In the earlier days of movie-going, audiences were accustomed to sitting in lavish “movie palaces,” complete with velvet plush chairs and an in-house organist. In the late 1970s, the multiplex concept came into being. Theater owners realized they could reap more profit from a single building showing several movies at one time than from one building showing one movie. Movies were not released as often as in previous decades either, so showing several different movies kept audiences from becoming bored.
The first multiplexes showed perhaps four movies at once, and were considered quite innovative. Then, the six, eight and ten-theater businesses became more common. The single-movie theaters were often forced to close, or reinvent themselves as performing arts centers or classic/independent movie houses. This did have the added benefit of making independent movies more widely available, but was still hard on the proprietors, since their profit margins are smaller.
As time went on, this type of theater was often considered a major anchor at large strip malls with “big box” stores. Large chain restaurants are also often recruited for these kinds of shopping centers, along with other retailers, creating a one-stop shopping experience.
The multiplex has also moved far beyond the classic popcorn and candy concessions. Some theaters now serve full meals and have open bars in VIP lounges. They have installed stadium seating so every customer has an unobstructed view of the screen. The new theaters are also likely to have a state-of-the-art surround sound system, digital projection, and a host of other technological goodies designed to enhance the viewing experience. Customers can often buy their tickets at an outside kiosk, using credit or debit cards, without ever having to stand in line. Online ticket sales are even available, so customers can either print out their tickets for a particular show time, or pick them up at the counter or kiosk. The idea has blossomed into the megaplex as well, which may involved theaters with over 20 screens in one building.
While the multiple screen idea has essentially taken over modern movie-going, the drawback is that most of these theaters are part of large corporations that have contracts with the major studios to run certain films. Independent films are not usually on the marquee. Sometimes, an independent film with some “A” list stars will generate enough attention to be picked up by one of the major distributors, or the film will win a few awards, which will also guarantee wider distribution, but these are rare cases.
The multiplex is a good place to see a popular movie on the big screen. They make the most of technological advances in filmmaking and film projection and usually allow the audience to see the films under the ideal circumstances.