Theater-owners fight to win back film-lovers

For the movie business, the dog days of summer are a cash cow. With ticket prices now averaging just over $8, revenues are up, but fewer Americans are actually going to the theaters, reports CBS News' Jan Crawford.

Last year the number of frequent movie-goers in the crucial 18- to 24-year-old age group plummeted 17 percent. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, admissions were down almost 13 percent.

"The challenge is, look, I'm competing for your time," said former Sen. Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America. "You've got a lot of options today as a consumer and how you and your family want to spend your time."

Those options include more ways to watch movies outside theaters, with services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and technologies that can play content straight from mobile devices to giant flat screen TVs.

Some studio owners say it's time to coordinate by cutting down the timeframe of when movies are exclusively in theaters, from its current average of four months to just three weekends. Then people would be charged to see the movies at home, perhaps based on the size of the screen.

However, theater owners have resisted.

"Movies that are designed for the big screen need to be seen on the big screen first," said John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Movie Theater Owners.

"There are two things that drive people to the cinema, one is the content. The movies have to be good. And the other is the experience of the cinema," Fithian said.

To keep drawing people to the theaters, that "experience" is what's changing the most, from technology with digital film to comfort, like new seating and high-end food and drinks.

"One of the most surprising features that has worked to drive attendance dramatically is simply to remove all the seats and to put in really big comfortable chairs," Fithian said.

But perhaps the boldest move is a proposal that will cost less: a nationwide discount movie night, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday, at all the major cinemas.

"The idea is to offer a lower ticket price at a fairly unused time of the week to get people out to the cinema who might not be able to go out to the weekends," Fithian said.

He told CBS news it will start as an experiment this fall in one state but refused to say which one. If it's a success and doesn't hurt weekend sales, it will go nationwide.

It's all part of the strategy to make sure a night out at the movies continues to be part of the iconic American experience. Soon the U.S. will also have a feature already popular in Mexico -- 4-D, where consumers actually can experience the movie with smells and seats that rock during car chases and smash ups.

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