Unless I am with hardcore film geeks, it seems like every time a group of friends or relatives talks about movies, they vent about why they don't go out to see movies in theaters as much anymore. It's too expensive, they can rent perfectly good movies at home, babysitters cost way too much, it's not worth dealing with a loud and annoying audience, and by the time they sit through 30 minutes of high-volume commercials and banal previews, they are ready to leave before the movie even begins. Even my sister complains about the pre-movie ads, and she has no problem with watching commercials on TV.
Many big theater chains are fighting the trend to home entertainment. They are against shorter windows between theatrical release and DVD, they snarl the minute they hear the term "day and date," they claim that the problem is that the movies just aren't as good as they used to be. I think that theater owners need to think about innovative ways to get audiences back into theaters, instead of arguing themselves into obsolescence. Fortunately, many theaters are doing just that, so you can still find some places to enjoy a night out at the movies.
Going to the movies is supposed to be fun. Theaters need to make the theatergoing experience special and fun and as hassle-free as possible. There's nothing like seeing the manager or owner of a movie theater right there in the audience with you because he or she can't resist joining in the enjoyable time you're having. I've come up with a list of seven ways in which theaters, both chains of all sizes and indies, can potentially draw people out of their living room home theaters and back into big theaters again. I've included a few examples from my part of the country, but feel free to tell us about other theaters that are innovating to keep audiences returning. And if you have more ideas for theaters yourself, I'd enjoy hearing about them.