The other night I took my 15 year old and his friend to the movies. After spending thirty dollars on movie tickets, we found our seats only to enjoy twenty-five or so TV commercials. It was half way through this grueling experience of watching annoying TV ads that I decided to get up and get some sodas and pop corn. There it was, that wonderful menu board, proudly displayed on the wall with overpriced items. My order was taken by the high school student, who cheerfully read it back – “one pop corn and three drinks that will be $23.00!”
As I recovered from the shock of forking over $23.00 for (let me repeat, one pop corn, and three drinks) George’s friend grabbed the pop corn and proceeded toward the saltshaker. “What are you doing?” I asked. “George and I like extra salt, Tyler replied.” Well hold on for a moment please”, I asked now turning to request a box for me to pour my part of the prior to extra salt 7.50 pop corn. The Concessionaire brought out a tiny box just large enough for a hot dog. “We can offer you this. He offered.” “They use to have larger boxes, I replied, this will hardly fit much” “Yes, he continued, we can certainly give you a larger box but we need to charge you for it.” What do you mean, how much I asked? “Well he began; they make us charge whatever the price would be for popcorn the size of the container.” “Ok then I said; just give me the dam hot dog box!”
This is the tale of two kinds of Theaters. One the recent traditional represented by Cine Mark and the Regal Theater Group, and the other represented by The Alamo Draft House.
Let me begin by defining recent traditional by comparison of traditional. Traditional as people 35 and older recall a theater experience, which included movie previews and cartoons. In addition, it was always understood that theater food would not be cheap or street price competitive. On the most part, people understood this and accepted that paying significantly more than conventional prices for candy popcorn and sodas was part of the theaters way of actually making money.
Then in the 90s, something began to fundamentally change. Prices for food, which originally accepted as high, became grossly excessive. Even bottled water (16 ounces) began selling for $4.00!
Then to add insult on top of injury, these chains saw the opportunity to hold their audience captive to anywhere between 15 to 30 TV ads! In an attempt to win audience acceptance of this cruel racket, they inserted a couple of TV promotionals and behind the scene snippets. After enduring the onslaught of relentless commercials at the viewers expense, we now hear the cheerful voice-over chime in over closing the music as she explains just how privileged the audience has been to have endured this. “You’ve been watching First Look, she explains, you went behind the scene to witness the making of…., you were treated to the new comedy show on….
Come here early (I don’t think so) to enjoy early inside previous and blab la bla on First Look!”
This approach continued to evolve to where things currently are. In summary, higher movie tickets, rip off food pricing and excessive TV ads forced down the throats of the customers.
Enter the Alamo Draft Houses, which began in Austin TX and are now experiencing expansion of their brilliant, yet very simple concept. And what is the concept?
Give the customer a fun and delightful experience so they don’t resent paying for it.”
The Alamo does not force their audience to suffer through annoying TV ads that common sense should tell the traditional movie chains CEOs that we came to the movies to avoid. Instead, they serve up a combination of old (and I mean 1950 and 60s old) TV snippets, 50s and 60s era ads, not to mention the old corny news reels that the baby boomers watched in their 4th through high school classes. And of course, a healthy serving of cartoons! Fun.
And rather than ripping off their customers with $5 – $6.00 sodas, they offer a number of great beers for around the same price. Junk food? Yes. However, good quality food for a reasonable price is also readily available. Even better, they actually throw out those annoying talkers and cell phone users who lack the courtesy to turn them off.
This is not intended to be an ad or promotion for The Alamo Draft House; however, as a happy customer I am happy to share my experience. So while traditional theaters go the way of the dinosaur (raising prices, cheap-skating their customers (remember the tiny pop-corn box!) and forcing more unwanted TV advertising down our throats – I will always check the movie listings at the Alamo theaters – first.
In summary, every business needs to examine their business model periodically, and if someone is taking away their market share, well, it may just be for a good reason!