The 5 Biggest Issues Facing Exhibitors

David Lee/Universal Studios

Premium VOD: Theater owners went ballistic in 2011 when Hollywood studios tried to allow consumers to watch a new movie at home only weeks after its release. Universal had to scrap a premium offering of Tower Heist, and a DirecTV experiment for Sony, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. was a bust, but don't be surprised if the two sides strike a compromise by the end of 2012 -- premium VOD will happen in some form.

Digital Transition: There are 39,718 digital screens in the U.S., accounting for 68 percent of total screens, and the country could be all digital by the end of 2013. It's none to soon, with Fox informing exhibitors in November 2011 that it will cease distributing film from its studio (including Fox Searchlight titles) during the next year or two.

12-Month Calendar: Theater owners long have complained that studios jam their releases into the summer season or around the holidays, rather than spacing them out. The success of late-March release The Hunger Games gives them fresh ammunition to argue for year-round programming.

Ticket Prices: The exhibition business made headlines -- not the kind that are good for business -- when the average U.S. movie ticket price hit an all-time high of $7.93 in 2011 (though it's noticeably higher in major cities). The National Association of Theatre Owners considers it a problem of perception and counters that it is still far cheaper than the average price for a concert or Broadway show.

3D Attendance: U.S. consumers began to sour on 3D in 2011, alarming exhibitors and studios that depend on extra charges from those tickets for their bottom line. Attendance has bounced back slightly, but the film business will watch closely to see what happens in the summer with tentpoles including The Avengers, Prometheus, Men in Black 3 and The Dark Knight Rises.

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