Ankler Preview: Mean Seats
Seats of Fire; Seats Are Paved with Gold;..
Zombie of the Week: Exhibition!
Now the worm turns from release-date cancellations and moves to streaming to eyeing the return to theatrical, and wondering, what will we find there when we get back?
Are audiences ready for a return to theaters? Will they ever be? Having broken a habit that was already in decline, are audiences going to be happy just to watch 90 Day Fiancé until the end of time?
Well, when the multiplex doors reopen, one thing audiences will not find is anyone having used this time out to rethink, upgrade, or realign the moviegoing experience.
To recap: When we left off pre-pandemic—with the explosion of streaming and the decline in theatergoing, the tension around the window was becoming unstable. The major exhibitors responded to this tension with threats, bullying, and an absolute refusal to do anything to improve their experience to win back audiences. Talk of a new integrated experience usually went as far as "We should put more video games in the lobby."
A year later, having experienced a complete industrywide shut down for one year—something no industry in living memory has been through—the theater owners are looking to claw their way back with . . . threats, bullying, hopes to rebuild an iron window, and not a peep about an improved or upgraded experience. No guarantees of even barely-adequate projection, no shorter lines for $20 barrels of popcorn, no reconsideration of basic cleanliness. No turning multiplexes into the hub of an evening out that people are genuinely excited to seek out. No children's play centers, no decent restaurants. None of that.
Even after all this, exhibition wants to get its customers by dint of their monopoly status rather than doing anything to lure them with, I dunno, a better way to see a movie in a theater.
The exhibition industry, even post-apocalypse, remains what it has been for a long time now: an industry dominated by bottom-feeding venture capitalists looking to squeeze as much money out of it as they can in as short a time as possible before they dump their companies or liquidate them. But what they certainly don't do is invest in anything that won't pay for itself in six weeks.
In most businesses, that pattern is what's known as The Death Spiral or The Doom Loop, either of which would be an intriguing horror movie or thriller.
And that's why the whole windows/theatrical vs. streaming debate is completely screwed up and hopeless. As much as in my heart I would like to be team theatrical until I die, you look at on the one side, you've got a company like Netflix whose lightning rise has been driven at every moment by a fanatical, no-detail-is-too-granular obsession with customer experience and improving that pixel by pixel.
On the other side, you've got a company like AMC still making bullying noises about the windows and not budging in putting their gouged customers through an experience that rivals a major airport hub. The Raisinet on top? Its visionary CEO (self-described), after a year of his company being dead in the water and having to discharge most of its employees and having agitated and fumed for a government bailout, awards himself a $3 million bonus.
This has been a sneak peek preview of today’s edition of The Ankler, the industry’s secret newsletter. To read the rest of this issue, subscribe today for just $10 a month and don’t miss out on who’s in the hot seat next!
IF YOU’RE NOT ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER, HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING IN THIS WEEK’S EDITIONS!
THE STREAMING WAR OF CONFUSION!
TENET DECLARES VICTORY!
THE HFPA RIVER OF TEARS FLOWS ON!
AND SO MUCH MORE! SUBSCRIBE TODAY AND DON'T MISS OUT ALL THE NEWS THAT'S GOT HOLLYWOOD IN A TIZZY!
The Ankler’s Got People Talking!!
If you are interested in advertising on the Ankler: write us at firstname.lastname@example.org for rates and info.
Enjoy this issue? Why not click on the little heart below so it can surfaced to others in the Substack universe. Or better still - share it with the world!