Empty Movie Theater

To Whom It May Concern:

532,000,000.

If you’re drinking the last drops of stale champagne from last night after celebrating the second highest-grossing summer on record, that number should sober you up a bit. It’s the number of actual tickets sold from the first week in May to Labor Day, and it’s down 4% from last year – making it (if the number holds) the smallest amount of moviegoers coaxed into theaters since 1993. This isn’t a doomsday scenario or anything. It’s not an air raid siren; just a wake up call. Overall revenue dropped for the first time in 7 years, but even as you’re still making large amounts of money, take note that your audience is looking for something else.

You might say that the Olympics were the villain, but they were offset by higher ticket prices that managed to hide a deep, bleeding cut. Sometime soon, there will be a saturation point for how high you can drive up individual ticket costs while audience numbers creep down and the blood shows. That’s pretty basic economics, but who knows. Maybe a growing economy will mean you never have to see larger numbers of customers chased away by absurdly high entry fees; perhaps they’ll stabilize alongside a population willing and able to spend a little bit more to see magic in a big, dark room. Regardless, you’ve got to change your products, and you’ve got to change the way you’re presenting them to us. You’ve got to know that there’s a general feeling of unrest from fans hoping plaintively to be awestruck only to be underwhelmed by the fizzle of hollow blockbusters assembled by committee. It’s interesting that numbers have been driven back to 1993, because this memo from 1991 is an excellent place for you to start. Hopefully it’s a useful guide.

Yours is an industry that can move slowly, which is why you have to get the gas in the tank now before the next few years bring more of the same or worse. Recognize the shifting tide now, so that you can right the ship with time to spare. It’ll help you, and it will be a relief to people in love with movies who want to see consistent greatness – something that requires innovation no matter the field. It’s clear that you’re not simply sitting on velvet pillows stuffed with cash convinced that superheroes alone can save you, but a season full of Hail Mary’s that don’t connect should be a sign that it’s time to dream up a new play book.

We’re all excited to see what you have next. It’ll be fun to see you lure us back and fulfilling to see you deliver.

Ready to be amazed,

Cole Abaius

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