MONEY Leisure

4 New Ways Movie Theaters Are Filling Seats and Upselling Patrons

People relax in all powered recliner seats at AMC Movie Theater in Braintree.
People relax in all powered recliner seats at an AMC Movie Theater. Jonathan Wiggs—Boston Globe via Getty Images

The next time you go to a movie theater, you may be coaxed into spending a little extra money—perhaps for a beer, a toy your kid is begging for, or the right to watch the film you just saw over and over.

Even with the blizzard of ticket sales for Frozen starting the year, 2014 has been less than stellar at the box office, with a summer of few blockbusters and overall sales that are down 4% compared to last year. In previous years, theaters and movie studios have resorted to raising admission prices (often using IMAX or 3D screenings as a justification) as a way to offset declining ticket sales.

However, fewer 3D films are being released lately—at least partly because theatergoers have come to see the technology as a gimmick not worth paying extra for in an otherwise mediocre movie—so theaters and movie studios have had to become more creative in their efforts to fill seats and upsell patrons. Here are a few of the strategies that have popped up recently:

Unlimited Admission Ticket
AMC Theatres and Paramount Pictures are experimenting right now with a special unlimited admission for Christopher Nolan’s three-hour space epic Interstellar that’ll get customers to turn over an extra $15. Like it sounds, the unlimited admission ticket allows filmgoers to see the movie as many times as they like—which could be quite a few times, considering how confusing some have found it to be. Unlimited tickets are on sale for $19.99 to $34.99, depending on location, or customers can pay $14.99 to upgrade a one-time admission into an unlimited one.

Combo Concessions
To boost revenues, theater concessions stands have increasingly been offering combo packages that generally include popcorn, a drink in a collectible cup, and often some kind of toy or figurine related to the movie such as How to Train Your Dragon 2 or Transformers: Age of Extinction. The Hollywood Reporter noted these combos cost theaters about $1.50 apiece, and they’re sold to customers for as much as $7.95. As one executive involved in the creation and licensing of such products explained, the natural reaction children have when seeing such combos is to whine until a parent gives in and buys one: “The kid sees another kid with this toy and says, ‘Hey, I want that, too.’” And the popularity of these offers isn’t limited to children, as one theater food service manager said: “We didn’t think we would see 35-year-old guys with collectible cups with little toys on them, but they love them.”

Booze, Food, Recliners… and Wind
To attract more customers and simultaneously squeeze more money out of them at the same time, theaters have been adding or expanding amenities and special features so that going to the movies is much more of an “experience” than sitting at home watching Netflix. Regal Cinemas has been adding luxury recliners to theaters, and plans to have them in as many as 350 locations by 2015. AMC’s Dine-in Theatres program allows patrons at select locations to grab beer and wine, as well as lunch, dinner, or some snacks while taking in a film, sometimes from the comfort of a recliner. In June, the country’s first 4D theater opened in Los Angeles, with artificial wind, fog, scents, and sensor-equipped seats adding another dimension to 3D films.

Gamer Competitions
In October, three Cinemark theaters boasted “multiple sold-out auditoriums” for special screenings that took place in the middle of the night and charged a premium over the usual movie admission. Most curiously, the screening that drew these crowds into the movie theaters wasn’t a movie at all, but a video game competition, the Riot Games League of Legends Championships, which were being held in South Korea and live-streamed at theaters in Texas, Illinois, and Washington.

TIME film

Steve McQueen to Make Paul Robeson Biopic

Paul Robeson planned
Oscar winner Steve McQueen, who is planning a film about the life of American singer and actor Paul Robeson. Issue date: Wednesday November 19, 2014. Ian West—PA Wire/Press Association Images

The acclaimed filmmaker of 12 Years a Slave also announced a film version of the UK TV series "Widows"

Director Steve McQueen has announced he is working on a biopic about American actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger” McQueen said on stage at the Hidden Heroes awards in New York. Hunger was his debut film about an IRA hunger striker. “But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice,” he said.

The son of an escaped slave, Robeson led an extraordinary life as a lawyer, actor, singer and activist who supported causes such as the Republican in the Spanish Civil War and unemployed Welsh miners. Harry Belafonte is involved in production of the movie, the Guardian reports.

Though the Robeson picture is in the works, McQueen revealed that his next film after the breakout success of his 12 Years a Slave will be a full-length adaptation of the British television series “Widows,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Read more at the Guardian

TIME movies

Mike Nichols: A Look Back at the Director’s Best Films

Director Mike Nichols.
Director Mike Nichols. Gerald Holubowicz—Polaris

The director passed away Nov. 20 at the age of 83

Director Mike Nichols passed away today at the age of 83. The revered director (and husband of Diane Sawyer) was best known for directing films like The Graduate and Working Girl and The Remains of the Day, which he also produced. He was a member of the select group of EGOT winners — those who have earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards.

Nichols excelled at translating stage productions into sublime films, including Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which earned him the Oscar for best director. He also staged the original theatrical productions of Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple and Spamalot, winning his eighth Tony Award a few years ago for his revival of Death of a Salesman.

In addition to the films he directed for the screen, he also directed some incredible features for television, including the mini-series Angels in America and Wit, which both earned Emmy Awards.

As a primer for newcomers or a walk down cinematic memory lane for those looking to honor the memory of a great director, here are eight of his best films:

The Graduate (1967)

Catch-22 (1970)

Biloxi Blues (1988)

Silkwood (1983)

Working Girl (1988)

Closer (2004)

The Birdcage (1996)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

TIME Books

Netflix to Adapt Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Netflix

Netflix will produce a new series based on the books A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (author Daniel Handler’s pseudonym).

The darkly funny series follows Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents die in a fire. And as the title implies, the trio consistently has bad luck going forward. Paramount Television will produce the series with Netflix, the Hollywood Reporter says.

“I can’t believe it,” Snicket told THR, adding some characteristically dry humor: “After years of providing top-quality entertainment on demand, Netflix is risking its reputation and its success by associating itself with my dismaying and upsetting books.”

[THR]

TIME Technology & Media

Here’s How to See the Sci-Fi Epic Interstellar 2 Days Early

Christopher Nolan's latest comes out Wednesday in some theaters

Apparently, there’s a right way and a wrong way to experience Christopher Nolan’s upcoming sci-fi epic Interstellar. Set in a near future that closely resembles the 1930′s Dust Bowl, Nolan’s latest feature doubles down on its vintage feel thanks to its old-school physical format. The film was shot using film rather than the digital cameras that are quickly becoming a staple in Hollywood, and it will be distributed at hundreds of theaters using classic film projectors rather than digital ones. That change will affect how the movie looks on the big screen and even who gets to see it first when it opens early on Wednesday at some theaters.

Here’s a quick primer on the many versions of Interstellar and where you can have the best experience:

Why is Interstellar coming out in different formats?

There’s an ongoing debate in Hollywood about whether movies should be shot with digital or film cameras. Digital cameras are smaller, cheaper, more versatile and more easily allow for special effects like 3D and green screen technology. Film cameras, on the other hand, produce a well-worn, organic look that has defined the visual style of movies for a century. Nolan is a champion of the classic film format, and he shot Interstellar using a combination of 35 millimeter anamorphic film and 65 millimeter IMAX film (same for The Dark Knight Rises).

“Film is the best way to capture an image and project that image,” Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. “It just is, hands down. That’s based on my assessment of what I’m seeing as a filmmaker.”

Even though Nolan continues to shoot on film, many movie theaters have thrown out their old film projectors in favor of digital ones, so even movies shot on film are often converted to a digital format before being shown. Some movie studios, including Interstellar distributor Paramount, have stopped releasing most major movies on film at all. But because Nolan has such massive clout on the heels of the Dark Knight trilogy, he was able to convince some movie theaters to show the movie on film projectors anyway.

Where can I watch Interstellar as Nolan intended?

To see the movie in all its glory, you’ll have to venture to one of the 41 special IMAX theaters that will show the movie using 70mm film projectors. These theaters will play the movie at ten times the resolution of regular theaters, and the sections shot using the IMAX cameras will fill up the entire massive screen. Around 200 other theaters will show the movie using more traditional 35mm projectors. To incentivize the use of projectors, Paramount is releasing Interstellar two days early at these theaters, on Wednesday, Nov. 5. You can find a list of theaters that will have the movie early on Interstellar’s website.

Are movie theaters happy about this?

No, because it’s extremely impractical. It was Hollywood’s movie studios that pushed theaters to make the expensive jump from film to digital in the first place. According to The Hollywood Reporter, some movie theater owners have been griping that it doesn’t make sense to drag old projectors out of storage for a single movie. One owner called the idea “a step back in time.” But others are using the unusual distribution schedule as a way to build hype for Interstellar and are ordering new projectors specifically for the film.

Will Interstellar mark a resurgence in the use of film?

Probably not. Digital movies are cheaper for studios to distribute and more reliable to operate for theaters. An increasing number of blockbuster films, such as Avatar, Skyfall and the Transformers movies are being shot using digital cameras. But the humble movie reel will continue to live on in independent theaters and could be an element of the next blockbuster Nolan dreams up, if he gets his way.

TIME Culture

Wes Anderson Might Create a Theme Park With Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou BMI-NARAS Screening
Mark Mothersbaugh, Jonathan McHugh and Wes Anderson Randall Michelson Archive—WireImage

No word yet on a Bill Murray-themed roller coaster

It happens every time: The credits roll on another Wes Anderson movie, and the curtains close on the whimsical universe he’s created. You’re ejected from the symmetrical, 1970s-colored trance of his movie sets into the cold reality of an asymmetrical, 2014-colored world. But talk of a theme park masterminded by Anderson and long-time collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of the new wave band Devo, hints at the possibility of a real-life counterpart to these fictional worlds.

In the foreward to Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, a new book by Denver Museum of Contemporary Art Director Adam Lerner, Anderson describes the vision: “It will include hundreds of animatronic characters and creatures, rides through vast invented landscapes and buildings, extensive galleries of textiles and sculptures, plus an ongoing original music score piped-in everywhere.”

But Anderson will play the role facilitator rather than chief visionary; the theme park is intended to be “conceived and designed entirely” by Mothersbaugh. The pair has enjoyed a long working relationship, with Mothersbaugh scoring many of Anderson’s movies (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). And Mothersbaugh is an accomplished visual artist in his own right, having worked in a variety of visual media since before co-founding Devo.

A glimpse inside Myopia offers a testament to a diverse array of influences, from pop art to punk, on Mothersbaugh’s self-described “particular brand of fear/enthusiasm for this flawed creature called Homo sapiens.” And though a theme park based on this vision seems a far cry from Disneyworld, Anderson’s promise that “the visitor will be amused and frightened, often simultaneously,” suggests that the two might not be so different, after all.

Should it come to fruition, the theme park will be located in Mothersbaugh’s birthplace of Akron, Ohio.

TIME movies

Jamie Dornan Won’t Be Completely Naked in 50 Shades Movie

Arqiva British Academy Television Awards - Inside Arrivals
Jamie Dornan attends the Arqiva British Academy Television Awards Dave J Hogan—Getty Images

"The film is not the book," he says

The sex scenes in the 50 Shades of Grey book series weren’t painted in muted tones. The movie, though, may prove less vibrant.

In a recent Guardian interview, Jamie Dornan — the actor playing businessman Christian Grey, whose favorite accessory is a tie in both the board and bedroom — admitted the film will steer clear of “gratuitous” and “graphic” sex scenes “to appeal to as wide an audience as possible without grossing them out.”

There also won’t be any full-frontal male nudity, he added: “There were contracts in place that said that viewers wouldn’t be seeing my, um… yeah, my todger.”

The “mommy porn” book trilogy, which sold 70 million copies in the nine months after its March 2012 release in the U.S., owes a fair amount of its success to its sexually explicit and suggestive scenes. But Dornan was quick to remind his future audience that the movie will be different.

“Look, the film is not the book,” he said. “It’s an adaptation, and Sam Taylor-Johnson is an artist as well as an award-winning film director. Look at her track record. And look at the film studios behind it. Universal. Focus. All I can say is, wait until you see it before passing judgment.”

[Guardian]

TIME movies

Christian Bale Won’t Play Steve Jobs After All

Actor Christian Bale attends the Oscars held at Hollywood and Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood.
Actor Christian Bale attends the Oscars held at Hollywood and Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood. Jason Merritt—Getty Images

The actor has reportedly pulled out of the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic

Actor Christian Bale will not play Steve Jobs in the upcoming biopic of the Apple co-founder’s life.

Citing anonymous sources, the Hollywood Reporter says Bale withdrew himself from the casting after experiencing conflicting feelings about playing Jobs.

The film, which has been written by Aaron Sorkin, already lost a director in David Fincher and is now being helmed by Danny Boyle. It reportedly follows Jobs preparing for three different Apple presentations at different stages of his life.

It’s been reported that Seth Rogen is in discussions to play co-founder Steve Wozniak.

[THR]

TIME movies

Early 2016 Release Date Set for Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!

Apple Store Soho Presents Meet The Filmmakers: Joel Coen And Ethan Coen, "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen speak during Meet The Filmmakers: "Inside Llewyn Davis" at the Apple Store Astrid Stawiarz—Getty Images

Ensemble cast will feature Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and more

Universal Pictures let a few more details slip out Wednesday about an upcoming flick by the Academy Award-winning filmmakers called Hail, Caesar!

Indiewire, which published Universal’s synopsis, reports the feature by Ethan and Joel Coen, of Fargo and No Country for Old Men fame, is set for a Feb. 5, 2016, release.

The movie, which takes place toward the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age and “follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer who is presented with plenty of problems to fix,” will involve an all-star ensemble cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

[Indiewire]

TIME movies

Watch the New Trailer for Serena With Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

The pair reunites for a third time on the silver screen

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper’s last two movies together, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, earned the stars ample praise and accolades, often pointing to the pair’s chemistry onscreen. Now the duo attempts to carry on that success with Serena, a Depression-era drama that’s equal parts romance and crime.

In the new trailer, cut for U.S. audiences, Lawrence and Cooper are again shown playing Serena and George Pemberton, tycoons of a timber empire in 1930s North Carolina. We see glimpses of their whirlwind romance, the personal and business dilemmas that follow, and the drastic action Serena takes to try to preserve their future together. Adapted from a novel by Ron Rash and directed by Susanne Bier, the film has been long in the making, cycling through some casting and directorial changes and followed by a lengthy editing process.

Though the duo have made their biggest impact in dramedies, it remains to be seen how they’ll fare in a movie that dials the humor way down and elevates the drama. Serena was released in Europe this month, and preliminary reviews are middling at best. Perhaps the film will fare better among American audiences when it hits U.S. theaters in February 2015.

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