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GoatLord

What will happen to movie theaters in the future?

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Because much like journalism, television, radio and everything else, Hollywood is going through this awkward transitional period where it's slowly being absorbed by the Internet. It's also getting bruised by the promise of the ultimate home experience: full immersion, 360 degree versions of movies. Adding salt on the wound are interactive movies that would exist somewhere between cinema and gaming. There's no way a movie theater could provide an even better experience. Right now the lure is big screen 3D, but even as the stereoscopic methods improve, they're not really 3D, and clearly most people aren't impressed; when's the last time you raved about the 3D version of a movie?

I've had thought experiments about theaters displaying films as solidified (looking) holograms that would extend far enough to almost--if not literally--reach into the audience, and thanks to recent breakthroughs with the study of photons, this may be possible one day. But it will probably be prohibitively expensive, and it probably won't compare to the full immersion home experience. Lucas and Spielberg have this somewhat obtuse vision of theaters that only show mega expensive blockbuster films, and only a few a year, which are never released on video, somehow. I don't think that's enough.

If you're a tl;dr type, here's the bottom line: Movie theaters are not likely be able to remain economically viable unless they can provide a profoundly immersive experience that is impossible on the home market.

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TV was supposed to kill cinemas decades ago. It didn't happen and I don't see the Internet succeeding either. Moviegoing is actually very social in a way not even watching a flick with your buds on your home cinema setup can compete with. If anything, movies and cinemas will embrace the new technologies in new and exciting (and disappointing) ways I cannot imagine right now. Of course things will change, but I don't see why cinemas wouldn't be able to adapt and overcome.

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Your only defense is the social nature of moviegoing. Keep in mind that VR immersion may change social norms.

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I go to cinemas more now than ever before. I do it precisely for the social aspect. It's a good fun way to enjoy a movie with friends or lovers. Plus it gets your ass outside the door for a few hours. You can get something to eat before or a beer after. All good things. I hardly ever watch movies at home on my large tv.

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I used to go out to the movies back when I was little and during my teens, but now? There just isn't a movie out there that's good enough to make me want to go out.

That, or I'm getting too old for this fucking gimmicky shit... :P

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GoatLord said:

Your only defense is the social nature of moviegoing. Keep in mind that VR immersion may change social norms.

Uh. So this topic was just a thin pretext for a debate on the changing morals of a man-machine hybrid tapped into the global network/consciousness 24/7? I go to movies with friends and then we go for a few beers or something, it's nice. Movie industry is booming as always and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Your techno-socio-cultural revolution is NOT around the corner.

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dew said:

Uh. So this topic was just a thin pretext for a debate on the changing morals of a man-machine hybrid tapped into the global network/consciousness 24/7?


No, you made that distinction in your head. I did not. This topic is about whether or not the home market and the Internet at large will absorb the concept of going to a movie theater.

dew said:

Your techno-socio-cultural revolution is NOT around the corner.


I never said it was around the corner, or that it will even happen. I speculate without pretending that I have certainty it will occur.

Also, there's plenty of articles on declining numbers in ticket sales, all it takes is a Google search. My whole argument is that home entertainment could trump every aspect of the movie going experience, even the social element, through the use of hyper augmented/virtual environments and interactions. Traditional movie theaters will probably be found within virtual reality, and the occasional "real life" versions will stick around for novelty, but I don't think it'll continue to dominate like it did in the past.

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Going to movies is the worst kind of social. I have to tolerate being in a big room with dozens or hundreds of people I've never met, and I'm not even allowed to comment on how shitty the sound effects are. I'm supposed to pay a premium for that? Bah!

I want cinemas to die; they just keep refusing. Now they have the ones where they'll bring you a beer and mediocre food. Those cost even more. The beer would almost make it worthwhile if it wasn't so easy to smuggle beer into a regular theatre.

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GoatLord said:

My whole argument is that home entertainment could trump every aspect of the movie going experience, even the social element, through the use of hyper augmented/virtual environments and interactions


Or like...just invite people over to your house...

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Well, there's that, too. I love having friends over to watch a movie and actually did recently (Double Dragon). I also enjoy going to a small theatre in my city that plays both new and old films, and often features a number of other elements that can add to the experience, particularly in the "hangout" area where you can socialize or sit down with cinematic literature, or explore one of the upper floors where there's a few installations and displays. It's really cool. But it's a niche thing. I figure that if these and other experiences can be replicated virtually, it may be a more attractive offer. Now, it may sound ridiculous, but imagine a teenager, 20 years from now, accessing a virtual movie theater of his choosing, where he can sit down in a virtual seat next to friends that happen to be logged on at the same time. Everyone would be their ideal avatar and the resolution would be as good as real life, so it would not appear artificial, even if it was fantastical. I don't really like this idea much, but I think kids in the future would, and as they get older it would become the norm.

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Seeing The Room Rifftrax with a bunch of random people in a theater is pretty fun, especially when it's got first timers. Niche aside, movie theaters are, if anything, at their strongest. Although an absence of good films will leave the theaters empty, good films will, at the same time, keep them very full. Jurassic World in it's last week of its normal run was still jampacked in the tiny wayside theater. And only a few of them were repeat viewers.

If the new Star Wars is good, it too will also be pretty packed beyond all belief for what will most likely be a very long time. And as its been said, it's a great social thing, especially with the Marcus theaters having their $5 dollar Tuesdays which draw in massive crowds (Because hey, even if it's a shit movie, you only paid five bucks for it). I was just asked out this past week to see a film in theaters (I didn't, though. School work comes first). Even VR Technology won't be able to challenge it much. As awesome as VR is, I highly doubt it will change social norms in too drastic of a way. If anything, no one will even use it for film and it will by the wayside as a niche thing for gamers and tech enthusiasts, while only seeing a limited range of other uses such as in the medical and the archaeological fields.

In the future, theaters will continue to exist (Whether that's big name or a home town budget cinema). Currently, their only direct real competition are the films released as Netflix exclusives, although even that probably won't have any more impact on theaters than Direct to Video horror and Disney sequel films have had in the past.

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GoatLord said:

Guys, I've seen the future and everyone in it meets online in this perfectly realistic virtual reality environment represented by their kickass beautiful avatars and then they, like, hang and do stuff. Just like in real life but better because you're at home all the time. I call it "the Matrix" pls donut steel.

No matter how sophisticated your sixteenth iteration of VHS/CD/DVD/ETC will be, the local cinema will have something bigger, cooler, flashier, more expensive and attractive. Your friends will want to meet there instead of the boring old virtual reality simulation of your living room they've already seen at least, like, twice. One of them IRL, even. You're thinking in terms of your current perspective. Wowie, if we had such immersive VR environment, I'd spend all my time there, because it's so futuristic and cool! Except it will be old news for the people of tomorrow and they'll want the extra thrill only the local 4D Hyper Reality Cyber Cinema can provide. You're already an obsolete relic/boring fart in your own hypothetic reality.

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Why are there continued implications that I pretend to know the future when I have made it painfully, achingly clear that these are speculations?

And the simulations, I imagine, could take on any number of forms. Once the realism and physics reach a certain point, the virtual theater could be far more compelling. It's really just a matter of detail and physics simulations. I could see this also working for sporting events, concerts, stuff like that.

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A major factor of course, is how the big screen will remain the biggest screen with a bad ass audio system. You can get good substitutes at home of course, and if you're wealthy you can have your own theater room but that's expensive.

The Cinema offers a superior experience (most of the time) for movies you would generally consider epic, if the conditions are in your favor.

Reasons to still go to the Movies:
- New releases available at the cinemas
- Can't afford a good theater system, I spent my money on my computer not my Television
- Price wise, I prefer spending $20 or less for a select few special movies
- It's a well known social occasion that can be quite enjoyable, sometimes the reaction of the audience can improve the experience
- The Cinema is surrounded by convenient shops for snacks, beverages and the local supermarket to sneak in cheaper equivalents of said treats
- Family / Room Mates / Someone annoying may interfere with the experience at home, it's a good escape from them

Reasons not to go:
- Fucking Teenagers and their loud chatter, throwing popcorn, looking at their phone
- Situations with poor seating, especially if you're stuck at the very front
- You may actually have a good theater system and a copy of the movie you guys want to watch
- The choice of movies today don't tickle your fancy and don't warrant the ticket price
- You don't have any friends, girls or family to go with

Considering the Pros, I still think there is valid reason for a good portion of people to occasionally go to the Cinemas. It may take the movie industry to boycott the theaters in addition to the condition of the venues to drop in quality to really hurt it.

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It's the same as the "Oculus will kill traditional gaming when it's fully developed" argument. Yes, it may make a dent, but it's not going to replace it, as the two are actually quite different experiences.

The car was invented but we still ride bikes, the internet was invented but (many) of us still watch TV, the Xbox 360 was invented but we still play NES. I think the same concept applies here.

Maybe in 100 years time cinemas will be outdated in favor of an equally social and entertaining filmgoing-like experience, but as-is there is nothing to replicate or replace that experience so it is essentially guaranteed to remain a niche market until the ice caps melt and we all drown or until we run out of food and drinkable water or whatever else might eradicate the species soon.

Long story short, I fully agree with dew on cinema going.

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How many times can they repeat the year 2000 ?
Back then all the media and newspapers where screaming murder, rape, plundering and pillaging in terms of how they overreacted to the popularity of the P2P file downloading tools. Millions of people worldwide where downloading movies, music, art, shows... and it would have meant the end of money, the meda industry, and your tv.

Culture and media changes, and it would be odd to fight it for the sake of the "movie and music" platforms.

Oh, and... 360° VR-helmet cinema movies where you go to, or 360° VR-helmet cinema's at home.

Edit ;
The new technologies will not stop anything, it will give it new ways of being watched and played. (ex. DVD did not kill buying movies, it replaced VHS.)

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I think it's also the business model requiring new movies to ONLY stream at the cinema first, that gives the place an edge.

No home TV and surround speakers can compete with a cinema equipment unless it's really the same size.

I agree about the social aspect too: I'd much rather go to the mall cinema than stay home or visit another's home. I like to feel like I'm actually going out.

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I'm completely open to arguments against virtual theaters, but they need to be better than:

- A real, physical theater will be preferable to a virtual theater because social dynamics will remain exactly the same, and the quality of the virtual experience will never reach a level that is as believable and enjoyable as the real thing, despite each decade introducing increasing levels of detail, sensory feedback and immersion.

- In the exceedingly short time following the introduction of disruptive technologies (such as the Internet), we have seen no signs of major industries collapsing, so obviously that trend will continue unimpeded for decades, despite the fact that other disruptive technologies will inevitably be introduced.

- Physical formats have been popular for decades, and despite the increase in digital downloads over the last few years, we'll just keep pumping out physical ways of viewing movies (tiny discs like in those 90s sci-fi flicks?), even though that model is irrelevant in the 21st century.

- The home experience can't replicate the massive sound and screen size of the theater, despite the fact that clever sound engineering and full immersion VR could, in the future, offer a far more intimate experience.

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- A real, physical theater will be preferable to a virtual theater because social dynamics will remain exactly the same, and the quality of the virtual experience will never reach a level that is as believable and enjoyable as the real thing, despite each decade introducing increasing levels of detail, sensory feedback and immersion.


Why do you feel this isn't a valid argument? I haven't stepped in a movie theater since 2002, so I can understand where you come from, but at the same time you only need to take a look around to see we're not the norm. People want to be with other people. This is an universal rule that will never change. The immersion people want to feel is with other warm bodies, not with the movie itself.

I get that you're also implying we'll eat computers and virtual reality will feel as real as real life, but the thing is, you still have to channel people together somehow. Even today you can see curation becomes more important than actual quality, because there is just so much quality stuff being produced no consumer can hope to watch even a tiny bite of all entertainment.

Just look at video games! Many of us are here because we love Doom, but this is a small community compared to even just people who are interested in Doom 4 on the Internet at large, and they tend to be more excited about it than us. People are looking for that, for that shared experience on a larger scale; and there has to be some guidance or direction (be it from a corporation or whatever) for it to be anything more than an isolated initiative indistinguishible from thousands of others... Which is, again, something you can see right now with those streaming channels where people play a movie for others to watch together.

A physical location like a movie theater is still a big anchor point for large scale gatherings. I'm not seeing them going away until society changes so radically the point would be moot anyway.

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GoatLord said:

I'm completely open to arguments against virtual theaters, but they need to be better than:

- A real, physical theater will be preferable to a virtual theater because social dynamics will remain exactly the same, and the quality of the virtual experience will never reach a level that is as believable and enjoyable as the real thing, despite each decade introducing increasing levels of detail, sensory feedback and immersion.

When we tell you how we feel about moviegoing and how we'd react to new immersive technology, you yell about changed social standards in the future. Yet when we call out your extremely poorly extrapolated projections of those standards (you never said why they should change, they just will in an unspecified, mysterious way), you claim it's just your own thought experiment that we should indulge. You expect compelling evidence against your fantasies, yet you actually don't want to hear any, because your la-la land would be so awesome ifwhen it becomes true. Here's a thing: No amount of technology will change basic social behaviour of the human race within a century. People will continue going out with friends for entertainment. Unless there is no "out" because it's a radioactive wasteland.

GoatLord said:

- In the exceedingly short time following the introduction of disruptive technologies (such as the Internet), we have seen no signs of major industries collapsing, so obviously that trend will continue unimpeded for decades, despite the fact that other disruptive technologies will inevitably be introduced.

The Internet is with us for over 20 years. You yourself have been projecting your visions 20 years into the future. Exceedingly short? Stop manipulating the timeline in order to make your arguments almost within our grasp, yet disqualify counter-arguments for not taking into account the 22nd century.

GoatLord said:

- Physical formats have been popular for decades, and despite the increase in digital downloads over the last few years, we'll just keep pumping out physical ways of viewing movies (tiny discs like in those 90s sci-fi flicks?), even though that model is irrelevant in the 21st century.

Get out, no one made this argument. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone here who'd argue in favour of physical storage of casual, unimportant data like entertainment.

GoatLord said:

- The home experience can't replicate the massive sound and screen size of the theater, despite the fact that clever sound engineering and full immersion VR could, in the future, offer a far more intimate experience.

You completely miss the point of a "social experience". It is NOT intimate in the sense you present. I don't want to feel intimate when I watch e-Arnold 2.0 blast away cyber-Mexican cartels. And if I'm watching a rom-com with my gf, I want to be able to turn around and give her a kiss without butting our visors and entangling our power cords romantically.

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Reading the responses, good points being made. I would like to add though that I don't really think this is an "awesome" future, in fact I think it's kind of terrifying. I tend to cling to these visions because I feel like that's where we're going, not where I'd like us to go. So I tend to go for the most terrifying prospects possible, and to me a cyberspace future where everyone is socializing virtually feels very plausible to me. I don't actually like it or want it to happen. Anyway, I'll be getting back to reading these responses.

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Dew, you make some excellent points. You've definitely made me think.

dew said:

You expect compelling evidence against your fantasies, yet you actually don't want to hear any, because your la-la land would be so awesome ifwhen it becomes true. Here's a thing: No amount of technology will change basic social behaviour of the human race within a century.


Nah, it wouldn't be awesome. It would be pretty weird, actually. Scary, terrifying, not awesome though. I would argue that the basic social behavior of humans who have had Internet access for a decade or more has changed, because the act of communicating through machines has necessarily created a new layer of social norms which is slowly permeating the "real life" aspect of living. The idea behind socializing in a VR environment is that, for it to be as accepted as I'm predicting, it would need to move beyond headsets and visors and cables. I don't think the tech would resemble anything like what we see today, so it's not wise to look at it from that perspective.

dew said:

The Internet is with us for over 20 years. You yourself have been projecting your visions 20 years into the future. Exceedingly short? Stop manipulating the timeline...


I didn't say 20 years. I don't know when or if this vision will come to fruition. It could take many decades or it could take one (though I strongly doubt that).

dew said:

Get out, no one made this argument. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone here who'd argue in favour of physical storage of casual, unimportant data like entertainment.


Okay, you got me. That was a shitty comment on my part.

dew said:

You completely miss the point of a "social experience". It is NOT intimate in the sense you present....I want to be able to turn around and give her a kiss without butting our visors and entangling our power cords romantically.


Again, if you're looking at today's technology, the idea of a virtual theater experience with your loved ones in your living room seems crude and disengaging. My vision involves virtual reality that has nothing to do with headsets, cables or visibly computer-generated visuals. It would be an experience much more intimate than that, possibly relying on manipulation of the neural network to create a free-standing additional layer (or entirely new environment) that appears to exist in "normal" reality; basically, a computer generated hallucination which is extremely stable and interactive, much like a game or tech demo. This would mean that you and your girlfriend are still sitting next to each other, but the environment has been tailored to your preferences and the movie unfolds all around you.

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GoatLord said:

Again, if you're looking at today's technology, the idea of a virtual theater experience with your loved ones in your living room seems crude and disengaging. My vision involves virtual reality that has nothing to do with headsets, cables or visibly computer-generated visuals. It would be an experience much more intimate than that, possibly relying on manipulation of the neural network to create a free-standing additional layer (or entirely new environment) that appears to exist in "normal" reality; basically, a computer generated hallucination which is extremely stable and interactive, much like a game or tech demo. This would mean that you and your girlfriend are still sitting next to each other, but the environment has been tailored to your preferences and the movie unfolds all around you.


I dunno. Every episode they do this in Star Trek with the Holodeck, it malfunctions somehow and tries to kill someone. I'm skeptical.

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I can't watch Mad Max Fury Road in IMAX at home and won't be able to in the foreseeable future. All arguments are moot until this is proven otherwise.

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Inkie said:

I dunno. Every episode they do this in Star Trek with the Holodeck, it malfunctions somehow and tries to kill someone. I'm skeptical.


Hahaha.
And i want to know why they do not bump into the walls of the holodeck chamber, while they can open the walls while inside of a "holodeck program" to fidle with the circuits.

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FireFish said:

Hahaha.
And i want to know why they do not bump into the walls of the holodeck chamber, while they can open the walls while inside of a "holodeck program" to fidle with the circuits.


I read about this online, as I've often wondered myself, and I think the official explanation has to do with boundaries being illusory. Stuff in the far off distance is essentially painted on and I [i[think[/i] the simulation conforms to your position in space so you always remain stationary, even if it appears you are moving toward or away from any given object.

I think the IMAX argument is good. It's indeed a very immersive experience. A situation in which a Holodeck-style technology malfunctions definitely sounds plausible. I could see it being hacked as well.

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