While we were impressed that the head of Regal Entertainment Group, the largest movie theater chain in the US, is experimenting with improving the moviegoing experience by giving certain customers a pager that will let them alert theater staff to any problems (such as mobile phone disruptions) in the theater immediately, it appears that CEO Michael Campbell still is unwilling to admit that movie theaters offer much value for visitors. That's because he continues to come out strongly against any studio plan to release DVDs concurrently with a theatrical release. The so-called "day and date" release plan has been finding increasing support within the movie industry, even if its most high profile test (done by Mark Cuban) was considered something of a failure.
The issue here is simple: it's about giving consumers a choice -- which is generally good for business. If you provide consumers with more options that cover what they want, they're more likely to buy. Giving consumers the chance to get a DVD right away, just as the full advertising effort is underway is likely to help the overall business of the movie as well. Some people who just don't like to go to theaters will buy the DVD, while others will prefer to see the film on the big screen. Unfortunately, few theater owners seem to agree. They complain about the DVD threat, when all it really shows is they don't understand their own business. They're not in the business of showing people movies. They're in the business of providing a good overall social experience. If they were confident in the theater experience, then they have nothing to fear from DVDs being on sale. They could just play up why it's that much better to see the movie on the big screen. But, apparently, they just don't believe they offer a very good product, which is why they're trying to pressure the studios to give them an artificial, temporary monopoly. Campbell's comments are effectively an admission that he doesn't think Regal Theaters are very good, and he doesn't think he can improve the experience enough to compete with home theaters. That seems excessively short-sighted.
If day and date releases became more common, it would only improve the movie going experience. While Campbell claims they would boycott those movies, it would only take a few missed blockbusters for the company to change its mind. In the meantime, it would put in place more incentives for Campbell and other theater owners to make going to the theater a much more enjoyable experience because they wouldn't just be competing with other theaters, but the home theater as well. They'd have to play to their strengths and focus on how to make "going out to the theater" a totally different experience from staying in to watch a movie. On top of that, there are plenty of additional things the theaters can do, from giving you a discount on buying the DVD as you walk out of the theater to using movie tickets as a way to encourage word of mouth marketing to get others to the theater. The potential is enormous, but we won't see much of it if theater owners can remain lazy and uncreative by keeping studios from giving customers the choice they deserve.