Are Dine-In Theaters the Future for Films?

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If you have had an eye on the decline of movie theatergoers, chances are you have seen every last-ditch attempt to reinvigorate it.
It began with a technological reformation of movie screens, new sound systems and even multiple 3-D theaters per venue; however, according to The Associated Press, 2011 saw the biggest decline in movie revenue since 1995.
It has become clear that even with all of these improvements, and in light of the rise of on-demand and Netflix, it is time for theater companies to return to the drawing board. AMC, which has been experimenting with their “solution” in select theaters across the country, claims to have found the answer: Dine-In theaters.
Now thanks to AMC, the phrase “dinner and a movie” has taken on an entirely new meaning as patrons can enjoy a wide selection of foods as they take in a movie. Each of these beautifully renovated theaters has a very different feel than traditional ones, with additions like tables, different lighting and seating. There will be fewer films playing at once and tickets might cost more, but you reserve your seats in advance.
Literally, you can have an entire three-course meal, brought to you by a wait staff no less, and some of the individual theaters are even age restricted so that they can serve alcohol. Essentially, these theaters aren’t changing anything about the movies you watch – they are changing the way in which you watch them.
This concept has garnered a great deal of attention and AMC has begun expanding the movement to other venues, like the recent Dine-In renovations to their tourist mega house in Downtown Disney.
But the question remains: is this the answer theaters have been looking for?
Despite many reservations, most agree that Dine-In theaters seem to offer a lot for a good time. But while the novel idea is certainly appealing, the high costs raise a concern. On one hand, Boston University freshman Adrienne Cytto has found a way to defend the system.
“You can look at it this way: instead of going on a date to a restaurant and a movie, you can do it all in one place! If you think of it that way, people, especially college students, might not consider it that much more expensive,” she said.
On the other hand, Jenny Shenkler, a sophomore at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, believes that it might take more than a just cool idea to excuse the bottom line.
“As a broke college student myself, I can’t rationalize spending that much,” she said.
Additionally, in business, sometimes you must sacrifice the old for the new and accept the consequences that follow. With this movement changing the movie going experience so drastically, some worry that the nostalgic appeal of “going to the movies” may be lost in the process.
“I don’t know if it will change it for the better,” Shenkler said. “The way I see it is that it is kind of taking away from the traditional movie experience.”
“When I go to the theaters, I want to get popcorn that will make me gain 5 pounds from simply smelling it and a deluxe soda. Not a salad,” she added.
However, opinions certainly vary as Cytto, finds that the new improvements will be a step in the right direction.
“I know when I walked passed one I thought that was so cool! I think it will definitely add to the movie experience.”
Ultimately, these theaters are aiming to tap into what they believe is a lucrative base to salvage this industry. Clearly, relying on the pull from movies alone is no longer enough as evidenced by the Dine-In theater’s shifts in priorities.
At this moment, it is too soon to tell what impact this will have on the theater business. However, from what we have seen so far, AMC should keep their expectations in line. The older demographic might be more willing to sacrifice cost for convenience but, if the prices for the tickets and food remain sky-high, younger and more tech-savvy audiences might be less inclined to justify the cost.

Freshman > Journalism > University of Maryland

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