Unless you have been in hiding for the last couple of months (and if you’re reading this, I would guess you probably aren’t that disconnected), you may have heard of the new Star Wars movie. Even if you are like me and have never seen a single Star Wars movie, you know this movie broke tons of records and brought in billions of dollars. This may lead you to think that movies like Star Wars are important to theaters for one simple reason: $$$$.
Sure, the more money a movie brings in globally, the more money a theater makes. BUT. With our booking agreement requiring us to send at least 63% of our ticket profits back to Disney, money is not the most important thing here.
While the media would like you to think all of shows of Star Wars have been total sell outs and lines have formed hours before each show, this wasn’t our reality. Our only shows to sell out completely were the first two on the 17th. After that, we never sold out again.
Don’t get me wrong. We had lots of people coming in. In fact, it was because of Star Wars that we shattered our own records for a Monday/Tuesday attendance. We average between 10-50 people on these slower nights. The week Star Wars came out, we had over 250 people on those nights. This was the first movie we had to add showtimes for because the premier night sold out.
In many areas, the increased traffic meant increased jobs. While the holiday season is generally busy for theaters and seasonal help is needed, we didn’t hire more staff. Our current staff got more hours, but in the industry overall, the hype with Star Wars meant that theaters hired 14,000 more people than in the previous 12 months according to the Wall Street Journal.
So if it’s not the money or the records what makes Star Wars important for us? The type of people attending the movie. One of the most common things we heard… “This is my first time here…” The reality is that movies like this bring people out. People who may not make a habit out of viewing movies in the theater.
Movies are more accessible than ever. Many are fast tracked to DVD release or appear on demand and can be viewed with a simple press of a remote button. Services like RedBox put them at your fingertips without the need to venture too far into public. (Or in the case of Paranormal Activity 5, the movie may have skipped the theater altogether). Home watching has an increased appeal with the advancements in technology. Truth is… people don’t need to go to the theater to enjoy a movie.
When something like Star Wars comes out (Jurassic World had a similar effect), people don’t want to wait even a few months for the chance to see the movie. And let’s be serious…some movies are just better in a big theater. You may be able to get a good experience at home, but you can never replicate the screen and sound.
These movies give us the opportunity to show people who haven’t attended a movie in years that the experience is probably better than they remember. Many people do not realize we are a brand new (and nice!) state of the art theater. They come in expecting to stick to the floors and be unable to see over the person in front of them. They haven’t seen a high quality projection system. They’ve never heard surround sound like ours. They simply don’t know how good it can be.
We can tell people, but until they see it for themselves, they don’t believe it. What movies like Star Wars do is bring us potential repeat customers.
Speaking of repeat customers, fans of Star Wars watch it repeatedly. One of our customers watched Jurassic World 8 times. I wouldn’t be surprised if Star Wars fans beat that record. A friend of mine from Murfreesboro was in town visiting family and he saw the movie in our theater twice. He intended to see it more, but “ran out of time.” An article on TheWrap.com said 61% of the viewers on the third weekend of the movie’s release had seen it at least once before.
Many movies are one and done kind of films. Not bad, but definitely not a “let me pay my hard earned money to watch again” types. Many movie goers are casual. They don’t go unless it’s something they really want to see. It takes a movie like Star Wars to compel them to visit the theater multiple times in a week.
We may not make much off of one ticket, but each ticket adds up. And many people bring people with them to the movies. That friend I mentioned earlier? He never came alone. And we hope that these people buy lots of concessions, because remember, we don’t make much off of ticket sales!
Another reason movies like Star Wars are important? This is a HUGE moment in cinematic history. Being a part of it creates memories. By default, we are part of that memory. Many people came in talking about how they had seen the original Star Wars in the old Plaza Twin. Years from now, people will tell the story of seeing this Star Wars in our theater. Hopefully, we will still be around and the story will be told as customers enter our doors.
Movies like Star Wars give us the opportunity to create an event. Sure, we could dress up for movies like Ride Along 2, but not many people would notice. Put a girl in a blue wig with an R2D2 costume and hand Darth Vader a popcorn scoop while a Storm Trooper greets guests at the door and suddenly you have an experience. Not just a movie.
We have been a part of the Athens community for almost a year now and one of the things we love most is being part of the legacy of Athens. We are many people’s first movie. First date. First job. We are many people’s regular Friday night stop. Girls night out. Spontaneous Tuesday activity. Rainy day escape.
Movies like Star Wars make people excited about seeing movies in theaters like ours. Movies like Star Wars bring people back in the door. Movies like Star Wars create memories. (And hopefully, movies like Star Wars help us pay the bills so we can be around for the next one!)