Last night I went to see Ellie Parker (which I'll be reviewing later) at one of my local theaters owned by Landmark. Most of the films I go to, both for work and pleasure, I see at Landmark-owned theaters. Here in Seattle we are blessed to have a passel of Landmark theaters bringing us a slate of indie and foreign films we'd otherwise never see.
Usually, I buy a Landmark Discount Card, which for $30 gives me five tickets I can use anytime except prime time on Friday and Saturday. At six bucks a ticket instead of the usual nine, the discount card is a must-have for folks like me who catch lots of indie films. So you can imagine my surprise last night when I said, "I'd like to buy a discount card", only to be told, "We aren't selling them anymore". I stepped in out of the cold to find out why.
The guys working the theater explained, rather uncomfortably, that Landmark had decided to ditch the Discount Card in favor of Gold and Platinum packs for frequent moviegoers. Okay, that didn't sound to bad, I said. Tell me more. So here's the deal: the packs only come in sets of 25 tickets. The Platinum (the "best deal") is $7 a ticket - a whopping $175 .The Gold costs less per ticket, but it's not as good a deal because - get this - you can't use Gold tickets until two weeks after a film is released. Given that a big chunk of films Landmark shows only have ONE week runs, the Gold pack wouldn't really do me any good unless I only wanted to see mainstream films with longer runs. Which I don't.
Given the demographic of people who go to Landmark's films, who can really afford to shell out $175 for a Platinum pack? At least in Seattle, university students and artists make up a big chunk of the folks I see at Landmark screenings, and I'm willing to bet most of them were doing well to scrape together $30 for a discount card. I asked the guys working the theater who made such a ludicrous decision, and one of them muttered, "The suits, of course." Of course.
At the vast majority of weekday screenings I go to at Landmark theaters in Seattle, there are less maybe a half-dozen people in the theater with me. If Mark Cuban truly cares about indie film, and really wants to get more butts in seats in his theater watching great films, axing the discount card is probably not the way to do it. Here are some ideas: put more money into marketing indie films in Landmark markets; market more heavily to the college student demographic by offering more student discounts; come up with some creative ways to incent people to come see Landmark films. Getting rid of the one thing that made going to lots of fine indie films more affordable is not the way to go.