May 23, 2005
Ten years of megaplexes

We passed a milestone last week - the ten-year anniversary of the first megaplex movie theater.

While it seems as if gigantic movie theaters have been with us forever, the megaplex theater defined as having 14 or more screens and modern amenities like stadium-style seating turns 10 years old this week.

AMC Entertainment opened the first, the Grand 24 in Dallas, on May 19, 1995, ushering in a new concept that used its scale to change how movies are shown. Ticket prices and audience expectations have gone up in the 10 years since, and megaplexes now face problems of their own.


Anthony DiClemente, an entertainment analyst for Lehman Bros., said the key was giving theater owners a huge number of slots to show movies.

"What was wrong with the multiplexes was you still had a situation, even with six or eight screens, where you couldn't show movies on more than one screen," DiClemente said. "That meant that on Friday and Saturday nights, you were still having sold-out shows. That was the impetus behind the megaplex: to satisfy demand at its peak."

Obviously, this makes sense from a business perspective - every customer who hears the words "sorry, we're sold out" is unrealized revenue. And speaking as someone who's heard those words, it's awfully nice when the next showing is 30 minutes after the one you couldn't get into instead of 2 or 3 hours.

After the Grand 24 opened, most major theater chains raced to build their own megaplexes or retrofit older theaters, racking up huge construction costs. Most of the industry's main players filed for bankruptcy in the late 1990s, leading to widespread consolidation. Audiences were willing to go to theaters farther away because they liked the seating better and theater chains filed for bankruptcy to get out of leases on theaters they wanted to get rid of, said analyst Dennis McAlpine of McAlpine Associates.

I confess, I stopped going to the now-defunct Cineplex Odeon on Gray at Waugh (walking distance from my former house) and started driving 20-30 minutes to get to the then-new Cinemark at Westpark and Beltway 8 because the stadium seating there was so much better. Thankfully, there's now the Edwards Marq-E on Silber, which is quite close to home. Not that we've gotten to use it much lately, but I have hope for this summer. I know, I know, I'm a bad Earth-unfriendly person, but my knees are still thanking me.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 23, 2005 to TV and movies | TrackBack

I remember the first stadium seating theater in San Antonio, and loved it. Don't care for the theater itself much any more (it was an early one, and while it manages 16 screens, some of those barely hold 50 people), seating is still one of my prime deciding factors in theater choice.

Has anyone noticed theaters getting stingier and stingier with concessions, too? Movie nachos were one of my great vices, but lately AMC and Santikos have both switched over to give you a sealed bag of chips and plastic cup of cheese. Yeach. At least Regal is still pretty decent, even though they changed their cheese to a different variety. And why oh why is the only option for popcorn containers one that'll leak butter so bad I look like I wet myself when I walk out of the theater?

Posted by: Buhallin on May 23, 2005 2:52 PM

Odd that the theatre that started it all is the one theatre in Dallas I won't go to under any circumstances.

Posted by: kodi on May 23, 2005 9:56 PM