Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote a piece on The King’s Speech that posits that the way to help the British film industry is to get older people out to the movies. I agree with his sentiment that producers make “grownup films that are pitched at grownup people,” but I don’t think the older audience is the one to court.
Bradshaw’s anecdote is spurious at best. Since there is no apparent research behind his assertion that “People who have not been to the cinema in 10 or 20 or even 30 years have been moved to go to see [The King’s Speech] they have read about,” he must be extrapolating the number from his aunt’s experience. By that logic, I can assert that American Gangster is what senior citizens are clamoring for because my 75-year old grandma (whose movie intake consists mainly of the Air Bud series on DVD) went to see that in the theaters, her first since Forrest Gump.
Attendance in America was down last year and things aren’t looking good so far this year. If people are really concerned about trying to get movie attendance up, fostering a healthy relationship with a younger crowd is essential. That’s not to say that movies need to pander to 14-year olds (as they already do), but getting people in the 25-35 range interested in the theatrical experience could do wonders. Many will be having children soon and they can pass on their love to the next generation.
As a theater manager, I’ve been able to casually note a lot about the movie-going audience and it’s not the older audience (and I’m arbitrarily describing that as 40+) that’s missing. This makes sense. These are the people who still had to go to the theater for the best viewing experience. Home video began in the 80’s, but there was still loads of time before it became available for purchase.
Obviously, making better movies is one way to drive people to the theater, but we also need to focus on making the theater a fun place to be instead of a chore where you do nothing but fight distractions. If done right, it won’t be just “older” people returning, it will be everyone.