Cinema owners are freaking out over plummeting attendance. For me, going to the movies has stopped being nearly as much fun because of the crummy movies, the door-searches, the camera-confiscations, the nonstop advertising, security guards scanning the audience with infrared goggles, and especially the dumb anti-piracy nag-PSAs (hint to cinema industry: if I'm spending £13 to get into the cinema, I'm not a pirate, I'm a customer).
They propose to fix this by jamming cell-phones and creating nicer auditoriums. This seems like a pretty ineffectual band-aid to me. Better movies, fewer ads, eliminating invasive searches, infrared scanning, and no insulting pre-film notices would go a lot further to luring me back into the dark.
The mantra at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood is "ease, comfort and control." Besides reserved seating, the 15-screen complex has online ticketing and 21-Plus Screenings, where, if you're 21, you can bring alcohol into the theater.
"People complain about sticky floors, dirty bathrooms and zombie staff," said the ArcLight's Robert Brugeman. "To get their attention, you have to offer a premium product."
Theater owners are also taking aim at cell-phone users. NATO has made solving the cell-phone problem a "high priority" and is looking into jamming cell-phone signals.
Update: Brian sez:
One particularly good theatre that has had no trouble luring me back again and again has been the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin – and why other theatre owners worldwide haven't hit upon it's recipe for success, I don't know.
The Drafthouse, first of all, bans children except for special events. Each seat comes with a table area where you have a full restaraunt selection (including beer & wine) and you can order before or during the movie using order cards. The cost is roughly the same as you'd get at a diner, and you can get a burger and fries with drink for the same price you'd pay for a popcorn, twizzler & drink at othe theatres.
And that's just for the "regular" movies that anyone else shows. They also show strange, odd indie films, host film festivals (right now, QT fest for Quentin Tarantino Fest is being held where Tarantino chooses his favorite movies) they have silent movies with live accompanyment, they have Videoke (Karaoke but with acting!) and they have two big shows: The Sinus Show (a live performance similar to but for trademark purposes completely different from Mystery Science Theatre 3000) and Foleyvision, where the sound to the movie is turned off and all voice acting, sound effects, and music are performed live in the theatre.
In short, it's a movie theatre that has all but seen the studios as inconsequential to the product it sells – which is entertainment. They get their biggest sellers – and biggest crowds – running old 80s films and having three local live actors in the studio heckling them. If they needed to, they could still run the place on public domain footage.
Update 2: Peter sez, "The St. Louis Cinema company owns three theaters in the area, featuring a cry-baby matinée. A designated time and day when children are allowed.
Their third theater, the Moolah, is an old Moolah/Shriners temple that was converted into a cinema/bowling alley (in the basement, decorated with full 50's bowling decor). In the theater are a few regular cinema seats, lining the walls and filling the balcony seating. The main seating area, however, is filled with soft leather couches and love-seats, equipped with coffee tables… all this in a historic moolah temple with original decor. ie: an inlayed decorative dome in the ceiling with soft, color-changing lights."
"A full bar is on premises and drink specials are often fit with certain films. (like $2 white russians when they re-screened the Big Lebowski)"
Update 3: Nim sez, "Oregon's McMenamin brothers have, over the years, bought up old hotels, schools, and even an old insane asylum and converted them into excellent combinations of restaurants, breweries, hotels, and movie theaters. All their locations feature McMenamins beer, often brewed on site."