In a world in which consumers can access movies in multiple ways — including with on-demand streaming services like Netflix or through cable or satellite providers and on an array of devices and locations –movie theaters will continue to thrive for now, despite some troubling long-term audience and revenue trends, a panel of experts told a recent, major gathering of Entertainment Law practitioners.
It’s inarguable that many people still like the experience of going to movie theaters, John Fithian president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, told the legal audience at the “Now and Future of Movie Theaters” panel, part of the 2014 Institute on Entertainment Law and Business, a program hosted by the USC Gould School of Law and the Beverly Hills Bar Association. And USC Communications Prof. Jeffery Cole, underscoring that point in an earlier in a different discussion, said that a night at a movie theater is still the best first date experience. Fithian (at right in U.S. News & World Report photo) displayed charts with statistics demonstrating that Latinos in the United States are the most avid movie theater goers, and he noted this population is one of the fastest growing groups in the U.S. There were suggestions that there may be greater marketing of films and theater-going to target Latinos.
Veronika Kwan Vandenbergon, president of International Distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures International, showed statistics of movie theater goers internationally: The Chinese increasingly are interested in seeing American movies in theaters — great news for movie theaters, so long as the studios continue to produce content to draw this potentially significant and sizable audience.
Nicolas Gonda, co-founder and CEO of Tugg Inc., an Austin, Texas, start-up that lets consumers select moves they want to see at a local theater, discussed how innovative approaches like his firm’s might boost movie-going at theaters. How does Tugg work? Consumers fill out a form for a movie screening, picking the film, date, time and place. They get a theater to approve the request, sell enough tickets before the deadline and then sit back and enjoy the move (you’ll also make five percent of the ticket sales). Tugg has partnered with several theater operators including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Rave Cinemas, and says its business is thriving.
That could be good news for Entertainment lawyers, as the movie theater industry — with a longterm softening trend in its audience, albeit with experiments that show promise in boosting same — generates important business and revenues for practitioners, as well as affecting legal issues and the overall direction of the broader motion picture and entertainment industries. Who knows if movie theater trends in China plays part in motivating more protection of U.S. intellectual property there? Will there be developments in business models so consumers can see fresh movies, both with the comforts and experiences of theater-going combined with the ease, pricing and convenience of home-based options — a vision that also would require industry safeguards to protect newly released intellectual property.