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View Full Version : Would you pay a membership fee to see movies?


DonnachaOne
12-01-03, 07:45 PM
For English, I have to write an essay proposing a solution to a problem. This is research, dammit!
Doesn't have to super-contraversial, doesn't have to be really broad. Bear in mind, the solution has to be realistic, something that COULD be implemented, but doesn't have to be practical down to every detail. No-one's trying to cure cancer with one essay. I thought I'd address the decline of movie theater experience.

So, here's my solution; split the cineplex up into public and members-only shows, and charge $5 a month for a membership fee. Members do not have to pay for movie tickets; they swipe their membership card. For regular moviegoers, this is a bargain at $60 a year, and other people can always go to the public shows.

Members-only shows will be patrolled by 2-4 ushers per cineplex, depending on day and time. Members can bring at most four guests, who have to pay for entry. No children under ten are allowed for R-rated shows, and not without a parent or adult guardian. Couples could get a special rate on a joint membership.

Members also get a nominal discount on concessions. Nothing major - since cineplexes make their cash off concessions, they shouldn't have to go bankrupt.

Loud talking, prolonged cellphone use and irritating behavior warrant dismissal from the patrolling ushers and a possible cancellation of membership, no refund.

Members would also get other special benefits, like a screening of a film the night before general release.

Naturally, not everyone's going to get a membership, and that'll be fine for the ciniplex operators - the members will still want to see the members-only shows, and the other people in their group will simply pay to get in.


As I said before, it doesn't have to be an incredibly practical solution - I just have to write it up, support it, and anticipate arguments to the contrary. What problems do you see with this idea?

Got the idea when replying to this thread (http://www.dvdtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&postid=4306983#post4306983).

das Monkey
12-01-03, 07:52 PM
Yes. Like any service, as long as it was quality (no noise, convenient showtimes, no extra hassle), I'd pay. Although, considering all the things you're suggesting, $60 seems pretty low.

das

Birrman54
12-01-03, 07:54 PM
I'd pay the $5 a month, but that's way too low. The theaters would never go for it. $15 - 20/month I could see happening, but at that point I'm not sure if I'd pay.

birrman54

DonnachaOne
12-01-03, 07:55 PM
Originally posted by das Monkey
Yes. Like any service, as long as it was quality (no noise, convenient showtimes, no extra hassle), I'd pay. Although, considering all the things you're suggesting, $60 seems pretty low.

das
There's already floor crews that clean up shows. No reason why there couldn't be one or two taken from the crew to watch the members-only shows, which, with fewer children, would be far less messy.

As for the $60 figure, I'm not sure some people would agree to anything higher. How much is it for a season pass to a theme park?

Ghery
12-01-03, 07:59 PM
For $60 a year, I'd definitly do it. I'd do it for $120 a year as well, but much past that I'd have to really think about it.

das Monkey
12-01-03, 08:01 PM
Ack ... btw, I never saw your post in the other thread until now. Hope you didn't think I was ignoring you.

Anyway, I think at the least you should charge (and could get away with) the price of admission for one movie per month. That is if your approach is to have two ways to attend: membership and non-membership. Under that system, membership shouldn't be for everyone, and as such you don't have to keep a crazy low price. If you did <i>only</i> membership, then a low price would make more sense IMO.

das

jfoobar
12-01-03, 08:04 PM
The service you are suggesting would never be available for such a low monthly charge. Heck, $5 barely covers half of a normal ticket price around here.

Also, cinemas only make mmoney when they can absolutely minimize labor costs. The usher thing seems unlikely.

dtcarson
12-01-03, 08:11 PM
60/yr? Most likely.
Is there a limit to the number of movies I can see, or is there only like one or two members only shows a month? One other feature I would like, which you may include but I missed, is an auto-entry kind of thing. If I'm swiping my card, I should just be able to walk in, and not wait in either the ticket line or the tickettaker line.
And a preferred line at the concession counter, although faster entry into the theater would help that. [Last time I went to a movie, we waited in line for ~15 min to get tix, and another 10 to get popcorn.]
Currently, a season pass to Six Flags looks like 50 bucks. But parking is separate, which is probably 5-7$ a shot, though they do offer a parking pass for an add'l ~25.
One other thing I'd like is a max number of people in a theater. If the theater seats X, cap it at .75x to allow some 'breathing room.' And the ability to 'reserve' tickets [when we went to see Pirates, it had sold out 4 hours in advance, and we were irked. Yes, our fault, but still.]

Problems: Seems too cheap to me. My local theaters have matinees for 5.50, going up to 8 for nighttime shows. I can buy passes through my credit union for 5 bucks. So if I get unlimited access for 5/month, you can bet your pants I'd go more often than I do now. But everytime I'd go, I'd probably get some concession, which is like 15000% profit, so the theater could still make money.

This might offer the proprietor the 'gym benefit', ie, people who buy a 12 or 24 month contract, go two or three times, then get slack. It's only 5/month, but if you have X members, perhaps only 1/4 of X would continuously attend; the rest is free money. But not if you have to turn away pay-as-you-go customers because their theaters were full.

I'm not sure what other problems I instantly foresee with this; it's an interesting idea to be sure.

Caliking
12-01-03, 08:14 PM
iI'd say that someone willing to become a member is probably going to see at least 2 movies a month. I would pay about $20.00 a month ($240.00 a year). that sounds fair to me. i would probably see at least 3 movies a month so it would be a bargain for me...plus the benefit of an usher would be awesome...get rid of those cell phones and annoying middle school kids that are there only to hang out.

dtcarson
12-01-03, 08:17 PM
Originally posted by JustinS
The service you are suggesting would never be available for such a low monthly charge. Heck, $5 barely covers half of a normal ticket price around here.

Also, cinemas only make mmoney when they can absolutely minimize labor costs. The usher thing seems unlikely.

True, but depending on how many 'members' they have, they could move staff from the ticket selling/ticket taking departments [unless they're a bunch of punk kids who think 'I'm not seating people or sweeping up!'] My theater has a preponderance of high schoolers, which is good that they are working, but I can't imagine they're paying all that much. Maybe as long as the theater is putting in card swipers, why not put in electronic ticket takers like at the subway. Maybe have four sets of them, with one person watching over it to make sure no one jumps the turnstile.

lesterlong
12-01-03, 08:33 PM
For $5 a month I'd be seeing every movie playing that month at least twice. And for $50 a month I'd be seeing every movie playing that month at least twice just to get my money's worth.

B.S.Preston,ESQ
12-01-03, 08:57 PM
Good idea I best it would work good for u if i was your prof i would give u an A+++++++++++++++

island007
12-01-03, 09:02 PM
The idea sounds good. The price may need to be looked at more closely, maybe a break-even analysis.

The main concern may be if enough members initially sign-up to justify a split of screens. Since a member wouldn't want to pay again at the public screen; would there be a member and public screen for each movie or just new releases? Then members and non-members would watch the older movies together.

fumanstan
12-01-03, 09:31 PM
Like everyone else, i agree that the price is too low. Great idea though!

muggins
12-01-03, 09:38 PM
I'd probably pay if the price were that low. It would give me a reason to go to the movies.

Mittman
12-01-03, 09:43 PM
Yeah, you need to charge about $30/month for that. I know I would pay as much as $50. I probably spend that per month at the movies anyway with ticket prices at $9.

jfoobar
12-01-03, 09:55 PM
In reality, the price charged would be probably be so high that only a very small percentage would "get their moneys' worth" compared to normal ticket prices.

The service might still be popular enough to try if members still felt like the improvements in environment, the reduction in hassle, the invitations to advanced screenings, and the concession discounts added up make it worth the additional expense.

They would really need to work on making the whole thing seem as exclusive as possible, perhaps even going so far as to have a separate concession stand (or at least line) and perhaps reserved parking.

People have a long history of quite a bit to be treated like a VIP.

j123vt_99
12-01-03, 10:38 PM
probably something like $49.99 and maybe $69.99 for a free soda and popcorn each time you go or a family of 4 pass for the price of 3... offering like a Gold and Silver pass... also, would probably want the pass you sell to have a photo ID so only the buyer can use it

Geofferson
12-01-03, 10:39 PM
I'd do it. Maybe $25 per month.

cultshock
12-02-03, 01:57 AM
If done right, I'd gladly pay $20 per month, especially if the theatre threw some foreign and indie films into the mix.

Several years back, my cousin lived in Manila, Phillipines, and had a membership to a special THX theatre there. When I went to visit him, he took me to see a film there. The place had very nice seats, state of the art sound system, etc. I don't remember the cost, but it was an annual fee and it included a number of tickets per month (extras could be purchased). The average movie ticket price in Manila was about the equivalent of 70 cents US at the time, if I remember correctly, so this theatre was rather exclusive. I suppose a similar idea could work here in larger cities.

Of course, a theater chain in Canada tried some more expensive VIP theatres in Toronto (more luxurious, with a smaller number of more spacious seats). I loved the idea and went several times and happily paid the extra price. Unfortunately, they didn't catch on. :(

Giles
12-02-03, 10:38 AM
while not as detailed as donnachaOne suggested membership:

the UGC Cinema chain in the UK offers this membership:

UGC offer a membership scheme whereby cinema-goers sign up for a subscription card entitling them to Unlimited Cinema for a minimum of 12 months. For 9.99 per month ($15), members enjoy exclusive benefits, including:

Free films at any UGC cinema in the UK and Ireland (except London's West End), on any day, at any time
Advance booking via special Unlimited Booking telephone line
Invitations to advance screenings, festivals, recommended screenings and more

Groucho
12-02-03, 10:45 AM
I know that there are theaters that have implemented this system. Somebody was telling me about a theater in Canada that had it. Oops...Giles beat me to it.

But, as others have said, $5 a month for unlimited movies? No way in hell a theater would do that...especially when ticket prices for ONE showing exceeds $10 in many areas.

I would prefer to have VIP screenings where you pay double the price for your ticket, and nobody under 21 is allowed. If theaters implemented that, I wouldn't do anything else.

Mysteryfan
12-02-03, 12:19 PM
How about a membership that for a small yearly fee would allow you to purchase tickets at a discount. The discount could be a percentage or dollar amount off and you could limit the number of tickets purchased.

Or something like the Regal plan: Regal cinemas has a free membership that accumulates points when you buy your tickets. The points give you free tickets and concession items automatically whenever you hit a threshold. I used it all last summer and ended up with 2 free movie tickets and countless bags of popcorn.

al_bundy
12-02-03, 12:33 PM
I've been to a few movies where there is an adult talking on a cell or something similar. what we need is for the theater to set some violent dogs on anyone who dares to interrupt a movie. And that includes anyone getting up to go to the concession stand or to the bathroom.

talemyn
12-02-03, 12:42 PM
I think it's a fantastic idea . . . make the monthly membership fee be around 2-3 times the amount of a single ticket at that theater (since prices vary based on location) or a yearly price of 20-25 times. Offer family packs a 20% discount on top of that. Some fun amenities like concession discounts, exclusive previews, DVD discounts (tie it in with a national retailer . . . something like bring in your ticket stub from a movie and get $3-5 off the DVD when it is released), etc. It might actually be enough to pull business away from rental stores (something theaters would kill to be able to do).

I'd be all over that plan . . .

sundog
12-02-03, 01:09 PM
Originally posted by Mysteryfan
How about a membership that for a small yearly fee would allow you to purchase tickets at a discount. The discount could be a percentage or dollar amount off and you could limit the number of tickets purchased.

This is common practice, except for the limit on tickets. I currently have yearly memberships for two different theaters. Granted, these are art-theaters featuring alternative and exclusive runs, not multiplexes. One is actually part of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the other is an independent that does most of their business through home video (Facets). I pay $45-50 a year each, get a number of free tickets plus discounts on screenings. Facets is $5 ($2 off) and the Film Center $4 (half price). Both rely on donations and benefactors more than ticket sales it seems. These theaters also cater to film buffs so much that it is very rare to encounter a disruptive audience, or children (unless of course it's a children's film being shown).

So I don't know how feasible it would be for commercial fare, seems like too much overhead to be effective. I would definitely buy a pass for membership to a mainstream theater, even just for discounted tickets. But I think I'm an exception in that I usually reap the benefits of my memberships within the first two months of the year, everything after that is gravy.

Spiky
12-02-03, 02:02 PM
I would think you'd have to offer something above the traditional movie theater experience if you want to call it "members only". Otherwise this would just be a different way to charge people like coupons/bulk discounts, as the last few ideas/comments show. And that isn't exactly original, although it is probably plenty for your assignment.

For me, this concept would have to improve the movie-going experience to more closely resemble going to a theater (for a play, not a movie) or manage to beat my home theater. I doubt a plan like I'm outlining would go for less than $30/month. An idea would be to limit the member to 2-3 special events per month to keep cost to members down and profits up.

A few things I would pay extra for:
-Special showings of old and new films, perhaps even requests if legally possible
-A clean theater!!
-Working, high quality equipment
-Rules actually enforced on phones, noise, etc.
-A lack of those dumb-ass advertising slides between showings.
-Liquor
-Discounts on "regular" tickets even if the show says No Passes the first week

Pants
12-02-03, 06:12 PM
There are theaters that offer all the premiums you are suggesting and tickets run $14 for an adult. I don't know how you're going to run your theater for $5 a month gets you unlimited movies.

Giles
12-03-03, 11:04 AM
Originally posted by Mysteryfan
How about a membership that for a small yearly fee would allow you to purchase tickets at a discount. The discount could be a percentage or dollar amount off and you could limit the number of tickets purchased.

Or something like the Regal plan: Regal cinemas has a free membership that accumulates points when you buy your tickets. The points give you free tickets and concession items automatically whenever you hit a threshold. I used it all last summer and ended up with 2 free movie tickets and countless bags of popcorn.

Along with my Regal Card I have an AMC card that also give me free popcorn and movie tickets.

Also have a Visions Smart Pass ($45) good for 5 movies plus your choice of either: Popcorn, soda or coffee. Visions Cinema

AFI card that discounts evening screenings to $7.50 (reg price $8.50) and 4 or 8 movie passes (depending on membership level) received when membership is initiated.

DC Film Society card, that discounts all Visions screening to $7 and weekly free passes to 'pre-release' screenings.

shaggybrown
12-03-03, 07:07 PM
Yeah this would be awesome.

If I had a paid membership, I'd be able to talk on my cell-phone all I want without some a-hole giving me a hard time.

Also, anytime I need to get some shopping done, I could just drop the kids off at the movies where they can entertain themselves.

Brilliant!

matome
12-03-03, 08:26 PM
I'd pay up to $25-30 a month, since I catch 1-2 movies a weekend anyway. Sounds like a good idea indeed.

chemosh6969
12-03-03, 10:21 PM
Members can bring at most four guests

Sucks (in more ways than one) to be you if you are married and have 3 kids. Guess junior can wait out in the car.

Ketamine
12-04-03, 09:11 PM
I think the price you are giving is way too low. Also, how would this work with new blockbuster movies that everyone wants to see? You would be turning away a lot of your members which would not make them very happy.

Where I live, there is a theater that has a balcony that charges $15 per ticket. All that this gives you is an assigned seat (which is large and comfortable) and a waiter that comes to your seat. Food is extra and expensive. After tickets and food, 2 people easily spend up to $60-$75 for one movie. Even so, it is sold out nights in advance. Again, I think you would have to rethink your membership fees because they are ridiculously low.

jfoobar
12-04-03, 11:09 PM
Yes, for this to work, members would have to pay more than everyone else to see movies.

talemyn
12-05-03, 02:13 AM
Originally posted by JustinS
Yes, for this to work, members would have to pay more than everyone else to see movies. I don't know if that is necessarily true. Frequent Flyer members don't get benefits because they pay more for flight, they get them because they take more flights. I think it is a similar thing here. If you are committing yourself to one movie chain for at least 3-4 movies in a month or 35-50 in a year (based on the price that you pay for each kind of membership), then it makes sense that the theater would give you extra benefits 1) since you are a loyal customer and 2) to maintain that loyalty (and the steady cash flow :D ).

El-Kabong
12-05-03, 02:22 AM
For the following items, I would GLADLY pay an extra 5 or 6 bucks *A TICKET*

- Quality and well maintained projection and sound equipment. That means the bulb is run at 100%, and not at about 60% they usualy are.

- Enforced STFU. No c-phones, no talking.

- Large seats with leg room.

- No commercials before the show. Trailers are fine.

- House lights at full before the show, or at the very least more illuminated that PITCH BLACK. Make it bright enough to read.

- Keep the cleanup crew OUT of the show until after the movie is over. The *WHOLE* movie, credits and all.

Give me all that, and I would open my wallet in a hot second.

jfoobar
12-05-03, 04:43 AM
Originally posted by talemyn
I don't know if that is necessarily true. Frequent Flyer members don't get benefits because they pay more for flight, they get them because they take more flights. I think it is a similar thing here.

Kind of apples and oranges. What is being proposed goes beyond rewarding loyal customers with minor perks. If we were talking "see ten movies, get the 11th for free" chits or something like that, the comparison would be more valid. Even complimentary upgrades that frequent fliers sometimes get don't really cost the airlines much of anything as they are based on availability.

What is being proposed would cost the theaters more per seat. As I understand it, they often operate on a pretty thin profit margin as it is.

talemyn
12-05-03, 10:46 AM
Originally posted by JustinS
Kind of apples and oranges. What is being proposed goes beyond rewarding loyal customers with minor perks. If we were talking "see ten movies, get the 11th for free" chits or something like that, the comparison would be more valid. Even complimentary upgrades that frequent fliers sometimes get don't really cost the airlines much of anything as they are based on availability.

What is being proposed would cost the theaters more per seat. As I understand it, they often operate on a pretty thin profit margin as it is. Yeah . . . I now it wasn't a perfect analogy, but the point was that even if the price is the same, since the members are committing to a large number of movies ahead of time, it would not be unreasonable or overly expensive to provide things like:

- a members only ticket window (where you would pick up those tickets that you have already paid for in your membership)
- members only previews (which is still just a viewing of a movie, so it wouldn't cost anything extra)
- discounts on concessions (would cost a little, but they could make it an insiginifcant enough discount that it wouldn't hurt too bad)
- ticket stub good for a few bucks of the DVD release (that is at the cost of the retailer with whom they partner)

Those types of things are the equivalent of the things that I get w/ my frequent flyer perks (special check-in line, special security line, early boarding, occasional upgrades . . . which, in addition to being infrequent due to availablity, don't really cost them much because they are not getting any money on the empty first class seat, plus they get to allow standby passengers into the coach seat that you vacate). Nothing too impressive, but enough to make me feel a little special and to reward me for my loyalty.

Honestly, I think that they would make out better in the end, because I think that there would be 1) enough people who paid the membership price, but didn't end up making it to all of the movies that it would take to cover the cost (think slow NetFlix users :D ) and 2) people who, in order to make sure that they covered the cost, would see more movies than they might have if they had not been a member (therefore, potential extra concession sales).

Either way, I still think that they could set it up so that they would not lose money on the deal (and I think, in the long run, actually make more), yet not charge any more the what an regular ticket cost.

gcribbs
12-05-03, 01:37 PM
I would pay extra for quiet, clean ,comfortable theaters.

However the film prints must be free of those stupid dots they now use to prevent piracy.

no dots or no sale :)