KSN investigates: Big Screen or Home Stream?

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Are streaming services hurting the movie theater industry?

As technology advances, KSN News wanted to find out if more people are opting to stream a movie at home rather than visit the cinema.

The Facts

Movie theater admissions or tickets sold in the United States and Canada have gone up and down in recent years.

In 2017, admissions were 1.24 billion, a six percent decrease from 2016, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Meanwhile, the number of subscriptions to online video services in the United States has increased dramatically in the last decade.

The MPAA said the number increased to 157 million in 2017, a 21 percent increase from 2016.

Movie Theater Industry’s Take

A general manager at a Kansas movie theater told KSN the industry’s success relies heavily on what Hollywood produces each year.

“It depends on the movies that Hollywood puts out. If they put out great movies, you know, the people will come,” said Chisholm Trail 8 Theatres General Manager Kevin Hudson.

Hudson, 58, is a retired Newton police officer. He started working security at the Chisholm Trail 8 Theatres in 2000. He took over as the general manager in 2003.

Chisholm Trail 8 Theatres (KSN Photo)

“I enjoy the people. I enjoy working with the public. The movies are great. I have got a great staff. I couldn’t ask for a better retirement gig,” Hudson said.

KSN asked Hudson if he has noticed a decrease in admissions at the Chisholm Trail 8.

“I really don’t see that much of a decline, and it depends on the movies that Hollywood puts out that keeps our customers coming back. It may have decreased a little bit, not that much. It’s not really that noticeable,” he said.

“It depends on the movies that Hollywood puts out. If they put out great movies, you know, the people will come.”

– Chisholm Trail 8 Theatres General Manager Kevin Hudson

Per company policy, Hudson was unable to share the number of admissions or ticket sales with KSN. However, he was adamant the movie theater industry is not going anywhere.

“I really don’t see a concern,” Hudson said. “We have regulars that come in two, three times a week to come see movies and continue on a weekly basis.”

Hudson credits the regular customers to affordable prices and the family atmosphere the theater provides.

Kevin Hudson

“Our ticket prices for matinees are $4.75, evening shows are $6. Our concession prices are low, a lot lower than other areas of the market,” he said.

How does Hudson feel about streaming services and their affect on movie theaters?

“Usually, we receive it first before Netflix or Hulu before it becomes streaming. Most of them come to the theaters first,” he said.

Hudson admits he uses streaming services, however he does not believe they can replace the cinema experience.

“I have an iPad. I stream also, but you don’t have the experience you would at a movie theater. The smell of the popcorn when you first walk in, just the waiting for the expectation of the movie. The comfortable seats that we have,” he explained.

KSN asked Hudson where he sees the industry in the next 20 years.

“I see it right here. We don’t plan on going anywhere. In fact, we plan on growing,” Hudson replied.

Moviegoers vs. Streamers

KSN spoke to moviegoers, people who choose to watch movies using a streaming service and those who do both.

“We used to go to the movies all the time,” said Scarlet Grassie. “But after awhile you just kind of want to stay at home in your pajamas and watch TV in your bed, you know, and cuddle. You can’t necessarily cuddle when you are at the movie theater.”

Grassie said she grew up going to the movie theater. She and her husband would often go on the weekends for date night.

“It’s just cheaper for us. We have found that we like to go out for dinner instead of going to the movies,” she said.

Grassie said ultimately it comes down to convenience.

“It’s just easy. You just pay for it online, and it automatically comes out of your credit card,” Grassie said. “If we don’t want to finish that movie or we fall asleep or something, it’s OK because we can watch it later on.”

While others agree with Grassie, many people told KSN streaming movies online does not compare to the movie theater experience.

“You get to run into different people you know. My kids, like I said, really enjoy coming out, getting the snacks and just being out and doing something different than sitting at home,” said Nakisha Jost.

“Yeah, you can do it at home, but it’s different coming out. They have the arcade here, different things for you to do, so it’s not just sitting down on the couch and watching a movie,” said Cameron Hendricks.

“This is a bigger screen, and you get to have popcorn and snacks,” said Cali.

KSN spoke to one Wichita man who has a movie theater subscription pass.

Preston Coleman said he goes to the theater about twice a week, adding it’s more convenient for him to go to the cinema than find a movie he wants to watch on a streaming service.

“With so many streaming services, you don’t know what movie or what streaming service a movie is going to,” said Preston Coleman. “You don’t know where it’s going to end up, and by then, you may not care to watch it anyway.”

Like the others, Coleman said he goes to the theater for the experience.

“You walk into the theater, you kind of sit down, everyone is milling about and it’s like nothing else. The hush right before the movie starts because everyone is stoked to see what is happening,” he said.

What does the future of the theater industry look like?

Many theaters continue to offer new, unique experiences.

Some have incorporated lounge chairs, full-service bars and food delivery. Others offer showings in 3D or IMAX.

Subscription services like MoviePass have also proven effective.

According to The Numbers, a movie industry data and research service, the number of movie theater tickets sold in 2019 is projected to be more than 1.2 billion, which is slightly more than 2017.


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