Mark Cuban and Landmark Trying Again to Reshape the Theatrical Experience
Mark Cuban, a name you should be familiar with in the movie industry, is one of the two who bought the Landmark Theatres chain in 2003 and rebooted the theater chain. Landmark is the biggest independent art house movie theater chain in the US, with locations in around 24 markets, and is really reshaping the independent and mainstream cinema world with Cuban's radical ideas. Just a few weeks ago we wrote up a bit of news on a new theater they're building in Los Angeles to compete with the other "big ones" there and shake up that market. Now he's got another new idea on his hands and spoke more about how they're going to redefine the theatrical experience with a few more theaters - one opening in Baltimore and one in Denver.
In the article from Variety, Cuban discusses plans for a new theater that's focused on adults and establishing a kind of experience at the location that adults will enjoy. This means providing a lounge-like environment instead of an arcade, and focusing more on the "adult" aspect, which is whatever his mind has dreamt up that means an experience adults can enjoy. Here's just one part of that so far, it's a new look at the concessions:
"In our new Denver theater, we completely removed the concession stands," says Cuban. "The original design had the traditional concession stand taking up prime real estate and dominating the look and feel of the theater. We decided that we would rather use that space for amenities, retail sales (movies, books, indie cinema related items), and 'interstitial' type entertainment that complements our 'datenight for grownups' concept in a lounge-like environment. Basically it became a place where you could go on a date, have a drink, food and be entertained before and after seeing a movie."
He seems to have some good ideas on his mind, or at least ideas that the other theater chains ignorantly overlook when considering why (in some years) they don't make money or why the market has been steadily declining over the last few years. Whereas the major theater chains think the way to fix losses is throw in as many other methods of making money (e.g. pre-show advertising, in-theater advertising, etc), Cuban has gone the other route and is thinking of ideas of how to make the experience actually worth a possibly higher ticket price. Real corporations like Apple or Microsoft or Google think this way and have boomed with success, so how come the theater industry is resistent to taking the routes of actually improving and instead thinking of new ways to make money on their old and still failed system.
My favorite part has got to be Cuban's considerations on technology being the attraction for adults and getting people (even those who normally never go) back out to the movie theaters.
The exec sees technology -- from the theaters themselves to the lobbies -- as being a key factor in drawing audiences away from their homevideo centers.
Perks for indie film fans at the new cinemas will include LCD displays with showtimes and info and other high-tech twists.
I'm all for technology and advancing and revolutionizing, and I think this will be one of those subconcious attractions that will make these theaters stand out. When you see the smooth, sleek futuristic look and LCD TVs in airports or restaurants or anywhere you go, you know that place is high class and importantly - you know you're getting your money's worth out of it. That will be the key for movie theaters, just one aspect of it, that you won't think about conciously when you go, but you'll realize in the back of your mind.
Another area he is focusing on in terms of the experience is the seating and atmosphere.
A conceptual design image of the bar/lounge area from the new flagship Landmark being built in LA.
"We are going to experiment with all kinds of seating plans," Cuban says. "From sofas at the new Landmark in the Westside Pavilion, where we will literally try to make it more like a living room experience than a theater."
He also says some theaters will have "VIP lounge chairs" and "potentially even beanbags."
However, as I'll always say when we look at new ideas like this, they always seem to miss the point! As ScreenRant pointed out in a response to the Variety article, what about ushers and preventing people from using cell phones or talking during the movie. Or what about other areas he hasn't mentioned. But before we go on and on about those, I'm going to leave it at this and hope that he does have the next phase in the theater revolution on his hands. As with the Landmark being built in LA, I'm very interested in checking it out and will certainly report back on how everything is and if it really is a step up and a step in the right direction.
For more on the new theater plans and more from Mark Cuban about the theater industry and Hollywood, I suggest reading the Variety article.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a follow-up article from Barry on the "Ideal Movie Theater."