In the not-too-distant past, action films with the excellent moniker Straight Outta Compton were “cut”, sometimes not just in their entirety, but simply their middle bit. This isn’t a problem in the case of today’s films, which seem to have standard cut and extended cut versions and sometimes even a version for mobile devices.
But in the case of Straight Outta Compton, the studio went so far as to demand that reviewers not include a longer cut of the film at the box office. Curiously, while reviews of the movie suggested that the shortened version might have been a better watch (I recall one bad review being less than kind to it), I can’t help but think that the shorter version needed to be so, given that it was rated R and given that the movie, on its own merits, was so very good. But hey, that was then. Today, I read that theaters have quietly raised their admission fees to pay for “content restrictions”, a newly introduced practice that not only curtails the audiences’ access to certain flicks, but also makes it harder for them to find movies in their usual place on their schedules.
Circling back to Straight Outta Compton, here’s what I mean. Generally, tickets may be purchased without restrictions and they may be purchased in advance. You can decide whether you want to see a movie in a Saturday matinee on, say, an off day or whether you want to see it in the evening on Saturday or Sunday.
No such flexibility when you show up at the theater, though. Now here’s the arrangement: you show up, you see the movie, you pay your admission fee, which gives you free access to the theater. It’s up to you whether you want to buy the movie ticket in advance or whether you want to pay the “curbside” price to get to the front of the movie row.
It sounds like an arrangement that sounds great for consumers, but the reality is that when Curbside tickets are sold, a little bit less than a third of the movies will be in the time slot for which you’ve paid your admission fee. Compare that to a regular ticket, which lets you choose a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday showing. With Curbside tickets, though, there’s a decent chance that you’ll be able to find something better than what’s listed on the schedule, and that’s a good thing for customers and, presumably, distributors as well.
To me, though, this is not about making viewers happy and consumers probably wouldn’t mind being subjected to more movies they actually want to see. For the theaters, however, this kind of deal seems to have made sense, given the right the in-house producers, studio, or production team at a theater may have had with the movie’s distributor and studio, from a contractual point of view.
Do movies for the mobile audience benefit theaters in exchange for less competition?
If they don’t, there’s one more thing that makes Curbside tickets a good deal for theaters and the for the movies’ distributors: the mobile devices that are sold with those tickets. Rather than pay for another fee to a computer to get credit for the movie in your account, you’re now getting credit for the movie when it shows up on your mobile device.
As I said, though, think about it this way: What if there were no mobile devices? Or what if even a few people who were still paying mobile entry fee were no longer doing so? This is a premise at play with movieCurbside, as well as with apps for paying admission in person and for print-at-home movie tickets.