Some industry expressions are like adhesive plasters. In that category the one that I find most nettlesome is the one that insists it is a product-driven marketplace. On the surface it implies simply that the films themselves determine the size of the audience; the better the choices, the larger the size of the audience.
It appears to be a very simple truism. The problem is that it makes virtually no sense once you begin to dissect it.
For starters, it implies a kind of knucklehead logic. If film producers are not going to deliver good films or theatre owners will not play them, then they deserve to suffer the consequences. In other words, the implication is one of choice. The options are to either play good films or play bad ones.
The reality is that in much of the world, the neighbourhood multiplex is indiscriminate. It shows virtually every mainstream release available at that moment and sometimes a couple of alternative titles in the mix. Unlike channel surfing, people that go out to the movies do not opt out at the ticket booth. They have made a decision to see a film even if they have not quite decided which one in advance.
A study conducted by Coca-Cola about three years ago had among its conclusions the fact that going to the cinema is largely an impulse buy. Most viewers elect to go no more than 24 hours prior to buying a ticket and a majority of those people do not immediately know the movie they want to see.
The folks at Coke are essentially saying that it does not matter whether your movie theatre is showing Night At The Museum, Marie Antoinette or The Lives Of Others. The basic act has little relationship to the actual product for a great deal more than 50% of movie-goers. They are oblivious to the product-driven marketplace.
The thing that is really important to understand is that - and this also applies to theatre, concerts and sporting events - the audience or crowd plans to be entertained. They have put aside time and spent money to that end. They will probably like the movie and are more apt to have issues with traffic, the concession stand, incompetent staff or rude patrons.
If life were conducted in pristine lab conditions, patronage would be consistent 365 days of the year. Other factors contribute to why more people attend evening rather than matinee shows and audience size tilts toward the weekend. Job, school, family are - from an industry perspective - distractions. Theatre owners cannot lobby hard enough for more national holidays or longer vacations.
In that same lab, all film releases would have carbon-copy admission sales. The edge would come from having a particular title on the greatest number of screens. Distributors employ often crass advertising to get attention for product with the ultimate goal of creating sufficient noise to drown out all other voices.
The difference on an increasing basis, both generally and in regard to individual pictures, is the human factor.
One aspect is word-of-mouth, an element that over time supplants the ad assault. It is also the chief factor in getting people that do not generally go to the movies to reacquire the habit because left to the devices of film marketers, all that "driven product" looks like it is heading in the same direction.