IFH 273

IFH 273: Movie Theaters are DEAD…Not So Fast with Phil Contrino


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Are movie theaters dead? Every summer there is a barrage of articles announcing the death of the movie theater experience. Those articles state the new generation is not interested in going to the movies anymore, that they stream everything.

This kind of rhetoric has been spouted off since television was invented. Then it was VHS, then DVDs and not streaming. Movie theaters have always been able to find a happy home and compliment the new movie screening technology of the day. Today on the show we have Phil Contrino from N.A.T.O,  the National Association of  Theatre Owners. Phil and I discuss the movie-going experience. What theaters are doing right and where they can improve. We also discuss what place indie films have in the modern day movie theater experience.

I’ve always had a love for the movies. It’s like a church for me. Whenever I’ve been in a tough place in my life I go to the movies to escape, think and see what comes to me. It’s almost meditative. I truly hope they’ll always be a form of the communal movie going experience and I have a feeling there will be.

Enjoy my conversation with Phil Contrino.

Alex Ferrari 2:20
So today's guest is Phil Contrino And he's from NATO. No, not that NATO, the other NATO, the National Association of Theater Owners, and we go into a very frank and honest discussion about the movie theater experience. And again, where we as independent filmmakers fit into that world. And you'll be surprised at some of the answers we come up with. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Phil Contrino. I like to welcome to the show Phil Contrino that I do. Okay?

Phil Contrino 4:05

Alex Ferrari 4:05
How you doing Phil, thanks for being on the show, man.

Phil Contrino 4:08
Yeah, thanks for having me Alex.

Alex Ferrari 4:09
You so you work for NATO. Not that NATO but the the other NATO.

Phil Contrino 4:16
Live in Washington DC so that's a joke I hear quite often.

Alex Ferrari 4:19
I'm sure you do. I'm sure you do. Which is the National Association for theater owners. And I'm so glad to have you on the show because I think a lot of you know my listeners and people people in general just think like oh you know movie theaters and there'll be gone the the way of blockbuster soon. And I personally don't think that but I was raised, you know with movie theaters as a wonderful experience. So we're gonna sit down and kind of talk about theaters a theater experience, what you guys are doing and how things have changed in since the days that I was a kid going to to the summer block to the summer you know, box office to to watch the movies. But speaking of the summer, a box Office, how do you think the summer box office numbers did this year? From your point of view?

Phil Contrino 5:05
It was a fantastic summer I mean, in especially comparing it to last summer where the movies weren't connecting. People just weren't excited about it. And and there were these death of movie theater articles that come out every, you know, two years or so since the invention of television in the 50s. And then look at what's happening this summer. And the movies are just working across the board. And it's not even just the blockbusters that are performing incredibly well, like Incredibles two, you know, which some earlier knowledge didn't say, yeah, yeah, it's a billion dollar movie, you know, Jurassic World, the sequel to that another billion dollar movie, you know, those movies have been working really well. But then the content in the middle, something like crazy rich Asians. And then even on the lower end of the spectrum, documentaries, it's been a great summer for documentaries, you know, won't you be my neighbor, and, you know, thread identical strangers. So everything across the board this summer has worked. And it's funny, because last summer, everybody was saying that movie theaters are dead, nobody's going anymore. Streaming as killed movie theaters, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then this summer, they're not saying that. I don't know what has changed in terms of in consumer habits. Suddenly, the plumber? I mean, are people streaming less? Of course not you know,

Alex Ferrari 6:27
They're streaming more. Every year, they're streaming more and more, there's more.

Phil Contrino 6:30
Exactly, yeah. And this year, it's, it's one of the best summers in history.

Alex Ferrari 6:34
So that so that's that, you know, I guess at the end of the day, it's about good movies. You know, I think you know, because it is, you know, I have a family. And it does get a little pricey sometimes to go to the theater, especially if you want to take the whole family. So it's not like the olden days, where, you know, you could just go and take a chance on a movie. I think nowadays, people are more cautious. Like they got to hear that Rotten Tomatoes, you know, thing, they got to have it.

Phil Contrino 6:59
The consumer is more educated model, I would put it right, you know, yeah, then you reference Rotten Tomatoes. I mean, that that can make or break a movie. You know? And is that, is that a good thing or a bad thing? To me? It's neither, right? Because for Rotten Tomatoes, it boosts the movies that are really good. And they take off in a bigger way than they ever had before. And movies that don't work. They die quicker. I mean, it's just the marketplace really kind of delivering a verdict a lot quicker than we've ever seen before.

Alex Ferrari 7:33
Right. Exactly. And and it's not the olden ways. And I think the studio's or maybe think it may be learning I'm not sure if they are or not. But they're they're learning that you can't just do the spectacle anymore. You need to do story you need to do like, you know, the new mission impossible. that just came out, which was insane. And it was not only a good popcorn movie, but it was just a good movie. You know? And the crazies, yeah, well, good.

Phil Contrino 8:00
Guy. No, no, good. Yeah, yeah. I mean, the, you know, looking back, you know, even 10 years ago, 15 years ago, the studio's could get away with hiding a dud, you know, they get at least a weekend out of it. And and that's just not the case anymore. And that, I mean, there's a lot of blame even on Rotten Tomatoes. But look, even if you took even if Rotten Tomatoes didn't exist tomorrow, there's still Facebook, there's still Twitter, there's, there's still the internet period, right? And people are gonna find a way to tell other people what they think about the content that they're consuming. And the flip side of this is, obviously, there's so many movies that you can point to recently, that just exploded and did way more than anybody would have ever expected. Whether it's it last September, or what was this year?

Alex Ferrari 8:50
Yeah, it was insane. When the camera I was like, how much did it make?

Phil Contrino 8:55
$123 million opening weekend. Nobody ever thought a horror movie could do that. And that's because the reviews were good. And the online enthusiasm

Alex Ferrari 9:03
And the trailer and the trailer was awesome.

Phil Contrino 9:05
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, more and more people get exposed to the trailers, even if even if they maybe didn't go to the movies for a few months leading up to it. They certainly saw the trailer, you know, online.

Alex Ferrari 9:16
It's interesting. It's interesting that what you say in regards to the social media aspect of things in the rotten tomatoes is, you know, when I was a kid when I was growing up, you know, it was word of mouth. It was a much slower, slower way of getting the information out that movie sucked. Or in a sure you got the reviewers and you had critics but the people were mistrustful of them, you know, for the most part, but slowly but surely you could get that opening weekend. You could get a weekend out of it because it took time you get Friday night you get Friday, you get Saturday, and then Sunday would be the telling tell if it was if it was gonna last or not. And but now, I mean, before the damn thing even opens. You've got Rotten Tomatoes. You've got everyone telling you everywhere. This was great to suck. This is great. It's It's remarkable. So I think it's like you said, it's a it's a it's a blessing and a curse at the same time because what makes it it can it can hyper explode a film into a good, you know, blow it up within a second like it are those are crazy, crazy. Asians or it can kill it like a Justice League, you know?

Phil Contrino 10:25
And that's why I'd say ultimately, at the end of the day, it's it's kind of a wash, right? It's, it's neither bad nor good. It's hard to make a blanket statement about it. And and depending on the year, I think it can be, you know, it could be really good. Or it can be potentially bad if the movies are working in a specific year, you know, I think you look at 2017. And some of those movies just had really bad Rotten Tomatoes score was really bad as in the summer. And you know, that wasn't good. But then you look at this year, and it's the complete opposite, where so many of these movies are getting really, really well reviewed, even for you know, a franchise like Mission Impossible, which is missing around for a while. It says yeah, you kind of lose track a little bit. That's a movie where people might have said, Oh, you know, I've seen so many of these, you know, what can they do new and then the reviews came out and they were just glowing. And people said, Okay, I'm gonna pay attention to it. And it's it's massive.

Alex Ferrari 11:22
All right, yeah. Last summer was a pretty, just abysmal movie summer, I mean, just movies were just not really connecting in the least. And at the end of the day, no matter what platform it is, whether it's theatrical or streaming, if it has to be good nowadays, the consumers just so what much more educated than they were before that we're so we're so savvy in regards to media much more than we were even 10 years ago.

Phil Contrino 11:48
Right. And you can't make any, you know, any one weekend or one month or even a quarter and make a blanket statement about any industry, right? Because what happened last year? Yeah, the summer was bad. But then you look at from it through basically the end of the year. And things the box office was massive. And then especially at the new year when we had movies like last Jedi and greatest showmen and Jumanji, whoever thought Jumanji almost got a million dollars worldwide. You know, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 12:16
It's insane.

Phil Contrino 12:17
It showed that there was this pent up demand, right? That wasn't fully satisfied in the summer. But then people said, okay, you're giving me the content I want to see. And this is great. And then you look, you look at how that extended into this year. And it's just staggering. I mean, Black Panther

Alex Ferrari 12:32
That was no one

Phil Contrino 12:34
$700 million movie in opening in February, which again, talking about, you know, the way audiences view things, you know, there was this notion 1015 years ago, where, you know, only you can only open the big movies in the summer and the holiday season. And that's it. That's the only time we're really going to those are the safest times and that's completely gone.

Alex Ferrari 12:57
Yeah, February, January, February, aren't those kind of like dump months?

Phil Contrino 13:01
But yeah, that's what they were considered. And that's completely out the window. I mean, movies in January now are doing incredibly well. And it's not it's not only just the spillover from December, but there's there's a lot of examples you can point to the first one that jumps in my mind is split that open in January and did incredibly strong business. And then yeah, February, you've had things like Lego Movie, Black Panther, March used to be not exactly a big month, and then the Hunger Games movies came along, and Alice in Wonderland. So yeah, it's the dynamics completely change. People don't look at the calendar and say, Oh, it's March, I can't go to the movies right now. I'll wait till it

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Doesn't really work that way anymore. Now, how do you think this new generation growing up, you know, you know, the millennials, kids, you know, that are growing up literally on their phones and tablets, and that's where they learn to consume their content, and they're not going to the theater as much in the young kids as much or just don't have that magical experience that maybe you or I did growing up? And what do you think that's going to lead the whole the whole industry as this generation gets older?

Phil Contrino 14:15
Well, I would disagree that they're not going as much um, you know, I we've done studies and also the MPAA and others on the look at their enthusiasm for the movie going experience and, and they still really embrace it. And especially they embrace IMAX and premium, large format. And if you think about it, it makes sense because their lives are on their phones, right? If they're spending a lot of time there. I mean, I talked to I don't I don't have teenage kids, but I talk to people that do and they say they won't even watch the TV. They'll just they'll they'll consume things on their phone and their tablet but the idea of them going too big. It's experiencing something in a big way I think is still Something they're really responding to. And they're definitely responding to things like reserved seating.

Alex Ferrari 15:05
Oh, thank God, thank you. Thank you for that seriously.

Phil Contrino 15:09
We can't pick as all our members. But yeah, I mean, that's I mean, that's connected in a big way. And, you know, it also the food options that they can get when when they go to the movies, it's more customizable, you know, the soda machines that you can pick your different flavors and everything like that, and not just popcorn anymore. So I think it's a myth that younger generations aren't going to the movies anymore. And if anything, I mean, they're the ones that are really on the front line, when when something crosses a cultural threshold, like a black panther where it becomes a must see movie that weekend. Those are the people that are going to see that movie. And they're they're tweeting about and posting on Instagram and everything like that, from from the movie theater lobby,

Alex Ferrari 15:55
It's basically Hollywood's job to get asses and seats, and it's your job to make that those seats extremely comfortable and have a wonderful experience, basically.

Phil Contrino 16:05
Yeah, I mean, that's what our members tried to do. I mean, they don't, you know, they don't have control over the content, they have control over the experience. And I think that's what people are finding now, when they go to the movies theaters is that it's it's not the same experience that it was 10 years ago, or even five years ago, there, there are massive changes. And people are really responding to that. Because you look at, you know, our members that report numbers publicly. And the amount of money they're taking in from concessions is just going up because they're they're innovating in that space.

Alex Ferrari 16:38
Let me let me ask you a question. This just came into my head, do you think in the future, would your members you know, theater chains eventually start to try to create their own content? Kind of like a Netflix model or something like that in the future? I'm just throwing this idea of just floating a balloon. Yeah,

Phil Contrino 16:55
I mean, there's all kinds of reasons. And you know, there's the Paramount consent decrees, which is a topic that's back in the news now, but um, you know, I don't know never, never say never. And I mean, that the thing is, to the, you know, alternative content is big. And by alternative content, I mean, content that isn't viewed as a traditional movie, whether it's, you know, the opera, yeah, sure. You know, the people love going to see the opera and movie theaters on eSports. Which, I mean, still to me, I don't get it. You go watch people play video games, but a lot of people a whole generation is growing up loving that content. And a lot of our members like Cineplex are big on that, and rock

Alex Ferrari 17:40
Concerts as well. Things like,

Phil Contrino 17:42
Yeah, raw constants. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's just, it just goes back to the communal experience. So yeah, you can you can sit at home and watch a lot of this content, you know, by yourself, but it does. It doesn't, it doesn't compare to going out. And I think, you know, this, you know, you talked about younger generations, and I really think they're hitting a breaking point, in some ways, in some way of being isolated too much. Right. And I think there's gonna be a rebellion against that. And I think we're gonna see that start to happen. And, you know, more and more over the next, you know, 510 years.

Alex Ferrari 18:19
I agree, that's a very interesting way of looking at it, because you're right, because they're just so like i i've heard this said, I think is a great statement is that social media brings people who are far away close, and you push people who are close far away.

Phil Contrino 18:33
That's a really good, yeah, that's a really good way of putting it in. I mean, there's just certain social norms. I mean, you always have to go on a first date. Right? You know, like, like, good luck. You know, good luck saying, Hey, you know, I'm interested in talking to you, let's sit at home and watch Netflix. Like that's the

Alex Ferrari 18:55
First date. Okay, yeah, exactly. All my parents are upstairs. By the way, you know, my parents are upstairs. Let's, let's sit here. watch Netflix your first day? Like total busking. Exactly. Now, can you discuss a little bit how you see the theatrical experience and the streaming experience coexisting? because like you said earlier, you know, it's it theaters have been in the grave since television, every time a new platform or new format comes out. Everyone's that no one's going to the movie theaters anymore because of this because of TV because of blu rays, DVDs, and now streaming is the latest. How do you think they can coexist?

Phil Contrino 19:36
They do. I mean, it's a very symbiotic relationship, in many ways. I mean, we did a survey recently with Ernst and Young, right where we we polled 2000 movie goers. And what we found is that the people that are going to the movies, you know, nine or more times a year, which is double the national average, which is generally accepted to before. They're also spending 15 hours a week or more on streaming. So this, this notion If you're spending a lot of time streaming, it's taking away from your movie going. Now, it doesn't equate to me because people that love content, consume it a bunch of different ways. They're gonna watch something on their cell phone, they're gonna watch, they're gonna binge a show on TV, but then they also want to get out, you know, during the week or on a Friday, Saturday night and have a social experience. You know, it people. I mean, again, you nailed it on the head, this, this narrative is nothing new.

Alex Ferrari 20:30
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Phil Contrino 20:41
You know, look at people say that streaming is killing movie theaters. I say streaming is disrupting what's happening in the home. I mean, look at the most popular television shows on network television right now. And compared to compare them to what the most popular shows on network television were 20 years ago, you know, the the numbers would not be pretty identical, you know, they wouldn't, it's it's really changing the way people consume content in the home. And and you think about the way you think about the way you pick content on streaming platforms, right, you know, there are your series. And then if you're looking for a movie, what is the one thing that's going to make a movie on a streaming platform stand out? It's going to be a successful theatrical run instantly, you're going to look at that you're gonna say, Oh, I didn't see that movie when it was in theaters. You know, I missed that. And it stands out to you. And you can't put a price on the prestigious that having a successful movie in theaters?

Alex Ferrari 21:43
Oh, and there's no question. There's no question about and living in the indie world that I live in. I mean, you know, I'm from the generation that still wants to have a theatrical release for my movies. But it's becoming more and more difficult to do. So for independent films, which is, which brings me to my next question. Is there space for independent film in the future of movie theaters in the movie theater experience?

Phil Contrino 22:05
There absolutely is. I mean, if you look at I mean, it's interesting, because you look at the data from last year that the MPAA put out. There were 777 movies released theatrically, it was up 8% from the previous year. And 12%, there was a 12% increase in indie releases. So people are finding a way, there are plenty of distributors out there. And there's there's plenty of markets where, you know, indie film can work. So I think, again, and I and I understand the challenges, I mean, I get 100% I'm not in the business of making an indie independent cinema. You know, it's it's tough out across the board making movies period. But I think it's it's a goal that it's important not to settle for just streaming, right, because we talked to directors all the time, who say, you know, my movie when I'm streaming, and it just like, died, right? I don't, I don't feel anything from it. I don't get data about it, you know. And it's, it's very frustrating to hear the stories. Whereas even if you have a small theatrical release, and you're, it instantly boosts the effect. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 23:18
And I agree with you. Look, I have my first feature was bought by Hulu. I have no idea how it did. Yeah, I have no idea. No idea. How many people saw it? If how many people downloaded it? How long it was watched? Nothing. I have no idea. Generally speaking, most people in the theater when they sit down and watch a movie, they generally don't leave. More likely the higher percentage, you know, unless yeah, hopefully. Unless, unless it's the room. I worked in three or four times at midnight. Sigh. It's it's one of my favorite films of all time. It's so bad. It's so great. Oh, yeah. Now, let me ask you about the kind of like an elephant in the room when it comes to theatrical, the subscription services, and how that's kind of changing the way people think that that can happen because everyone's so used to now a subscription service, because streaming made it so popular now. Everything's a damn subscription. We have 100 subscriptions on our credit cards every month. Do you think there's a future for it? Do you think what's happened in the current marketplace? has done anything to help or hurt that? And is that something that you think that will even be a thing?

Phil Contrino 24:35
Well, yeah, I mean, you know, subscription services have have existed in Europe for a bit now. Right? So it's really, a lot of people are treating it like it's something new. It's not. So it's only a matter of time before it found its way over here. And, you know, for us, it's just a matter of making sure that any subscription service that's out there, we just look we're Trade Association. We don't comment on anything. specific one or dictate anything to do with pricing or anything like that, or we'd all go to jail. But we just want it from a, you know, we look out for the industry, so we just want them to be sustainable. Right? We don't want angry movie goers. Right. And again, not going to comment on anything specifically. But that's important, right? You can't have it, you know, if people are looking for these bargains, which are, which is what a subscription service is, you know, you don't want them to be turned off. If it doesn't work. So yeah, there's a huge amount of potential in any look at you know, what's happening with now some of our members who are rolling them out like AMC, and cinemark, and Alamo is experimenting in one of their markets on it's really about capitalizing on the brand loyalty that they have. And and I think appealing to customers who were maybe, you know, price sensitive and are and are looking for a bargain, you know, you you reference having a family. I mean, I think subscription services are something that that families will really respond to, you know, who want to go to the movies?

Alex Ferrari 26:05
Yeah, it was like the old dollar theaters. You know,

Phil Contrino 26:08
Yeah. Yeah. Which, you know, it's, it's unfortunate that a lot of them have gone away. But yeah,

Alex Ferrari 26:15
That was, I mean, I used to go to dollar theater constantly, because it was just the best deal ever, like, you know, for a buck or two bucks or three bucks, you would get to watch, you know, a movie in a in a theatrical experience. Yeah, it might be five weeks old, but who cares? You know? Yeah, it was a way for the for the the production companies or the studios to get just squeeze that little bit extra juice out. of them more momentum? Yes, yeah, it's a little bit more juice before we went out to DVD. So, um, so I think I think we've we've kind of decided that streaming is not going to kill theatrical.

Phil Contrino 26:55
I don't know, I don't I don't think it will. I mean, at the end of the day, people need to get out of the house. Right. And they want the experience I think of, you know, so many movies that have come out, you know, this year or last year, you know, when when streaming is really on its, you know, climb, right? It's picking up momentum and everything like that. And yet there are these huge word of mouth hits. And there are movies that have come out it recently that I can't imagine having just experienced at home, right? And you look at the cultural significance of something right, you know, two movies that you can point to Black Panther, and crazy rich Asians, you have the director of crazy rich Asians saying Netflix offered us a bunch of money. We wanted this in theaters, but because we wanted to make a point, right? We wanted this to feel like a cultural hit. And would that would that have connected in this? Would that feel as big as it does right now? Had it been added? gone straight to streaming? Absolutely not. And same thing with black panther? It was an important moment for African Americans and representation and they had their one of their first I mean, you know, people forget about Hancock, but that was an exactly laid out blade. Yeah, blade, but again, not really role models in the same way Black Panther is, you know, it was a just a huge moment for, for the culture. And if that had gone straight to streaming, we wouldn't have that we would have lost something.

Alex Ferrari 28:24
Is 3D still a thing?

Phil Contrino 28:26
You know, it is but it's not, you know, it's not where it was when avatar came out? I think it's kind of normalized it or not normalized. It's just kind of leveled off. Right. And internationally, I think there are certain markets that are that enjoy it more and that are still very enthusiastic about it. China, South Korea, for instance, they love it. But here, it's just kind of it has. It has its fans, and it has people that that don't like it, I think what really people are responding to and, you know, like, I've referenced the national average being four or four times a year for people going to movies. People really love IMAX and the premium large format, experience.

Alex Ferrari 29:06
I mean, it's amazing. It's an IMAX for me, I don't mean to cut you off, but when I go to the theater, I always go to IMAX. If I can get to IMAX or like AMC has that digital ultra vision. I don't even know what's called. Yeah, it's but it's it's huge. It's almost IMAX, if not close to it. And it's a wonderful, wonderful experience if like if I'm going to spend X amount of dollars to the theater, I want unexperienced I want to ride.

Phil Contrino 29:34
Well, yeah, and that's, you know, that's what the people that go four times a year are saying basically, you know, it's I'm going to go four times a year and when I go, I'm going to get the full experience. I'm going to get the biggest screen possible. I'm going to go and have a nice meal and have a beer, you know what I mean? And that's, that's good for that's good for the industry, because, again, they were gonna go that many times anyway. And now they're, they're getting more experience and hopefully, you know, some Those average four times a year, people have such a great experience that they, you know, got one or two more times.

Alex Ferrari 30:07
I mean, I want I want the audience to kind of understand the business model of movie theaters, because I think a lot of a lot of people don't really understand how, like the splits are with the fit with the studios and on the weekends and things like that. I know, it's different. I'm not even sure if you could talk about it. But it's something that they should know. And understand that, you know, movie theaters as a business, you know, getting movies into the door, especially on opening week, I think is an opening weekend, they get the least amount of return or how does that work?

Phil Contrino 30:39
I mean, we don't we don't deal with terms specifically. But that that notion that it's a scale, and you know, the, you know, you get less, that's, that's basically gone away, and this is publicly ported to information. But I mean, the notion that a lot of people have that, you know, movie theaters make most of their money off of concessions. They're not, you know, it's a much, it's a much bigger profit margin, right. I mean, and it's, it's always going to be the case.

Alex Ferrari 31:09
But you guys have but but theaters in general have now upped their game to a way that I mean, I walk in and like there's a full bar and restaurant. And, you know, the food options have changed so dramatically other than just chicken fingers, or just popcorn and chocolates, which was when I was coming out, you can never even think about doing. I worked in a movie theater when I was growing up. So I saw behind the scenes of how that stuff was done. And it was like, you know, candy and popcorn. That was it. And now you're talking about gourmet foods coming out.

Phil Contrino 31:43
Margins on them are obviously not as high as popcorn. popcorn. You don't have to be a PhD in economics to figure out that. Coke and popcorn. Yeah, exactly. But what happens there is that people, people feel the value is a little bit higher when you've had a meal, right? And you've paid maybe 20 bucks for a really good meal with a beer, right? You walk out there thinking, Okay, that's what I would have spent at a restaurant. And that's why when you go to movie theaters, and you get those options, like a meal and a beer on there, the price very similar to what you would encounter at restaurants. And that's, that's deliberate from a consumer satisfaction standpoint.

Alex Ferrari 32:24
And may I say the seating has gotten better.

Phil Contrino 32:27
People love that. I mean, people loved it. It was weird for us as an association, because, you know, we would get all these questions all the time of, you know, you're putting in less seats, isn't that going to be catastrophic for the industry. And it's not I mean, it's, it creates luck, if you're, if you're on the fence about going to see a movie on a on a Friday night. And it's a popular movie, you better decide pretty quick and get your seat right or else, you know, somebody else is going to get the seat that you want it. And people you know, it spreads the spreads of movie going out the rest of the week, right? I mean, a lot of you know, I look at AMC or a lot of other Shane's markets in the Midwest, and they do a $5 discount night or whatever discount price on a Tuesday night. And that's really popular too. And people will will come out for for that instead of, you know, maybe rushing out opening weekend. So But yeah, I mean, the seats are a huge, huge hit. And again, maybe somebody who hadn't been to the movies in a year or two and comes back now the experience completely different. And then that changes their mind about it entirely.

Alex Ferrari 33:45
Now, can you tell me a little bit about NATO and what NATO does?

Phil Contrino 33:49
Yeah, so I mean, we represent exhibitors in all 50 states. And it's a total of over 33,000 screens. And then you were the National Association of theater owners, but that's kind of misleading because international exhibitors can also be members, and we've got members in 96 countries right now. So we're really kind of

Alex Ferrari 34:13
The eye NATO. In auto in auto there, yeah.

Phil Contrino 34:21
We'll work on the branding. But yeah. Global association of theater owners say that Scotto. You know, that doesn't really work. But yeah, so there's a lot of things that we do. I mean, we've got cinema con, which is our big convention that is every either March or April depending on the year, where all the studios, a lot of the major studios show up with their their content for the upcoming summer and beyond. And it's a roomful of exhibitors. It's at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas where we're in the same Coliseum that, you know, Celine Dion plays in on a regular basis and it's just kind of gets the industry Excited about what's coming up in the year ahead. And that's a big thing. And then you know, we've got an office in DC in an office in LA, because we, there's a lot of issues related to government relations and state laws that we advocate on behalf of our members. And then, you know, in LA, we meet with the studios a lot and represent our members on technology issues. And, you know, just everything that's important to to making sure the experiences is as good as it can be, you know, for customers know,

Alex Ferrari 35:35
Where do you think the theatrical experience is going to go in the next 10 years?

Phil Contrino 35:40
You know, that's, that's always a really interesting question. Um, you know, yeah, it's a tough one to answer to, because I mean, the consumer really tells you what's going to happen, right, you know, there. Take 3d, for instance, when it first came out, there were some people are really bullish on it. And they said, you know, everything is going to be in 3d. I remember Jeffrey Thompson Oh,

Alex Ferrari 36:04
Yeah, I remember people.

Phil Contrino 36:06
But that next person said, you know, no, pump the brakes a little bit, you know, we want to see certain movies in 3d, we don't want to see everything in it. But I mean, in terms of, you know, look, we're making a big, we're making giant leaps, in terms of as an industry as a whole, that the kind of content that's being played in theaters, and I think that's a good thing. And on the studio side, you know, they are really paying attention to the the need for diversity, you know, movie goers are telling them pretty clearly, we want more black panthers, we want more crazy rich Asians, we want more, we want to see ourselves on screen, we don't want to see movies all the time for you know, 16 year old white boys in the middle of the country. But it's got to diversify, and that's going to lead to a healthier marketplace. And then, you know, I think we've only scratched still only scratched the surface. And in terms of alternative content. I mean, as you know, eSports continues to gain momentum, movie theaters are, are in the perfect position to capitalize on that. And I think we'll see other different, you know, forms of alternative content pop up. I mean, we look at too closely and pay close attention to what's happening with virtual reality. And, you know, it's cousin mixed reality, or augmented reality, whatever you want to call it. And that's interesting, too. I mean, some of our members are experimenting with putting virtual reality in their lobbies. And, you know, it'll be interesting to see where that goes. And in terms of mixed reality, you know, like, the kind of content that Magic Leap is working on,

Alex Ferrari 37:47
What is it exactly can you tell me?

Phil Contrino 37:49
So it's mixed reality is, you know, sitting in a living room, and and they've done demos that they posted online, where you're sitting in your living room and see threepio and RTD to pop up in your living room, and you've got, you've got the glasses on the they're not as bulky as the virtual reality glasses, mixed reality. The Magic leaps, glasses are much more compact, not not quite on the level of 3d glasses, but not nowhere near what the clunkiness of virtual reality glasses. So to me, that's interesting, because, again, it goes back to this inherent debate about experiencing something on your own in your living room, or experiencing with a crowd, right. So for me mixed reality, that debate comes into play. And if that's going to take off, I think there's a natural fit for it and movie theaters. So it's almost, you know, the natural extension of 3d in a way it's, it's something that's jumping out at you and instead of a 2d image, so that's, that's intriguing to me. It's something we'll follow. But at the end of the day, I mean, I think that the interest in premium large format is going to continue to remain strong.

Alex Ferrari 39:02
So are we going to walk into movie theaters in 20 years and walk onto the holodeck? from Star Trek?

Phil Contrino 39:08
I mean, George Lucas could be he came to our Events Center. makonnen I think it was either 2011 or 2012. And he said, eventually, you'll just all be watching thing. You'll go to a movie theater, and it'll be holograms. You know? What I bet against it? Absolutely not. I would I would never bet against George. I would never get George Lucas and I would, I would never bet against any new technology until the consumer has a chance to weigh in on it. Because history is full of people saying, you know, you can look into, you know, in the early days of cinema and people saying sound in movies Who the heck is going on out there? Yeah, but nobody's gonna ever like that. So I don't want to be one of those people who said, No, that's not gonna take off. You know, I don't want to sit there to look at me. That way.

Alex Ferrari 40:01
Now I'm gonna ask you a question that I asked all my guests. What are three of your favorite films of all time?

Phil Contrino 40:07
Oh, wow. Okay, um, anything by Stanley Kubrick in it?

Alex Ferrari 40:14
That's my favorite guy.

Phil Contrino 40:16
Yeah, I mean, this year, you know, I'd say it's a toss up between 2001 and Clockwork Orange in terms of my favorite from him. And this year has been great. Because with the 20, or the 50th anniversary of 2001 Yeah. Been able to see it a few more times. Yeah. Exactly. like not even close to watching your home not even close. And I'll I'll it sells out too. I live in DC and ASI. has one of their theaters, theaters here. Yeah, and they play a movie almost every year. It seems like in theaters and it sells out on a consistent basis or damn near close.

Alex Ferrari 40:53
I mean, if you if you go to the Beverly

Phil Contrino 40:56
Exactly. Yeah, yeah, it's like that movie plays and plays and plays and 50 years on Well yeah, that's one of my all guys.

Alex Ferrari 41:03
Oh, no. I'm gonna say I want to throw in my favorite is gonna be eyes wide shot. Nice. Okay. That's interesting choice. Everyone always It was like what and like, if you look at it up, I do love the shiny. I love Clockwork Orange. I love Full Metal Jacket. I had the opportunity to actually watch a 35 millimeter print in a theater at the Chinese Theater actually a full metal jacket with Matthew Modine. oh nine in the in the audience, and which was the coolest thing ever. For all you Kubrick heads out there I was sitting the guy who's sitting right behind me, was Kubrick's long time. Assistant, the star, the new film, I forgot his name. But the guy that was in the new film film worker, oh, what I mean, I just I shook his hand afterwards. I'm like, I just gotta say, I've seen you in every behind the scenes documentary like I've ever seen. You guys dedication is just staggering. I mean, I don't blame him. You know, I would have given up entire life to work for Stanley Kubrick. Yeah, absolutely. You know, but alright. And a couple other films.

Phil Contrino 42:06
Yeah, I mean, the insider. I'm a huge Michael Mann fan. I feel like the insiders just a perfect combination of really great story. And I think few directors are as good visually as Michael Mann. And then I probably have to go with something from Alexander Payne. And again, that depends on my mood, but either bouche Schmidt, or you know what a downsizing is really grown on me. I wasn't crazy about it when I first saw it and then I watched it a few more times. I'm like, Okay, I get I get what they were trying to do now and

Alex Ferrari 42:40
He was out there with downs he was out on the edge and downs, it's outside but I actually enjoyed it. I actually enjoyed it. Now where can people find out more about what you do at NATO?

Phil Contrino 42:50
I yeah, I mean, our websites NATOonline.org. And, and I encourage anybody to ever come to cinema con. I mean, if you're if you're a film buff and or if you're an independent film maker, you know, and you want to know more about this industry and it's it's just a great experience. It's a it's truly event, an event for people who look at movie theaters as you know, their church and that's it's good to be surrounded by people like that. So

Alex Ferrari 43:18
Thanks, Phil, so much for coming in. And talking to the tribe about the movie going experience which is not dead. It is not dead and I don't think it will be anytime in the near future. So thanks again so much for for coming on, man.

Phil Contrino 43:32
Yeah, thanks for having me, Alex, anytime.

Alex Ferrari 43:35
I hope you guys enjoyed that episode. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle .com/273. And guys, if you haven't done it already, go to ifhtv.com. and sign up for early access to the world's first Netflix style streaming service for filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. I cannot tell you how excited I am for you guys, and to see what I've been working on. There's so so so much content there for you guys to dive into learn and be inspired. So definitely check it out. And that's it for another episode of the indie film hustle podcast. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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