Coming on the heels of one of the worst box office summers in recent history, the nation's movie theater owners are looking to shake things up, quite literally. "To Lure Young, Movie Theaters Shake, Smell and Spritz," read this morning's headline in The New York Times.
"When I step back and think about what will get people off a couch, in a car, down the road and into a theater, the answer is not postage stamp-sized screens and old seats,” Gerardo I. Lopez, the chief executive of AMC Entertainment, the No. 2 chain in the United States, told the Times
. “Why would they bother? What the hell, stay in the house.”
The concept of spritzes and shaking seats is nothing new—theme parks have been doing it for years. But it was very new to visitors to a Regal theater in Los Angeles, where they were sprayed with water and started smelling burnt rubber and gun power. The experience came with an $8 premium price tag.
AMC and Regal—the No. 1 movie chain in the U.S.—are ending 2014 wading through red ink. Profits at both chains plunged more than 50 percent through the first nine months of the year. More importantly, their target demographic of young adults ages 18 to 24 dropped 17 percent last year and the 12-to-17 bracket dropped 13 percent.
So, in June of this year, Regal began shaking theater seats, blasting air from headrests and dropping water and mist from the ceiling.
“You’re trying to figure out if there’s something you can offer in the theater that I would not find appealing, but my 18-year-old son might,” said Amy E. Miles, Regal’s chief executive.