I'm trying to think what movies I have seen in a theater in the last 12 months. It's possible I'm missing one, but I think the complete list is:
- Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
- Waltz with Bashir
- Monsters v. Aliens
The key point here is that four of these are primarily kids movies, and the most recent two are both 3-D. (As it happens, the adult movie was also animated, but that's another story.) I've just about given up on going to the movies as a way to spend an evening out. The theater experience just isn't enough better than watching it at home on Netflix to justify the cost of a movie ticket. (Let alone the cost of a babysitter.) On the not-terribly-frequent occasions when T. and I go out in the evening, we'd rather spend the time talking or doing something rather than sitting next to each other in a theater.
The 3-D movies are, I think, the theaters' current best hope at answering the question of what they can offer in terms of an experience that a Blu-Ray player and a widescreen TV doesn't. The new technology really is impressive. If I'm going to see a movie that's available in the 3-D, it's worth the couple of extra bucks for the experience. But, at some point pretty soon, the novelty of it is going to wear off, and the question will be whether the movies stand on their own. Coraline passed that test for me. Monsters vs Aliens, not so much, although the boys loved it.
The other thing that theaters offer is the experience of seeing a movie early, when your friends are still talking about it. Almost none of my friends see first run movies either, so that's not a real factor for me. (Interestingly, I got a pitch today from a service that rents recent hardcover books, in a Netflix-like manner. Their argument for why you should pay $20 a month for something that you can get for free from your public library is that you'll get the popular books faster. Again, there's certainly no short of older books that I haven't read, but I can see the appeal in the right circumstances.)
The sales data suggests that movie attendance is up in spite of the bad economy, or maybe because of it. Including popcorn, it cost the four of us $60 to go to the movies, which certainly isn't something that fits in my budget terribly often. But if you're giving up your family vacation, going to the movies can seem like a cheap way to splurge.