Movie Theaters and Video Games

A recent Associated Press article by film critic David Germain reports that domestic film revenues in 2011 “lagged far behind 2010 receipts.”  Indeed, according to, last year’s projected revenues of $10.15 billion will represent a drop of 4% in year-to-year earnings.  More troubling still, to theater owners, is the 4.8% decline in theater attendance, which marks a new 16-year low.

As someone who has been in love with film ever since I first watched the flickering image of Indiana Jones racing through jungles and deserts to defeat the plans of Adolph Hitler, as someone who has even taken a stab or two at selling a screenplay, I find myself wondering: why?

Is it simply a matter of cost?  Have ticket prices finally soared too high?  I’m doubtful.  For while there is no doubt that tickets are increasingly expensive, Americans aren’t typically reticent to drop serious cash when it comes to entertainment.  Consider the video gaming industry.

According to the NPD Business Group, in 2004, the video gaming industry brought in $9.9 billion in sales.  In the same year, the movie industry experienced roughly equivalent sales of $9.4 billion.  But six years later is a tale of two industries.  The film industry had sales of $10.56 billion, while the video game industry sold approximately $18.6 billion in hardware and software combined.  So as you can see, even after two straight “down years” in the video gaming industry – years in which all three major gaming consoles are at the end of their product cycle – the video game industry has doubled it sales over the past seven years, while the film industry has remained essentially flat-lined.

Video game sales figures for 2011 have not yet been released.

So this isn’t about the cost of a movie ticket, because when it comes to entertainment, Americans will spend money.  So what do you think?  Is it about the quality of the product itself?  Is it about the emergence of affordable home theater experiences that can compete with movie houses?  I don’t know.  But as someone who is interested in film’s impact on culture, I’ll be very curious to see how Hollywood responds in the coming years.

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16 Responses to Movie Theaters and Video Games

  1. mahoneyrm5150 says:

    Video games provide multiple experiences; movies are a one and done deal. It makes sense from a per unit perspective to spend your money on video games. Also, video games are social experiences with actual interaction with others, and with a video game you become an active participant in the story instead of remaining passive. You are the hero. Narcissistic?

    • I’d be really curious to know how much video gaming is actually “social” in nature? In other words, home much is online? And of that percentage, how many of those people are actually talking to one another, as opposed to just looking for human opponents that are better than artificial intelligence.

      • Josh The Younger says:

        I don’t know about most people, but while I don’t chat online, I DO usually play cooperatively with my brother and it’s immensely satisfying to work with him (as opposed to being crushed by him as usually happens ;)).

        • My younger brother (by six years!) used to OWN me in an early Nintendo baseball game. And when he scored more than 9 runs in an inning, the scoreboard would have to reduce font sizes to show the double digit number. He used to chant: “Little number inning, little number inning.” Used to drive me NUTS! 🙂

  2. Mike says:

    I love the big screen experience of the the theater film but I just can’t justify paying the ticket price when it won’t be long and I can buy the DVD for less than the price of two tickets. So the trailer has to be really good for me to be enticed, and I’m not a gamer and don’t own a big flat screen theater system.

  3. Josh The Younger says:

    My stance (a little slanted being a teenager with very limited funds) is exactly the same as the two mentioned above. Unless a movie is really worth the big-screen-experience, something close to the level of lotr or star wars, video games simply give a ton more bang for your buck. Some 3D or night movie tickets get up to around $10, meaning that a four-five person family going to the movie theater could probably sink $50-$60 into a movie if they go for the concessions. For that price, you could buy a console game ranging from a few months old/on sale to brand new, or even two-three classic games that have dozens of hours of playtime each instead of two hours of screentime. Add to that the fact that most video games are returnable for a while or can be resold for a decent sum after being played, and the video game is simply the way to go.

    • Dollars per hour definitely tips the scales in favor of video games. The immersion experience in modern games is absolutely astounding, and there is no doubt that by the time one is done, he/she is paying pennies per hour. But here’s a question. Movies have shaped my thinking on subjects. Take “Saving Private Ryan” for instance. My admiration for the men of D-Day soared after witnessing Spielberg’s vision. But no video game, no matter how enjoyable, has ever shaped me. In that sense, I wonder if they are more hollow. Thoughts?

      • iholdtheline says:

        I would like to consider myself a connoisseur of video games. While video games should absolutely be considered a form of art, they are also considered a way to escape a boring life by placing the player into a much more boring – but time-consuming and mind-numbing – atmosphere. Simply put, video games are absolutely more hollow….generally. Even my most favorite simply can’t live up to providing “quality messages.” As of now, MOST video games work as a way for the common man to escape from “boring life.”

        Of course, there are some video games that serve up a quality message. One of these, I would consider to be the Bioshock universe and the Fallout universe (to an extent). Of course, the Bioshock universe is much less time consuming than other video games…

        I could say more on the subject, but I really am very tired 😀

        • I am really curious about “Bioshock.” Nathan Dinsmore was really into it a few years ago, and I’ve been curious ever since. Unfortunately, the game was not released for the Wii, and I’m not up for owning two systems.

      • Josh The Younger says:

        In one sense, I agree with iholdtheline. No video game has equaled the story and character depth that can be achieved by cinema classics. However, I have to say that on the whole I would almost consider video games MORE deep than movies. If you think about it, the vast majority of movies out there are completely and utterly pointless. Even many of the movies that I enjoy watching are really pretty shallow or unoriginal and exist simply as 90 minutes of pure entertainment. Most of the games that I play at the least present the player with a choice, a quandary, or an action that makes you think. Sadly, many movies today can’t say the same.

        • I suspect that gaming has passed me by in many ways. While I admire games such as “Call of Duty,” “Battlefield 3,” and “Skyrim,” I lack the necessary time to play. So I lean towards things such as “Donkey Kong Country” and the latest “Lego” release.

        • Josh The Younger says:

          Hey, the LEGO games are good. 😀

  4. Rich Bennema says:

    2011 got what it deserved. Look at the top movies:

    I count at least 7 in the top 10 that were panned by critics and word of mouth. And, seriously, what defense can Hollywood have for the quality of their product in a year where the Smurfs end up at #8? THE SMURFS!!

    There was nothing to get excited about. A glut of superhero movies from C-level comics (Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, Green Hornet) with no big name lead actors having less than enticing trailers. Whoppee!

    Compare that to 2012: The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, The Hobbit, and The Phantom Menace*. These alone guarantee I will be in the theater at least 4 times this year. It might be 5 if I’m convinced regarding Brave (and after Cars 2, I, for the first time, have to be convinced to see a Pixar movies in the theater).

    Ticket prices have nothing (well, almost nothing) to do with it. Video games have nothing to do it. Make better movies and I’ll show up. But they shouldn’t think I’ll come just because they release it.

    * say what you will about TPM, the boys love all things Star Wars and need to see the movies, all of the movies, in a theater at least once

    • Oh my word, Rich. You have no idea. I foolishly took my sons to see “The Smurfs” and I heard nothing but “La, la, la, la, la, la, sing a happy song” for days!

      Now, to your point. If you go back to 2010, the top-10 grossers aren’t all that inspiring either. With the exception of “Toy Story 3,” “How to Train your Dragon,” “Inception,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 1),” there was little there. So maybe this is a function of declining originality and audiences are simply done paying for it.

      P.S. I’m right there with you on “The Phantom Menace.” Once you get over the fact that it’s built for kids (not 35-year-old fanboys!), it’s a lot of fun. And my sons and I will be right there with you standing in line.

  5. Doug says:

    At the risk of sounding like the old curmudgeon I’m becoming, for me it seems like there are more and more rude folks in the theaters that treat the place like it’s their living room. Talking loud, smacking their lips eating their odor-ific salami and pepperoni sandwich they smuggled in, practicing kicking field goals with the back of my chair, etc. Couple that with the ability to watch in HD at home, the cost of babysitters, etc. and we find ourselves watching fewer and fewer flicks in the theater.

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