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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

how to put butts in multiplex seats

The box office has been going so gangbusters lately that it hardly seems necessary, but some multiplexes have been thinking long and hard about how to get more butts into their seats. As The Hollywood Reporter reported recently, the Carmike Cinemas chain is tryinng to draw more attendees on what is traditionally slow night:

The Columbus, Ga.-based company is launching “Stimulus Tuesdays” at its 250 locations with about 2,300 screens next week. Under the deal, it will offer all 16-ounce drinks and 46-ounce popcorn for $1 each.

Popcorn and drink prices have not been this low since the 1970s, according to Carmike.

That’s nice, I guess, if you like chugging caramel-flavored sugar water and cardboard puffballs soaked in Golden Topping(TM), but those aren’t the kinds of things that might get me into the multiplex midweek. But I do have a few suggestions for things that might:

1) Allow patrons to permanently confiscate Blackberries, iPods, and any other devices with tiny little screens that glow like nuclear piles in the dark of a movie theater. (This could become a lucrative sideline for the regular moviegoer, selling impounded digital doodads on eBay.)

2) Offer a bar service along with the flick. Movies are always better with alcohol, especially most of the crap that’s on offer at the ’plex these days. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail with a Sixpack? Two thumbs up! Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience Over Rocks? Frontrunner for the best movie of 2009! Paul Blart: Mall Cabernet? Oscar-worthy!

3) Encourage patrons to lob rotten tomatoes — on sale in the lobby, of course — at the screen during any film for which alcohol (see above) does not numb the pain enough. Consider a promotion night with Rotten Tomatoes, the review-aggregator site, during which guest critics will publicly berate bad movies and lead the tossing of soft, pulpy fruits and vegetables.

4) Child-free nights! Picture if you will, the latest blockbuster action movie — say, The Fast and Furious Transporter Dies Hard — during which the poignant moment in which the tanker truck explodes while crashing at high speed into the space shuttle launchpad is not drowned out by the screams of a squalling infant. You have to imagine it, cuz it never happens in real life… until now, perhaps.

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  • Alli

    Please tell me 46-ounces of popcorn is made for a family of 6. Yikes.

    Maybe they should try making tickets a dollar each, but I guess the movie makers might have something to say about that.

  • bats :[

    Tucson has an indie “dollar dive” that consists of two multiplexes (six theaters each). While most shows are $3.25, there are $1.95 Happy Hour shows (4-6 PM), $1.25 morning shows (first one of the day), nite owl specials ($1.00 for shows on or after 9 PM) and $1.00 all-day Tuesdays). Don’t forget the 10 movies for $20 punch cards, either. The places also include some concession specials Monday through Thursdays.
    Although these are second-run films, it’s amazing how quickly many films cycle through the place, in addition to the “art films” that our local arthouse can’t keep for very long (it only has two screens).
    Compared to the first-run theaters in town, our dollar dives are usually NOT crowded and are attended by well-behaved, quiet patrons who go there to watch a movie, not text friends, wonder aloud what the movie is about, etc.
    I guess places like this are very rare in some cities, and I wish it weren’t the case. Many movies deserve to be seen on a big screen, but there’s no way in hell I’m paying $9.75 when I can see something, often within a month, for $3.25 or less.

  • eric-jon rössel waugh

    There’s a theater near me — the Parkway Speakeasy — that offers a couple of your suggestions. Every Tuesday, I think it is, is actually a “bring your brat” day, so as to save everyone’s nerve the rest of the week. Furthermore, their major concessions are pizza and beer. If you buy a pint glass or mug, you get limitless beer or coffee/tea, forever.

    The seating also mostly consists of big, overstuffed chairs and couches, with the occasional table.

  • Rykker

    Stop with all the fucking remakes, and come up with an original, well-written, well-executed thought.

    But it seems that Hollywood ain’t about that, anymore.

  • Chris

    Movie Taverns already serve alcohol and food in the theater. Granted, that’s kind of a niche place

  • RogerBW

    I believe one of the big American chains was considering applying for licences to serve beer – but that was a year or more ago when they thought they still needed to get more people into the places.

    (And the USA has such a strangely mixed attitude towards alcohol that I really can’t see this working anyway.)

    On the other hand, given the lousy quality of the food and non-alcoholic drink on offer in most places you just know it would be Lowest Common Denominator Beer, and wine from E&J Gallo.

    What it would take to get me back into a cinema (apart from MaryAnn’s suggestions 1 and 4) would be a sound system set to something less than ear-bleed, and preferably a competent hand on the equaliser setup.

  • PaulW

    How to put butts in multiplex seats:

    1) free beer
    2) superglue on the seats
    3) profit!

  • Most Muvico theaters have bars already. But I think they’re regional, I’ve never seen one outside of Florida. And they’re full service, as in liquor.

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