I previously wrote about the overall downward trend in movie-going that began in 2007. Going to the movies is something I love to do. So it was hard for me to believe that a treasured pastime is actually losing its appeal. Looking deeper into the problem, two very obvious trends seemed to correlate to the decline. First, technology advances in broadband, streaming and mobile devices have advanced in the past 8 years. Content is accessible virtually anywhere at anytime. Second, there is a distinct difference in the attitudes and behaviors of younger consumers, Millennials, as it relates to their time and how they watch movies. Let’s face it, if you’re a 40-something like me, you’ve lived through the MTV era and you’ve probably just recently considered “cutting the cord” to save some of your hard earned cash. If you're a 20-something, you haven’t grown up with the same conditioned reliance on cable and satellite television service providers. You have no cable to cut since you've grown up streaming Netflix, YouTube and torrents. If you don’t know what that last word is, it’s okay, you are part of the shrinking majority that is Old School – getting your content from the major broadcasters like ABC, NBC, and CBS – “eew, gross!” said a 20-something somewhere.
Twenty-somethings aren't fixed to any one service. They simply subscribe to the service that has the content they want to watch. They spend literally no time in front of the television channel surfing. As for going to the movies, they're busy using their GoPros to capture their own epic adventures and their smartphones to SnapChat and Instagram their happenings to friends. They’re just too busy to hold themselves hostage to a time and date where they need to shut off and passively watch a movie. Rather, all they have to do is wait a few months and their favorite teen novel-cum-trilogy will be on some streaming service…and they’ll be just as happy watching it on their smartphone or tablet, and then tweeting about it.
I’ve been told by teenagers, and even some young adults, that Jaws is a stupid movie with a fake shark. Blasphemy!
As a movie buff, the lack of interest by Millennials to venture out to a movie theater concerns me. Do they even know what they’re missing? E.T., Alien, Jaws, Out of Africa, Close Encounters of the Third Kind…these movies are made for the big screen. Yet, many Millennials I’ve spoken to have only seen these movies on the small screen if at all. I’ve been told by teenagers, and even some young adults, that Jaws is a stupid movie with a fake shark. Blasphemy! Jaws is the genesis of the summer blockbuster. Some of them hadn't even seen the movie! My point being, the reason why us 40-somethings continue to go to the movies is because we know that an immersive big-screen experience will connect us emotionally to the story and to family, friends and even strangers that are with us at the movies. With repetition, it feels good and we become vested in the experience. Once time has passed, the nostalgia of that event takes over our memories. It’s this nostalgia that excites us when we see these big screen stories again on the small screen and that’s partly what makes HBO and Netflix so successful. It’s our desire to relieve those past memories and feel what we felt way back when, over and over again. Millennials aren’t there yet. They haven’t been around long enough to understand how it works. If Millennials and future generations don’t venture out now to the movies with their parents or on their own, they will likely not become vested in big screen experiences at all, just like they're not tied to a major service provider like DirecTV and U-Verse. It’s already happening, and this is why the major studios are releasing movies faster and streaming services are becoming major independent studios capable of delivering their own content, like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.
If future generations don’t venture out now to the movies with their parents or on their own, they will likely not become vested in big screen experiences at all.
There is no doubt in my mind that big-screen entertainment will remain part of our out-of-home entertainment future. But it needs to become a richer and more exciting experience than what is offered today.