“Cinema’s back baby” is a common statement heard on social media these days when a film breaks through in theatrical release and becomes a hit.

Yet the cold fact is the overall health of cinema isn’t great right now. Barring multiple unforseen successes, this year will mark the first of the post-pandemic era to see a global box office revenue.

For the year to date, ticket sales already down by 20% compared to last year domestically with the global sales on an even sharper decline.

A combination of changed viewing habits and strike-impacted slates has resulted in three Summer weekends in which the combined domestic box-office of all films in cinemas is under $100 million, and no single film has debuted so far this year which has reached that mark on opening weekend.

Compare that to this time last year when three films had already opened to over $100 million each and only one weekend in May saw a combined box-office below $118 million.

So how does Hollywood get more people back out to the cinema? According to Sony Motion Pictures Group chief Tom Rothman the quickest and easiest solution would be the most effective – lower ticket prices. He tells Deadline:

“We need for ticket prices to come down. I think it’s not healthy. I understand why it happened, and that exhibition went through a terrible near-death experience with Covid. I get the instinct to raise prices.

But I think overall, if you look for example at how every Tuesday in America, every single Tuesday is the biggest day of the week. Why? Because of the half-price tickets. It’s fundamental consumer economics: just lower the prices and you’ll sell more. You’ll make it up in volume, and concessions.

He adds he wishes that exhibition would try out more pricing experiments, namely those that take the prices down. It’s especially impactful on younger and family audiences whose disposable income is tight with the cost-of-living crisis:

“I think we would endear ourselves much more, particularly to that family audience, if the price is moderated some. Exhibition will argue, fair enough, moviegoing is still great value. It’s still a fraction of the cost of a Broadway show or a football game. But for a lot of people bringing a family of four or six to the movies, that can be an expensive undertaking.”

He also says the production side of the industry needs to get its budgetary house in order:

“Streamers, who don’t have an individual film-profit-based model, inflated the cost of making films and all the studios, who do have such a model, succumbed to varying degrees. Mega-negatives became Giga-negatives, and budgets are up across the board.

This is not just bad for us studios, it’s bad for the audience. High negative costs decrease creative risk taking, which decreases the ability to push for the kind of originality I spoke of before. Instead, it leads to repeating the tried and true, and the tyranny of IP.”

He’s not the only studio head weighing in on the challenges. NBCUniversal Studio group chairman and chief content officer Donna Langley tells Variety that the answer isn’t cheaper prices but a larger amount of movies:

“We don’t really think we’re going to recapture [pre-pandemic levels]. There’s just less volume going through the marketplace at the moment. If there’s not too many things to go see, you lose the habit…we need volume to come back. We need more movies and great movies in the marketplace.”

Whatever approach is taken, it’s unlikely to stop other factors like consolidation and younger generations who don’t hold as much esteem for film.

The post Sony, Universal Chiefs Talk Cinema’s Future appeared first on Dark Horizons.

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