Cinemas might be having their Yellow Cabs moment
The traditional Taxi service only has itself to blame for getting decimated by ride share services. If you take advantage of your clients for long enough, eventually someone breaks your hold on them. You may try to fix this thereafter, but the market remembers that you had years to look after them but chose not to until now, when you are losing or under threat.
Just because the market has few other options, it is not cause for treating them however you like.
Covid-19 might be the breaking point for traditional cinemas.
The obvious consequence for cinemas during the Covid-19 pandemic is the lack of foot traffic. They require foot traffic for ticket sales, retail sales, and advertising revenue. Remove the foot traffic and those revenue sources dry up.
Additionally, our habits have changed. Being unable to experience entertainment outside of our homes, we find entertainment via other means. Streaming services for example saw a 37% increase in popularity last year.
On an unrelated note, sex toy sales also blew up significantly.
We are not only becoming more domestically habitual with broadcast entertainment, but we are also making a financial commitment to the shift. If and when we are permitted to return to the cinemas like we used to, we will not only need to undo this habit but also be comfortable with paying an additional entertainment fee on top of our current subscription services.
Perhaps if the cinema experience was more valuable, the rebirth may be much smoother and sooner, but the traditional cinema experience is weak. The core product itself, the cool movie, is great, but what it is wrapped in has needed work for a long time.
The big dogs charge somewhere between $22 and $25 for a saver ticket, which is for standard experience sessions outside of prime time. To book and buy online incurs an additional booking fee. If there is a client-facing booking fee associated with using an online payment system, you are either implementing the wrong system, or you are simply an asshole.
If you are a mastermind super criminal, you probably bring your own treats or snacks. If you buy retail, you will pay 70% markup on confectionary, and an immeasurable markup of post-mix soda which is already a cheaper version of bottled soft drink. If you buy the popcorn combo, you may have noticed that the popcorn to beverage ratio is in the popcorns favour, meaning you either dry up before the popcorn is gone, or you need to buy an additional beverage, unless you are a genius and came prepared with a Camelback filled with Pepsi.
When you get to your seat, you land on a platform that is like a fixed version of a 90s desk chair. Flat, hard, stiff, upright, square. If you are on time, you then get served 15 minutes of ads.
But for the right movie, it is worth tolerating. And without the whitespace to reassess, these grievances may not be such a big deal – movies are fun and watching a movie solo or with someone else is on a large screen with a random batch of people is nice. It is an event.
But if the unboxing process is inhibiting, and we can access a suitable alternative via other means, and get in the habit of doing so, it becomes incredibly difficult to return to the old ways. I suspect very few people who have experienced ride share services for any period of time have returned to using traditional taxi services because they prefer the old-school taxi experience. In fact, in rereading that sentence, I suspect the person who does this might be unwell.
The cinema experience is in similar territory. Through no fault of theirs, we have been forced away. We found new habits. We made new financial commitments. And the allure of enduring the traditional cinema process to experience the new blockbuster becomes compromised.
If the rebirth was not already going to be tricky enough, consider this: Every single Warner Brothers movie that is slated for cinematic release this year will be released to a streaming service on the same day. The Matrix 4, Mortal Kombat, The Suicide Squad, Godzilla Vs. Kong, Space Jam. All available to stream the same day as the cinematic release. Whatever power the exclusivity of access once held has since been shattered.
Maybe the cinema brands have a genius play in mind to reinvent themselves once the cloak is lifted on the pandemic, or maybe typical human behaviour will resume. But it reads a lot like the Yellow Cab story. They have had a lot of time to do it better and insulate themselves from alternatives, but because they were not forced to, they have not. And now that we have had to consider alternatives, it may be too prohibitive to return.