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MAY 24, 2018 //     

Feature Forward: Evolving the movie theater experience for today’s consumer

Credit: Samsung

By: Niki Hetchkop

A trip to the movie theater can transport you to different worlds, make you laugh uncontrollably, take you on an adventure, or make you shed tears for a fictitious character portraying a real-life tragedy. Some of my favorite memories growing up revolve around going to the movie theater, including 11 p.m. Star Wars premieres with my dad on school nights.

Movie theaters have come a long way since the first silent film premiered in 1894. But with domestic movie theater attendance hitting a 25-year low in 2017, there’s an obvious need for big advancements. The industry is challenged with finding enticing ways to bring people out of the comfort of their living rooms and into theaters to watch movies on the big screen. To combat this, movie industry decision makers have adopted some innovative and future-focused technology to lure more customers without having to rely on blockbuster hits such as “Black Panther” and “The Avengers.” 

Here are some of the latest advancements:

First-Ever LED Cinema Screen: This past month, Samsung (an Allison+Partners client) launched the first ever DCI-compliant LED movie screen. At 34 feet wide by 17 feet high and featuring 9 million pixels, the new “Samsung Onyx” delivers exceptional visual quality and unmatched technical performance, projector-free. Showcasing the truest blacks and peak brightness, this screen allows for ambient lighting, flexibility in seating arrangements with no need for a projection room, and, most importantly, the ability to see the movies the exact way filmmakers and directors envisioned.

I may be biased, but once you see a movie on the Samsung Onyx, you can’t go back to projection. The difference is real and totally worth jumping out of the comfort of your home (still in your sweatpants) to go see a movie on this screen.

4DX with Screen X: Featuring smells, moving chairs and special effects, consumers will start to see 4DX with Screen X theater options for those who want to take immersive movie-watching to the next level. Pairing 4DX with Screen X allows for seats to move in-sync with the action and flow of the movie, in addition to the picture expanding to the sides of the theater. According to Business Insider, “There are 500 4DX screens in existence and 142 that are Screen X. It's unclear when theaters will have the combined version (one is opening in South Korea), but it's almost inevitable that it's coming.”

I had the chance to try out new 4DX seating at CinemaCon this year. It is unlike any other movie experience. Not for the faint of heart!

More Convenience and Loyalty Apps: In a world where smartphone users have unlimited conveniences at their fingertips, it’s important for the movie industry to adapt to a seamless mobile-user experience. Consumers will see the rise of ticketless entrances, more opportunities for advance ticket purchases and additional options for reserved seating in the near future. Movie theater subscription models are also on the rise with MoviePass competitor Sinemia gaining popularity in the U.S. market. Fandango also recently announced its VIP+ loyalty-rewards program that will offer monetary credits to returning customers.

Technology from Entrance to Exit: The cinema experience extends way beyond the confines of the theater. Outdoor displays showcasing the latest movie ads, digital menu boards at snack bars, mirror displays in the bathrooms, tablets to order food straight from your seat and interactive photo booths for consumers to insert themselves into a picture with their favorite stars are just a few examples of how movie owners are investing in technology beyond the auditorium. Movie-goers will see an uptick in technology throughout movie theater venues similar to how retailers have upped in-store attractions to yield more engagement and excitement.

My hope is these new technologies will enhance the movie-going experience and encourage consumers to get back into the theaters. It’s the best place in the world to grab a large popcorn (with extra butter, depending on your preference) pair it with a fountain drink and your favorite classic movie candy and put your phone on silent. Or even, if you dare, turn it completely off, and allow yourself to truly disconnect from the “real world.”

Niki Hetchkop is a director in Allison+Partners' DC office.

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