Research shows moviegoers dissatisfied with cost, selection of movies

GOLD COAST, Queensland — With Oz B.O. down 14% and 31% of respondents to a recent survey declaring they go to the movies less often than they used to, the future of exhibition was high on the agenda at the 60th Australian Intl. Movie Convention.

In planning a session intended to examine international trends driving admissions, Jim Collier, managing director of loop Greater Union, had asked Nielsen EDI to undertake research into cinemagoer satisfaction.

According to Nielsen EDI managing director Simon Burton, 36% of cinema’s target 18- to 24-year-olds in July said they were going to the movies less than they used to.

Of 1,428 respondents, 48% were dissatisfied with the cost of movie tickets, 39% were dissatisfied with the selection of movies and 35% were unhappy with customer service.

Yet these factors are rarely floated in analysis of why, for the first time in a decade (with the exception of 2000 when Australia hosted the Olympics), annual B.O. gross is likely to be down come December.

The key reason for the B.O. being off is usually cited as the lack of good movies coming out of Hollywood. The past three years “The Lord of the Rings” movies have contributed substantially to end-of-year grosses, as have surprise hits like “The Passion of the Christ” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

Other downward drivers often cited are the increased popularity of DVD, improved home entertainment systems, games, piracy and DVD windows, which have decreased on average from six months to four months in the past decade.

Recent discounting by Australia’s big chains (Hoyts, Village and Greater Union) led to the lowest weekly grosses in at least the past two years for the week ended Aug. 10, A$8 million (U.S. $6.2 million).

Some like DreamWorks’ London-based international marketing topper Stephen Basil-Jones warn this type of short-term attempted fix could erode the value of admission.

Robb Chase, CEO of Canada’s Famous Players Cinema chain until the company was acquired by Cineplex Galaxy last month, says cinemas can achieve increases in value perceptions if they both resist discounting and reduce top ticket prices.

At Famous Players, rather than charging C$14 for peak tickets and discounting off-peak, nearly all customers were charged C$9.95 with the outcome of rewarding more frequent movie goers.

In-cinema advertising is a well-established revenue stream in Australia so Chase spoke at length about the Quick Serve fast-food outlets housed within Famous Players cinemas.

This is idea is foreign to Aussie cinemas and may have missed its moment.

Chase admitted the fixed costs of housing the franchises is high and with the multiplex expansion boom now over in Australia, it is difficult to retrofit sites “but not impossible.”

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