Can movies survive Netflix?

Movies. Everybody seems to love them. Moviegoers spend hundreds of millions of dollars to see them. Summer blockbusters are racking up record box office sales. But there is heavy competition for those dollars as a host of high-tech movie theatre alternatives are taking a big piece of those profits away. People are staying home more often thanks to the ready availability of streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu, high-resolution big screen TVs and high fidelity surround sound audio systems that allow viewers to recreate the big screen movie experience in their own homes. And they can watch in their underwear- no pants required in the privacy of your own living room! Can movie theatres survive in this brave new world? How do you beat “no pants”, anyway? Is it even possible?

Getting people off the couch, into some pants, and into a movie theatre is becoming increasingly challenging. We love to stay at home and watch TV, especially in the United States, where people are becoming more and more sedentary. Studies by the Center For Disease Control & Prevention show that over 70% of Americans today are either overweight or obese. Yes, people with normal weight levels are now officially a minority! You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out that our booming couch culture is a big, fat part of this problem (pun intended). Screen addiction is taking a larger and larger place in our lives, and when people choose to spend hours and hours every night watching TV and looking at cell phones, it is no surprise that obesity rates continue to rise.

Gun violence is part of the puzzle too. The 2012 Aurora, Colorado mass shooting that killed 12 people in a crowded movie theatre still makes many people think twice about sitting in the dark with a large group of strangers. I’ll admit, to this day I still get a little anxious whenever I take my family to the cinema. I find myself sizing up my neighbors in the seats around me, trying to figure out which, if any of them, look like potential mass murderers. I hate feeling that way! But with all the hype about mass shootings, I can’t seem to stop. Creepy, I know. As people become more isolated by social media echo chambers (ironic, isn’t it?) it becomes harder to enjoy communal activities for many. The non-stop parade of mass shootings and terrorist violence doesn’t exactly foster a sense of brotherly love. So getting motivated enough to head out to the local movie house can be a little harder for many who are justifiably concerned about the state of gun violence in the United States. It certainly seems safer, not to mention easier, to stay on the sofa and watch Netflix, secure behind locked doors.

What can movie theatres do to compete with these kinds of challenges? One way theatres are fighting back against the binge-watching, stay-at-home boom is by offering more amenities for movie-goers. Many theatres are replacing their old, worn-out seating with recliners and more comfortable seating choices, and adding expanded food choices. Cinemark theatres now offer “XD” screenings featuring oversize, wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor movie screens, plush seating, and digital video and audio systems for a truly unique movie experience. Roadhouse Cinemas and a host of similar forward-thinking theatres now offer reserved seating, plush leather recliners and a full food menu with waitress service. Don’t forget about the full bar with mixed drinks and craft beer! And the desserts kick ass. There’s nothing like watching the latest Dwayne Johnson blockbuster while eating a hot fudge sundae. You can even select your seats and buy your tickets ahead of time, online. Seeing a new release movie at one of these places is a lot of fun, and feels like a real V.I.P experience!

The best way to fight back against streaming video and the stay-at-home tendencies of our sedentary citizens seems to be for the theatres to offer an experience you can’t get at home. Make it an event worth getting off the couch for. Comfort and convenience are king of the hill in the internet age, but I think there is definitely a place for these not-so-traditional, new breed movie theatre experiences. Especially when they’re serving beer!

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