Thursday, January 26, 2006

Does the cinema industry suck that badly?

Mark Cuban is a man who could never be accused of saying in a sentence what he can say in a paragraph, yet a lot of what he says does makes sense. In particular I point you, gentle reader, in the direction of his most recent tome regarding his company HDNet Films and their support for Steven Soderbergh's latest film "Bubble". Now, a lot's been said recently regarding this film and its planned simultaneous distribution across multiple flatforms, including cinema and DVD, including one cinema industry spokesperson labelling the practice akin to a "death-threat" for his industry ("Oh, God! The hyperbole. The HYPERBOLE!"). It seems most of the comments made by the cinema industry, and Hollywood in general, have just been reactive claptrap which has led our "fearless hero" to have this to say on the matter.

"NOT A SINGLE PERSON. NOT ONE stood up and said, “screw him, our product is great. We dont care what he does”. Not a single person said “It could hurt our business, but we will just have to work harder to bring people in to our theaters”. Not a single person said, “It will make us have to work harder and create a better value and experience for our customer”"

"No one even remotely associated with the industry even attempted to spin the situation. No one attempted to leverage the publicity (except for us of course) to their advantage. No one used it as a platform to say a single solitary positive word about theaters and the theater going experience.

They stood up and indirectly said….OUR PRODUCT SUCKS WE CANT SURVIVE WITHOUT HELP."

Which really has to make you wonder about how the cinema industry sees themselves. But then as Cuban himself said a few days ago,

"...I can whip up a mean steak, but I still like to go to restaurants. Because I enjoy it. I enjoy getting out of the house with family, friends, who ever...

"Going to a restaurant. Going to a sporting event. Going shopping. Cabin Fever is alive and well. Wanting to get away from your parents, your kids, your job, your apartment, your house, your problems will never, ever go out of style. For the next thousand years the question will be asked…
What do you want to do tonight? For the next thousand years, people will want to get the heck out of the house. The question is where to and why."

Which to my mind tells me that the news of cinema's demise is greatly over-exaggerated. What it DOES mean is that if cinemas want to be succesful they have to provide value, something I can't get at home. If I'm forking out $15 to see a show, then I want a show goddammit! Good seats, good sound, a professional, comfortable experience. Maybe go back to the days of a short cartoon or short film as a lead-in to the feature, rather than just churning people through the seats.

Now I'm no business mogul. I wouldn't know a BAS statement from a quarterly index return, or even if such things exist. But I wouldn't have thought it was too difficult to realise that for cinemas to continue to make money they need to invest in themselves, to believe in themselves. If I have the opportunity to see a movie at home, or see it on the big screen, the cinema experience definitely comes into play. But if I'm complaining about lumpy or tiny seats, or intermittent audio faults, I'm walking away and not going back. For example, I had exactly that problem at one local cinemaplex. Three minutes into "Return of the King" my wife and I walked because the surround sound kept dropping in and out, which is a pity because I could see the potential of the place if they just looked after it.

Here's what it comes down to in my mind. If you believe in your product then invest in it. Make it all the greater an experience and people will come. Be lazy, look at it as a one-way money funnel and watch the income dry up. Simple, just like me!

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