Will home delivery popcorn save the movie industry?

As movie attendance drops, the industry is banking on new services and ‘gimmicks’ to attract audiences.

As movie attendance drops, the industry is banking on new services and ‘gimmicks’ to attract audiences

Saskatoon film critic Craig Silliphant says home delivery popcorn is just another gimmick. (Antonio Diaz/Shutterstock)

The sound of a popcorn machine is synonymous with the experience of going to a movie. But as more of us opt to watch at home, the industry is looking for new ways to make money.

The latest idea, a partnership between Cineplex Inc. and Uber Eats, will offer delivery of concession stand snacks—popcorn, hot dogs, candy, nachos and soft drinks—to customers in 60 communities throughout Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and Quebec.

While the numbers ebb and flow depending on movie releases, Cineplex attendance decreased nearly six per cent overall in 2017 from the previous year. Cineplex is hoping this new partnership will help offset the losses, but Saskatoon film critic Craig Silliphant isn't convinced.

"It's another gimmick in a long line of gimmicks that they're trying to work to stay afloat and possibly relevant," said Silliphant. "Ultimately, I think it's just one further thing that trains people out of going to the theatre."

'Tentpole movies' prop up the industry

One of the gimmicks to get people in the theatre is a more immersive experience.

In November 2016, Cineplex opened its first 4DX cinema at its Yonge-Dundas location in Toronto. It marked the 300th 4DX screen worldwide, but the first in Canada. Today, it remains the only one in Canada.

There have been many other ideas like reclining seats, VIP seating and even alcohol service.

According to Silliphant, only the "tentpole movies" will draw people in—the big-budget action films that prop up the whole industry.

"Now to go to the theatre, it has to be this crazy tentpole-effect movie, with superheroes and exploding cities and stuff. Otherwise, it's just not worth it to go see—it's too expensive," said Silliphant. "The middle class of movies has dropped out and largely can be found on television."

This trend is noticeable, with more spin-offs or sequels released each year. Most recently, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom earned a global box office total of $932 million in under two weeks.

'Superhero fatigue' inevitable for audiences

Silliphant doesn't think that model is sustainable and wonders how many of these big budget sequels and spinoffs movie studios can make before audiences check out.

"That superhero fatigue, while it doesn't really show signs of setting in right now, it'll set in eventually," said Silliphant. "You can only see a movie like [Avengers: Infinity War] a handful of times before you go: 'Well what's the point of coming to the theatre for that?'"

He says the fact that Disney put the brakes on any new Star Wars spin-off movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story, which came out in May to a lukewarm reception, proves his point.

Instead, Silliphant says we need movies that are big on original stories and make audiences want to see the movie and be part of of the conversationideally, inside movie theatres with popcorn in hand.

Saskatoon movie critic Craig Silliphant says watching a movie in theatres with a crowd increases the effect of the movie. (Andy Palmer)

About the Author

Jason Osler is the national 'trends' columnist for CBC Radio.


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