College student presence in theaters has climbed and fallen in numbers since the 1950s. Currently, however, theaters are finding the least amount of attendees, many of them students, in ten years due to the limited amount of time and money students have.
Time and money may be the two main deciding factors for a college student’s night, especially the students at USF. A student may want to see a movie, but the theater may be too far away or cost too much. These are very important elements to determining night of USF business student, Hillary Rieveley.
“I never go see movies because I don’t have time,” said Rieveley. “School keeps me very busy and I commute so I spend most of my money on gas. Plus, I have Netflix.”
Along with Rieveley, movie streaming programs such as Netflix, and accessible devices like RedBox kiosks,
provide easier ways for students to watch movies. But are these movie-viewing alternatives hurting cinema attendance? USF film studies professor Robert Snyder says yes.
“Undoubtedly, it’s a contribution,” said Snyder. “Why leave the couch, bed or home for a theater?”
Apparently, Hollywood may not care so much about it either. The movie industry continues to make money off of distribution, not only ticket sales, says Snyder. According the Motion Picture Association of America‘s (MPAA) annual report from 2010, the industry continues to stay afloat. In 2010, movies generated about $10.6 billion even though attendance was down five percent from last year.
However, Cecilia Bolich, former USF staff and current manager of Beacon Stadium Cinemas, says that Redbox and Netflix can’t compare to theaters.
“If patrons wish to see a new movie that has been released, Netflix or Redbox cannot compete with theaters, since new titles are not released to them for another 3-5 months,” said Bolich. “However, if customers are planning a fun night to watch any movie, then these devices certainly offer a cheaper alternative.”
Recently, theaters have tried to up their attendance by supplying 3D films. 3D has helped Hollywood sustain financially, but contribute to the rise in ticket prices. USF film studies professor Amy Rust says that 3D movies are ideal for drawing in a crowd because of their exclusiveness.
“3D is a win-win for studios and theater chains,” says Rust, “because at least for the short term, 3D is not something that one can duplicate at home. It draws viewers to the theater, where owners pay more for films and audiences pay more for tickets.”
Theaters already had raised their ticket prices before 3D came about to compete with the economy. In fact, CNNmoney.com reported in March that ticket prices are expected to increase four percent before next year.
Inflation is to blame, says Rust, and theaters depend highly on their avid moviegoers to obtain revenue. According to the MPAA, frequent moviegoers (those who attend a movie once a month or more) account for more than half of movie tickets sold. However, frequent movie goers are now only 11 percent of the population.
Among those, Carly Lambert, a USF student majoring in business and finance, makes an effort to see as many films as possible throughout the month. By budgeting her monthly income, Lambert sets aside a few bucks for the movies.
“I’m such a nerd when it comes to money and I love movies so I know how to plan in order to have both,” explained Lambert. “It’s not hard being a student and going to see movies, especially when theaters have student discounts.”
Bolich claims that students are still attending her theater thanks to student discounts and many theaters within a 10 miles radius of USF include a student discount. However, theaters can choose the days and times to implement the markdown. For USF students, getting to a close theater to utilize the discount can be a problem when the closest theater is, at least, a 20 minute drive.
Muvico Starlight 20 located on Highwoods Preserve Parkway shows matinee films for $7.50 until 8 p.m., then the price can range anywhere from $9 to $9.75. However, Starlight 20 advertises $5 movies for USF students who attend a movie at any time Monday through Thursday.
The AMC Veterans Cinema, located on Anderson Road, provides an $8 student discount for movies on the same days and hours as Starlight 20. Regularly, adult tickets are priced at $10 at any time throughout the day.
Thankfully, USF’s Campus Activities Board provides an event called Movies on the Lawn. Every other Wednesday, the board shows a current and popular movie in the Marshall Student Center Plaza to students for free. Thus, knocking out students’ issues with theater proximity and expenses.
The CAB even plays movies throughout the summer. The only downside to Movies on the Lawn is that they can’t provide what theaters, Netflix and Redbox can offer – more selection. To see a movie for free nonetheless, is a deal that no college student can pass up.