Bed Bugs Musical & Summer Movie Revenue

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In the northeast, a quarter inch long critter is instilling fear in hoteliers, apartment managers, retailers, and theaters. The bedbug is alive and thriving after their near eradication from American cities since the 1950s. In New York city, bedbugs have forced hotels to take rooms out of service, shuttered Abercrombie and Fitch for days, and closed several movie theaters while they fought to eliminate the biting parasite. For hyper-aware New Yorkers, the stigma of a home bedbug infestation and the spread of the problem to theaters contributes to an overall drop in movie attendance. "I don’t go to the movies anymore, I’m not sitting in those seats,” said one reluctant patron.

Yet in areas outside of the northeast where the bedbug problem is absent, movie ticket sales are also down. The lack of summer blockbusters, the competition for consumer resources--namely time and money, and the availability of films via DVD all add up to a tough summer for movie theaters. The expectations of the market suggests a steady decline in ticket sales over the next several years. With this knowledge, a shift in content and the theater experience is taking place.

With the growth in gaming and online entertainment comes a heightened appetite for greater visual experiences. This summer marks the triumphant return of 3D movies to shore up sales. In fact, 3D is largely responsible for raising revenues even while ticket sales have fallen.

In surveys conducted in several cities, consumers have indicated their dissatisfaction with movies as an "experience". The preference for greater food choices over the standard popcorn and hot dogs helped drive a lack of interest in movie attendance, along with near-equally weighted unhappiness over ticket prices and the lack of reserved seating.

The survey might suggest that movie theaters adopt an approach successfully introduced in 1997 by Alamo Drafthouse theaters based in Austin. Alamo stripped theaters of seats and replaced them with long, community-style dining tables. Patrons choose from a menu of appetizers and entrees for all tastes and a great selection of beer (bottled and draught) and wine. Discreet waitstaff sneak through the aisles looking for requests and serve guests throughout the evening. Alamo offers an even greater experience with their "Master Pancake" specials that entertain sellout crowds as live commentators mock high profile movies (Lord of the Rings, The Breakfast Club) with comedy and one liners.

Given the changes in audience preferences and the push for greater experiences in movie theaters, the concept is ripe for expansion. New York City's movie goers can get excited about the planned opening of an Alamo Drafthouse there within the next year or two. While they await Alamo's arrival, they can find humor in the recent bedbug scare by attending the Bed Bugs Musical reopening just in time for the media blitz surrounding the city's newest pest. I'll be dying to know how tickets sales fare.