Ever gone to see a movie and felt like you were practically the only person in the theater? Those empty seats are a big and growing problem in the cinema world. About 5.5 billion movie seats go unsold every year in the U.S. and Canada, which is four times the number of tickets that actually do sell. Multiplexes have expanded to huge stadium seating models with tons of screens showing films many times a day, yet overall attendance is decreasing with Millennials more likely to ‘Netflix and chill’ than ‘dinner and a movie.’
Santa Monica-based Atom Tickets is among a wave of start-ups hitting the scene to try to address the issue, reports the LA Times. The service, launching this weekend in the LA area as well as Atlanta and Nashville, offers app-based purchasing for cinema tickets with benefits like the ability to organize a group to schedule a movie outing, book seats together, pre-order snacks and pay individually, all in one system.
Atom will also offer users recommendations based on preference data that it collects, from genres to locations to what days and times a customer likes to go to the movies. Initial tests in smaller markets show they saw a 10 percent increase in ticket sales. That is good news for Atom—and for the company’s investors and partners which include the likes of Walt Disney Co, Lion’s Gate Entertainment and the Regal and Landmark cinema chains.
The next goal for Atom is to offer dynamic pricing within the app. That might mean lower prices after a film has been out longer or discounts for big groups. These types of discounts are pretty new to the cinema business model and may take time to roll out, but the founders say it’s what their customers have come to expect. Much like how hotels and airlines now use discounting sites to fill in unused inventory, you might soon be able to snag cheap movie tickets so that the theater isn’t on the hook for showing a movie to a mostly-empty room.
To encourage new users to sign up, Atom is currently offering a limited number of free movie tickets to early-adopters who download the app.