althea

    When I said Studio Movie Grill has an affordable 11am show, I forgot to mention that I can’t afford the food. It was too expensive and still went up recently.

    I am put in mind of an article I read ages ago in which what’s-his-name the Penthouse guy defended the high admission to Caligula, the movie he produced, by saying that if you bought a pair of excellent-quality shoes you’d pay more for them. Ever since I’ve wanted to grab him by the collar and say, “And if the shoes turned out to be crap when I got them home, I’d return them and get my money back. You wanna know what I think of your crap flick? You gonna give me back my ten bucks?” Not that I saw Caligula. Wasn’t any secret, everybody thought it was crap.

  • RogerBW

    Provide a better experience than watching at home. For me, that would mean: throw out the chatterers, the phone-users, and the people whose idea of bathing is an annual event; provide a sound system that’s been balanced (at least once in the last twenty years) and isn’t turned up so high I have to wear earplugs. It would be nice if the seats were aimed at the screen so that I didn’t get neckache after half an hour, too, but maybe that’s a bit much to ask.

  • Gee

    How about letting people hire headsets to listen to commentaries? There could be several alternatives available eg cast, director, writers, critics (maybe! To provide informed comments, eg. comparisons with other movies in the genre or by that director), special effects crew, etc. You’d need to go several times to hear them all after you’d seen the movie the first time (offer reduced rates for multiple visits.) You could make some commentaries ‘movie theatre exclusive’ instead of putting them all on the subsequent DVD release.

    Also, if you did provide headphones for hire, people could select their preferred volume or sound set up.

    How about letting people have a way to do some sort of collaboritive blogging – within a group of friends or the entire audience – to allow comments to be exchanged during the showing? (May need some moderation!!)

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