What are we gonna do about these out of control teens with their hula hoops, Pet Rocks, and cassette mixtapes? At a Michigan theater, all it took was two of those rampaging rapscallions to cause a ruckus that disrupted the moviegoing experiences of 50 people. Apparently, it’s an issue that’s indicative of a larger issue facing exhibitors.
According to local news report from Michigan Live, an Ann Arbor area Cinemark movie theater was the scene of a series of cross-screen disruptions caused by two 15-year-old girls. Police were called at 11:15 p.m. on Friday, April 17, to apprehend the duo who saw fit to run in and out of the theaters, causing what is said to be a distraction for just about everyone in the building. In the aftermath, 50 patrons were issued compensatory refunds and the unruly youths, who were allegedly trespassing on the premises, were arrested on the charge of disturbing the peace.
The annoyingly undynamic duo were released from custody to their guardians and a formal complaint will be made, determining the charges to the juveniles. However, according to management at the theater, there’s an increasing trend of absent parents treating movie theaters as a glorified babysitting service. Details of this specific case are a little sketchy, especially regarding why two 15-year-old girls were trespassing at a movie theater relatively late at night. It may not be Fifty Shades level lunacy, but it does serve as a demonstration that the challenges the movie theater business faces as the consumer field continues to evolve in a way that’s detrimental to their future.
In a time when the theater business has proverbial barbarians at its gate in the form of VOD exclusive releases and streaming content services looking to cut away at their dwindling relevance, this has to be an especially troubling issue. It's certainly hard enough to convince people to cough up costs for an expensive evening with rising ticket prices and over-priced concession for what amounts to a two hour distraction. Indeed, exhibitor business models require that disruptions be minimal for people paying good money to quietly enjoy Vin Diesel stepping on a gas pedal, doing intense, eye-popping stunts while things explode in a "furious" blaze of billion-dollar glory.
The mere fact that a couple of raucous rugrats in training bras managed to undo that bit of business during a critical weekend evening demonstrates just how susceptible the industry has become due to its increasing dependence on quality customer service. We’re seeing that aspect magnified more as much of the business’ future seems dependent upon creating a unique and aesthetically pleasing experience with the serving of spirits, luxury seating, and spacious rows that encourage folks to step away from their tablets and TV’s at home.
In the end, it may come down to abandoning the traditional customer service mantra that "the customer is always right" and instead focus on ensuring the sanctity of the overall experience. Personally, I’ve noticed an uptick in aggression when it comes to on-screen movie theater messages and the ushers who sometimes deliver speeches before the presentation. The threat of getting kicked out seems ever more prevalent for the Chatty Cathy’s and device douches paying more attention to Facebook than the feature. For the exhibitor industry, I guess it’s about determining who really butters their bread, and it sure as hell isn’t unruly asshat teenagers.