Movie theaters host midnight shows, marathons for final Batman installment

Reporter and Reporter

As “The Dark Knight Rises” swoops into theaters this Friday, big movie chains are trying various strategies to lure in and maintain audiences.

“Movies have a lot of competition,” said James A. Molnar, film editor at Toledo Free Press. “People will stop going to movies if they don’t see any value in them.”

One way theaters are adding value to the theater viewing experience is a public event Thursday at various theaters in accordance with “The Dark Knight Rises.” According to Rave’s website, the chain will host a marathon of the three Batman films, concluding with the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Cinemark plans to do the same.

“Franchise movies have proven to be huge moneymakers for the industry,” Molnar said. “And that’s why we’re seeing all of these sequels and unoriginal stories.”

This isn’t the first time a theater chain has hosted a movie marathon. In May, AMC hosted “The Ultimate Marvel Marathon” at selected theaters. Fans could spend $40 to see six Marvel blockbusters nonstop, concluding with the critically acclaimed “The Avengers.”

Theater chains need to create events like these because advertising is constantly changing, said Jeff Bryden, a marketing professor at the University.

“Movie marketing used to be strictly within the theaters themselves,” Bryden said. “Now with television, you see advertisements all of the time.”

According to Molnar, this technology can also cause problems for theater chains.

“In an Internet age, piracy will always be an issue,” Molnar said. “At [preview] screenings, audiences have to turn in cell phones and security guards have night vision goggles to make sure no one is recording the movie.”

Though the Internet is a threat to preserving film attendance with rising piracy, it is also its greatest ally with sites like Facebook, Twitter and Rotten Tomatoes, Bryden said.

“Social networks are key because people trust and access them more than any other source of information,” Bryden said. “And we trust our friends and family on social networks. Web interactivity gives us upfront information. Nothing is more powerful than that.”

Perhaps a close runner-up is the idea of demand, a basic yet powerful concept taught in Marketing 101.

“Consider Yuengling beer,” Bryden said. “For the longest time, people in Ohio wanted it for the simple reason that it was unavailable. Consider airlines. They have more flights to Florida during the winter than during the summer. It’s about creating demand. Often, it’s the fear of losing out. When demand goes up, prices can go up.”

Bryden said this idea of demand might explain why “The Amazing Spider-Man” was only shown on one screen at the Woodland Mall while “The Dark Knight Rises” is slated to be on every screen.

But Molnar sees it a bit differently. He believes the demand for “The Dark Knight Rises” made Cinemark want to create more shows, not the other way around.

“The demand for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is exponentially higher than ‘Spider-Man,’ hands down,” Molnar said. “‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is one of the most – if not – the most anticipated film of the summer.”

Bryden also explained how movie chains turn anticipation into a number of shows.

“The number of shows in a theater can also depend upon where the film was launched geographically,” Bryden said. “When you buy a ticket [in California], your purchase is instantly uploaded to a satellite. That data is measured and analyzed; they even measure whether you purchase a child, senior or general admission ticket. Shows are then added or cut short for the rest of the country depending on those results.”

The Cinemark theater at Woodland Mall and the Rave theater at Levis Commons do not plan on hosting the Batman marathon. However, the Rave theater in Maumee (Fallen Timbers) and the Rave theater in Toledo (Franklin Park) do plan on hosting the marathon. All of these theaters are slated to premiere “The Dark Knight Rises” at midnight.