Edgar Wright Talks to Movie Theaters

Edgar Wright is a champion of the theatrical experience. Aside from wanting audiences to see the movies he directs on the big screen, from Shaun of the Dead to Baby Driver, he’s a cinephile at heart and has always been fond of the magic of the silver screen. Unfortunately, theater chains continue to make a trip to the theater more expensive, more inconvenient, and far less magical than it used to be. But Wright spoke with theater owners in the United Kingdom to encourage them to bring the power of cinema back to the big screen in order to appeal to audiences who find streaming services at home to be a better option these days.

Deadline and ScreenDaily brought our attention to Edgar Wright addressing an audience of exhibitors at the UK Cinema Association (UKCA) conference. Wright was the keynote speaker, and he expressed his desire to have the magic put back into the theatrical experience.

Wright goes to the movies at least once a week, which is something rare among industry insiders like him. The director explained:

“I am always amazed in this industry, in London and especially in Hollywood as well, by how many people who work in the industry, producers and directors, who don’t actually go to see films with an audience. Maybe it’s because they’ve got private screening rooms or some fancy set up at home. I have a fancy set up at home but I still come out to the cinema because I want to see it [a film] with a crowd. That’s really important to me. I still want to have the same thrill I had watching Star Wars when I was three years old.”

But you have to get audiences into theaters before they can experience those kind of thrills, and that’s where theaters are having trouble. As a frequent moviegoer, Wright has recognized that the theatrical experience isn’t offering the great escape it used to. The director implored the UK theater owners in attendance:

“Anything you can do to make this magical is really important. You’d don’t want to be losing the battle to Netflix because people go to the cinema and feel like they’re not getting anything out of the experience. There needs to be a reason you want to come to this room and not watch it on an iPhone on the train.”

When people are paying more and more for movie tickets and concessions and they’re getting a lower quality experience in theaters, why would they keep coming back? Movie theaters need to step up and make the experience worth the cost. They like to complain about streaming services like Netflix taking a chunk out of their business, but people who stream more actually go to the movies more, so clearly the problem lies elsewhere. Wright himself even hungers for a break from Netflix:

“I like watching some Netflix things, but at a certain point I need to get out, off my sofa. I like going to the movies. TV and streaming are making so much noise, [but] I’ve always tried to make movies that you feel like you need to see on the big screen.”

That was certainly the case with Baby Driver, with a marketing campaign that implored audiences to see it “loud and large” in theaters. And we certainly hope that’s the case with Edgar Wright’s next film, the thriller Last Night in Soho, which is currently in post-production. But no matter how appealing the big screen might be, there’s one issue that Wright was particularly annoyed by.

The Scott Pilgrim vs the World director had no problem lashing out at the immense amount of advertisements playing before movies nowadays. Wright isn’t talking about trailers, but rather actual commercials, which were supposed to increase recently at some domestic theater chains. He elaborated:

“The commercials are too long. It is not in all chains, some are worse than others. The commercials are longer for the bigger films. I don’t mind watching trailers. Trailers are a great thing to watch with an audience and also a great barometer of whether something is going to be a hit or not…but commercials, I could have 50% less.”

More specifically, Wright lamented the kind of advertisements tied to the movie you’re about to see, showing clips and sullying some of the experience. He added:

“You know when you see No Time To Die, the new Bond movie, you’re going to sit through one watch commercial, one beer commercial and one car commercial – and they’re all going to show you clips of the movie you are about to see.”

This isn’t something that I’ve been met with frequently, but less advertisements overall would be fantastic. However, there’s a bigger problem than too many advertisements, and unfortunately it comes from the audience that’s still going to the movies.

Part of the reason the theatrical experience has become less favorable is because of rude patrons who somehow don’t understand the etiquette of sharing a movie theater with people. There’s loud, frequent talking from crowds. There are people who use their phone at full brightness as if they’re just on the couch watching a movie at home. The problem is that most major theater chains seem apprehensive about having a firm stance against this kind of rude behavior, unlike Alamo Drafthouse, who has a strict policy about no texting and no talking in theaters.

The theatrical distribution model will probably see some significant changes sooner than later, but we hope movie theaters get wise and start bringing some of the shine back to the silver screen experience.

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