Auds crave modern moviehouses

AMSTERDAM — Euro moviegoers are fed up with their theater lobbies.

Grumpy customers of all ages are complaining that theater lobbies are cold, cramped and uninviting, Barry Jones, director of international cinema at the Coca-Cola Co., told Cinema Expo delegates Tuesday.

Instead of the utilitarian, sterile places with garish colors and no atmosphere that exist now, customers want modern, upmarket lobbies that are “glam, techy and more comfy.”

Moviegoers would like more cafes and restaurants incorporated into theaters, places where they can relax, chat with friends.

“They’d like some place to retreat,” Jones said. “More like a lounge. Where they can relax, escape and talk.”

At present they go elsewhere to socialize and have fun. In the U.K., 48% of moviegoers go to a bar or restaurant before or after the show. For the exhibition biz that represents lost revenue, Jones said.

He reported that older customers, who are making up a growing proportion of the audience, said they’d like to have restrooms in the lobbies.

Hard to do

But how to satisfy both young and old remains a challenge. While the young said price and time were precious, for the older customers the quality of the service and food is more important. While teens complained that there was nothing to do in theater lobbies, oldsters complained that there were too many teens hanging around.

Jones said a rise in admissions since the introduction of multiplexes was due to increased quality of the cinemagoing experience that plexes had delivered. In the U.K., for example, admissions have tripled in 20 years, from 50 million in 1984 to 170 million in 2005. If exhibitors want that growth to continue, Jones said, they must extend the rise in quality in the auditoriums to the lobbies.

“Most are satisfied with the overall offer but there is great potential to leverage the uniqueness of the cinema experience,” Jones said. “Make the (lobby) the destination.”

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