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Movie Theater Owners Turning to Other Events to Fill Seats

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The cost of movie tickets keeps going up, which means lots of people are now content to just wait until the flicks show up on cable or Netflix. But that also means theaters are left with declining revenues, so some are trying to recoup that money by getting creative.

The Los Angeles Times reports that some theaters are now hosting live concerts, plays, operas and sporting events to help fill all those empty seats and take advantage of the ginormous screens and 3D capability that most people don’t have at home.

“We want theaters to be community centers, where people can come hang out and enjoy themselves and not just watch a movie,” said Robert Lenihan, president of programming at AMC Entertainment Inc. “If we can offer better and fresher experiences, we think they will visit the theater more often.”

And it’s all about to get much easier. This fall, a satellite network will launch as the result of a coalition formed between the nation’s top three movie theater chains — AMC, Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark USA Inc. — and Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal. That means that not only will movies be delivered to theaters digitally, but a lot of other programming can be as well.

“With the technology we’re putting into place, we will have a high-quality digital delivery system that can support both live entertainment and theatrical exhibition,” said Darcy Antonellis, chief technology officer for Warner Bros. “It’s the natural evolution of digital cinema.”

Back in May, the boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto was screened in 400 theaters at $25 per ticket. Many theaters had complete sell-outs for the event and, on a per-screen basis, it was the second-highest-grossing offering that day, right behind the ultra-hot Marvel Studios’ movie ‘The Avengers.’

Sporting events aren’t the only success stories, but they certainly have the potential to be huge money-makers. That said, licensing fees from major sports leagues and networks like ESPN are expensive — but since the upcoming satellite system will allow those entities to reach a wider audience, it’s an attractive draw.

“Before, it was tough to negotiate because you didn’t have access to thousands of screens,” Cinemark CEO Tim Warner said. “Now you have scaleability.”

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