At one time, if you wanted to see the latest releases, you had to go to the movie theater. Not so anymore. The options: rent a flick from Redbox, select a film on Netflix or watch the latest movies on a streaming service like Amazon Instant Video or XFINITY On Demand.
And ticket sales during the last few years have confirmed fewer people are attending cinemas. According to CNBC, the number of tickets sold in the U.S. has declined 7 percent since 2009, but higher ticket prices are driving up total dollars.
To combat those factors and remain competitive, theaters across the country are installing the latest technology and adding modern amenities to attract more moviegoers, aiming to provide consumers a deeply engaging experience they can’t get from in-home entertainment.
And the national chains in Colorado Springs are pulling out all the stops — RealD 3D showings, plush recliner seats, and wine and beer options to add to the experience.
In 2012, Carmike Chapel Hills 13 was entirely remodeled, designed to be a one-stop shop, said Carly Thomas, operations manager at the complex.
“It’s an all-in-one concept of being able to purchase tickets and concessions at the same counter and offer customers more self-serve options, such loading butter on their popcorn and using touchscreen soda fountains, with easy access to refills,” she said. “People have really enjoyed it.”
At Carmike Chapel Hills, everything is digital, Thomas said, with one server room that connects to every projector instead of upstairs booths. All its theaters have 3D and surround sound capabilities. The complex also offers showings in BigD, featuring an 80-foot wide screen and leather seats that rock back and forth.
“It’s $2 more but offers a better picture and seating,” she said.
RealD 3D is becoming increasingly popular — a system that uses circularly polarized light to improve clarity and detail while viewing a movie.
“It feels like the movie is coming toward you; you feel more involved and don’t have to worry about getting a headache or feeling nauseous,” she said.
In November, AMC Entertainment bought Carmike Cinemas for $1.2 billion, exceeding Regal Entertainment as the nation’s biggest cinema chain. Regal has about 567 theaters in the U.S. and AMC and Carmike combined have 661.
“It’s exciting that AMC will officially be the biggest chain in U.S,” she said. “We haven’t heard much on upcoming changes, but will have a mentor to guide us through system changes.”
And the changes are going on across the city as well.
Cinemark Tinseltown USA on Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard has replaced most of its seats with electric leather recliners and installed new speakers. Although the upgrade seats fewer people, the theaters offer wider aisles and more comfort for audiences. It’s also applied for a liquor license, so it can start to sell beer and wine like its across-town competitor, Carmike.
Carmike is happy to move forward with the industry, she said, however, has stayed true to being guest-focused, family-friendly.
“Every person, every time, should be leaving with a happy experience,” Thomas said. “We want to offer incentives so that customers will return.”
The latest service trending in the industry is a theme-park-style experience called 4D, intended for audiences to feel the action in the movie, with built-in motion and effects including wind, fog, scent, water blast, back pokers and strobe lights.
“The experience of going to movie will never be the same as watching from home,” Thomas said. “It leaves you with a new memory and despite competition, I don’t think the industry will ever cease to exist, completely die.”