WHY THE “NEW NORMAL” AT THEATERS MAY MEAN A PREMIUM EXPERIENCE FOR MOVIEGOERS

As vaccines roll out, restrictions lift and theaters reopen, audiences have been willing to pay more for an enhanced experience because — after a year stuck at home — "why do the ordinary?"

Audiences are willing to pay up for premium seats. (Wade Griffith)

As vaccines roll out, restrictions lift and theaters reopen, audiences have been willing to pay more for an enhanced experience because — after a year stuck at home — “why do the ordinary?”

More than a quarter of moviegoers returning to theaters for Godzilla vs. Kong have paid an upcharge of $3 to $5 to experience the monster spectacle in Imax and on other premium large-format screens, both in the U.S. and around the globe. That’s well above the norm.

The expanding appetite for an enhanced theatrical experience has given the film and exhibition business a shot of confidence and a weapon against streamers amid devastation caused by the pandemic. Yet it also means theaters that don’t offer upscale sight and sound, plush seats and other amenities might struggle to lure customers.

“People have been sitting in their living rooms for a long period of time. When they go out, they want something really special,” says Imax Corp. CEO Richard Gelfond. “In many places, there are some screens that are kind of small and not that different from televisions in the home. As we all come out of this, we’re going to say to ourselves, ‘Why do the ordinary?’ ”

Warner Bros. and Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong — the first Hollywood tentpole of 2021 and the first to launch after Los Angeles and New York City theaters were finally allowed to flip on the lights — opened to a mighty $48.1 million in North America despite capacity restrictions in top markets and the continued closure of many theaters (45 percent). Through April 25, the film’s global total stood at more than $400 million, including more than $86 million in America.

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