"The home equipment -- the LCD screens -- have gotten a lot better and a lot cheaper," Farr says. "There are more people in the country who have families or who are empty-nesters who can afford a 'media room,' which may be your living room with a nice 42-inch LCD TV with speakers and the whole thing. About 15 years ago that would have been a really pricey proposition."
So what does the movie industry have to do to prevent consumers from holing up in their living rooms during blockbuster season? When gimmicks don't work and the pricing doesn't add up, the least it can do is make the theatergoing experience more convenient. While ticket sales and revenue slumped in 2011, ticket sales site Fandango figured out a way to reverse those trends for its service and bring new customers to the show.
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By shifting its focus off desktops and laptops and onto consumers' smartphones, Fandango saw ticket sales from its mobile app soar 73% last year over 2010. Thanksgiving weekend sales for mobile alone climbed 60%, while 22% of all sales on the site during opening weekend for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 came from mobile devices.
"We believe that the convenience factor is helped fuel ticket sales on mobile. Most moviegoers are attached at the hip to their mobile devices, and everything you need to know about the movies is right there at your fingertips," says Harry Medved, spokesman for Fandango. "Because your phone is with you all the time, it's easier than ever to find reviews, trailers, showtimes and purchase tickets for a film all in one place."
While reviews, sales and GPS-based theater and showtime finders are great and all, having the ticket sent directly to a mobile device helps as well. Fandango just launched its paperless mobile ticket for 1,200 screens at Regal Entertainment Group, Hollywood Theaters and Reading Cinemas across the country. As a result, ticket sales that used to happen four to five hours before the movie starts have shrunk to two to three hours before showtime.
"If your plans change, you can make your moviegoing choices as flexible as your plans, thanks to mobile ticketing," Medved says. "If you arrive at the theater, and your movie is sold out, more moviegoing options are immediately available to you via the Fandango apps."
The issue, Farr says, is that theaters are going into "a managed decline." While the number of screens across the country has risen by more than 18,000 since 1987, the National Association of Theater Owners has found that the number of theater sites has dropped from more than 7,100 in 1995 to just under 5,600 today. Meanwhile, Blu-ray share of home video technology has risen from just 3% against the DVD in early 2009 to 25% today, according to Nielsen Videoscan.
"I'm not predicting that theaters are going to go away, but I predict that they will consolidate, that they may be fewer in the future and that they will have to do something to reinvent themselves," Farr says. "In the old days going to the cinema was like going to a Broadway play with beautiful cinemas, but today going to a multiplex is kind of a cheap-feeling experience, with seven or eight screens and people talking all around you."
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.