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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pre-Sale Tickets

Our local theater is not the best managed nor the most fully-featured in the land, but it does okay. Since I've been here, they have upgraded the audio and the visual in a number of theaters. They can show digital 3D movies and have the new "AVX" audio systems in some theaters for enhanced sound.

The most recent idiosyncrasy I noticed at the theater, and was likely country-wide, had to do with pre-sales of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Everyone knew this was going to be a big movie, so they opened pre-sales about a month before release. However, when I went online to purchase our pre-sale tickets, the only options for sales were 3D shows, one 3D and AVX and the other just 3D. I waited, and kept checking back in, but non-3D tickets never showed up for pre-sale. I finally called the manager on December 8th, 10 days prior to the release of the movie, and asked him about that.

He said, and I'm not kidding you, that he wasn't sure we were getting 2D reels of the movie, and that I should check back on Tuesday of opening week (so in a week, as I was calling on a Tuesday), to see if they had received a non-3D print and were able to show it.

I laughed, and asked if he was joking. I couldn't help it. He said no.

I said, "You do realize you manage a theater in an older-skewing city, where the older people are conservative with their money and don't want to watch a movie in 3D, right?" He agreed that he did.

"So," I said, "that means that you are saying that your theater is getting the least-wanted versions of this film for your overall audience, or that your company is taking advantage of people's desire to see it by only offering the two shows that have additional surcharges involved with it." If you are watching a 3D show, it has an additional $3 surcharge. AVX movies also have a $3 surcharge. If you are watching a 3D/AVX show, then the surcharge is either $4 or $5. This is per-ticket and on top of the $10.50 regular price for the movie ticket itself.

No response.

"I bet you right now that when, not if, you get a 2D showing, that show will sell out faster and last longer at your theater than the 3D showings, because that is the show that most of the adults and older people will want to go to."

He again asserted that he did not know if, and did not think that, they would be receiving a 2D print to show.

I laughed, "thanked" him (I'm not sure the sarcasm went through over the phone), and hung up.

Sure enough, the following Tuesday I checked the online movie list and there was one 2D showing to go with the two pre-sold 3D/AVX showings. And it was already pretty much sold out, while there were still some seats available in the two 3D showings. Matter of fact, most of the first few days of the 2D shows were already pretty well sold out. My wife and I got tickets for the first Thursday after release, as that was the first 2D showing that had a good seating options available (and was the day before Christmas, so likely not very many people going to the movies). Each day, simply for shits and grins, I checked the online seating chart, and each day the 2D shows were more full than the 3D/AVX shows, except for the approximately 7 pm show -- the one most favored by teens, who would want to see it in 3D.

How is it that a mere customer (although, granted, one that likes and pays attention to the movies), can know the theater's audience and trends better than the manager who works there? Better, apparently, than the corporate people who determined this theater should have two 3D shows and only one 2D show? Do they not look at or understand the audience demographics of this area?

It's frustrating. I sometimes miss the wealth of theaters I had around me in SoCal. There, if one theater treated you poorly, you had 10 others within spitting distance you could go to. Here, we have just the one, and they lord it over their customers. Hell, they still can't even get how to man the snacks and tickets counters to get the maximum movement through the line. One of the last times we went, we spent over 15 minutes in line with only about 12 people ahead of us and three counters open.

My mother has often said she felt I should manage, own, and/or operate a movie theater. I'm starting to wonder if she's right.