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Monday, September 05, 2005

Death of American movie theaters has been greatly exagerrated, says Fithian

"There have been any number of commentators and articles written about the looming death of the American movie theater, and that's just absurd as a factual proposition," says John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners. He's quoted in Hugh Hart's column from yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle. (It's the second item down.)

Can you imagine the National Association of Vaudeville Promoters making a similar statement in the late 1920s, before it was eclipsed by cinema?

"Theater operators who've been around for a while know the business is cyclical," Fithian says, pointing to bad stretches at the box office in 1985 (followed by a hot streak in 1987) and 1991 (followed by a record year in 1997). This year, 562 million tickets have been sold so far, versus about 637 million in the same period last year.

"Movies this year frankly haven't been very good," says Fithian. "We think that will probably change in the fall-winter period when we have a bunch of really big movies coming out. And when the movies come back, the audiences come back. There is nothing structurally wrong with the movie theater business that a few good movies can't fix."

Fithian also talks with Hart about ads at the movie theater, the shrinking DVD release "window," and financing schemes for digital cinema.

(Fithian photo courtesy Mr. Brown's Movies.)