Why Going to the Movies Sucks

You may have read about the Great Box Office Slump of 2005. This past weekend movie theaters ran about 7% behind the same weekend last year. That's typical for the year as a whole.

Now, I actually saw two (pretty good) movies in theaters over the weekend, see below. But my experience may have something to say why a significant number of people are finding better things to do, even when scorching temperatures would seem to beguile them with air-conditioned comfort.

On Friday, I went to the Newington Regal 12 with Pun Son to see Batman Begins. The listing on the Web said the movie was starting at 2:25. But when we got there shortly before 2:25, the sign in the window and above the cashier said the movie was starting at 2:55. So Son and I went to a nearby Barnes and Noble for a bit to browse.

When we returned (in plenty of time to see a movie starting at 2:55), the signs had been changed to 2:25. The tickets we bought said 2:25. And (indeed) when we got to the theater, the movie had already started. So we returned to the cashier, got our money back, and went home, irritated at the wasted trip, a little black cloud hanging over my head.

We tried again on Sunday, July 24. Again the newspaper listing and the Web said the movie was scheduled for 2:25. This time (again) the sign in the window and above the cashier said 2:55. And (unfortunately) this time the signs were right; the movie really was starting at 2:55. So we wasted half an hour sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to start.

Complaining to the cashier did no good, of course, although it did embarrass Son, so the effort was not wasted. And it's not as if I need a lung transplant or anything, so let's try to keep it in perspective.

But I have absolutely no problem in generalizing wildly from my own experience: if theaters aren't getting this right, it's likely they are botching many of the other dozens of details that impact the moviegoing experience. Although the movies are as good or better than ever, the theatergoing experience may be turning into more of an inconvenient ordeal that more and more people are deciding they can do without.

(Hmpf! That'll show you; piss me off, I'll blog about you.)

Last Modified 2005-07-25 5:37 PM EDT