Submitted by admin on Wed, 04/24/2024 - 15:14
We know that over the past four years, you may have become accustomed to hearing bad news from us.  So we are pleased to share some good news. Qualified good news. But still, a sign of improvement.It appears that older audiences are returning in larger numbers. That's welcome news for all of us at Laemmle Theatres, and at art houses across the U.S. Before the pandemic, the hand wringing was about the “graying” of the arthouse audience. But since reopening, as arthouses have had success with younger-skewing films, the concern instead has been about how to reconnect with the older audiences that were once weekly guests at our theaters.  Now, we love showing films like HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS and LOVE LIES BLEEDING. But we also love showing the English-language period films (i.e., Merchant Ivory films), foreign-language romantic dramas (pick your prototypical French film) and non-studio American independent films that are aimed at an audience that grew up in a world without cell phones and the internet. And since reopening, while we’ve had some success with films like THE DUKE, THE TASTE OF THINGS and MOVING ON, we can’t help but notice that the numbers are still not where they would have been in the days before COVID.But starting at the end of 2023, it felt as if things were beginning to turn around a bit. Films like ANATOMY OF A FALL and THE HOLDOVERS made more of a mark at the box office than “comparable” films did in 2021 and 2022.  And you also have FALLEN LEAVES doing more business than almost any prior film from director Aki Kaurismäki.So far this year, and leaving aside films that were part of the Oscar race, films like DRIVING MADELEINE, ONE LIFE, THE OLD OAK, FAREWELL MR. HAFFMANN, COUP DE CHANCE and WICKED LITTLE LETTERS are performing better. In fact, the latter four are hanging around, showing good word-of-mouth. These films are still doing a fraction of the business that they would have done pre-pandemic. But better is good. And hopefully, we and our distributor partners can build on this trend."When pandemic restrictions eased, many couldn't wait to get back to the movie theater," wrote Jon Keller of CBS last year. "But a new study found older adults are in no rush to return. And that trend is about more than just fear of COVID. Before the pandemic, people over 40 bought 41% of all movie tickets in the U.S. and Canada."It's not COVID rates, which a quick check of the L.A. County Department of Public Health website shows are vanishingly low. And the fact remains that seeing a movie in a theater instead of at home is still 1000% better. (We'll never tire of quoting the filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev, who compared watching a movie at home to reading a novel while skipping every other word.)According to one of Variety's recent dispatches from the annual trade show CinemaCon, "the box office hasn’t recaptured its pre-pandemic stride — studios estimate that roughly 15% to 20% of frequent moviegoers have yet to resume their old entertainment habits now that COVID has dissipated. Plus, the labor strikes that consumed the media industry for much of the previous year as actors and writers hit the picket lines resulted in production delays that left theaters with fewer movies to hawk on their marquees."Big budget popcorn movies that mostly appeal to younger audiences can be fantastic and we happily screen them at some of our venues, but those kinds of films are not Laemmle Theatres' popcorn and butter, to alter a phrase. The current drama CIVIL WAR may be a surprise hit because it combines action movie elements with serious subject matter, drawing cinephiles of all ages. But what about films with zero guns which are purely cerebral? If audiences don't turn out for these films, fewer will get made or picked up for distribution; it's just supply and demand.How do we reach older moviegoers when the L.A. Times isn't running reviews?We are happy to see some new signs of strength recently. But more would be better. So if you know an older moviegoer who used to attend regularly, but no longer does, we'd like to hear why not. Because the existence of a local movie theater that can show, for example, classic reissues like CLASSE TOUS RISQUE (opening May 3 at the Royal!) or the artful woman-made Senegalese drama BANEL & ADAMA (opening June 14 at the Royal!) is not a given.