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By Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Are people still going to the movies?

The movie theater industry is fighting to entice viewers to return to the big screen. Over the past five years, theatergoers have been steadily lured away from the cinema by online streaming platforms and other home movie technology. Theater attendance in 2014 was at its lowest since 1994, and the number of consumers attending cinemas barely rose in 2015. Despite rising ticket prices, box office revenue was down a whopping 5 percent, the greatest year-to-year decline in almost ten years. Surprisingly, moviegoers are also not embracing higher priced 3-D movies, which is contributing to the lower box office take, although they are continuing to attend IMAX theaters (The Numbers, 2016).

According to film critic Roger Ebert (2011), moviegoers are staying home for several reasons. Home streaming and streaming to mobile devices is no longer a thing of the future. People can watch movies anywhere, any time, and aren't locked into theater schedules that have them searching their city for cinemas that have a movie they want to see at a time they want to see it. TV screens have grown larger and cheaper, and many people now have home theaters or entertainment rooms where they can entertain friends in the comfort of their own homes.

Cost is a major factor keeping people out of the theaters. Ticket prices now cost about what a live theater ticket once cost, and many theaters no longer offer special midday prices. People are also annoyed by the high price of refreshments, which is part of the movie-going experience, especially since they can produce a veritable snack fest at home for a fraction of the price. The movie-going experience has also been compromised by the growth of cell phone use. Many people feel they can't watch a movie uninterrupted due to the bright screens of patrons texting or users actually answering their phones during the feature presentation.

The lack of variety of films available in theaters has become a hindrance to attracting movie fans. Audiences are calling for a broader variety of movies, particularly when blockbusters take up more than one screen or push other films to unpopular times such as late night or early morning. It often seems to consumers that every large theater is playing the same movies with few alternatives. The myth that art films are not widely popular across audience segments or that they belong only in artsy theaters keeps many potential patrons committed to streaming services (Forbes, 2012).

Despite all these reason for the drop in theater attendance, movie fans still find great cinemas appealing and continue to turn out. Theaters focusing on the moviegoers' overall experience remain popular. Features such as reclining stadium seats, a well-rounded schedule of offerings, a variety of moderately priced refreshment and a strict no talking/no cell phone use policy make going to the movie worth the price of the ticket. The movie theater industry is currently renovating theaters, overhauling offering schedules and working with technology experts to provide an experience that is high quality, affordable and novel enough to draw people away from the ease of in-home movie options.

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