The Death of the Ticket Stub

I am one of those pack-rat weirdos that keeps all of his ticket stubs. I have kept every movie stub since summer 2004 (16 years old). I enjoy stubs for the same reason music buffs enjoy vinyl cases: when you touch something, the memories flood back. When I review my stubs, I remember who I saw the film with and my reaction to it. If asked without stub in hand, I probably couldn’t tell you. I see so many movies that most of them disappear into the depths of my head.

My friends, the ticket stub is dying. Most of my favorite theaters, including the ArcLight and Landmark chains, have largely surrendered ticket-grade stock in favor of cheaper receipt paper. Like normal cashier receipts, the ink fades quickly. I can’t read half the stubs collected last year. As if to crush my heart further, ArcLight’s new stubs don’t even have perforated edges: the takers rip the paper down the middle, leaving you with a half-torn memento and broken dreams.

Look, I appreciate the cost of quality stock and the financial decision to downgrade. Selling thousands of tickets a day, that novelty expense hurts the bottom line. And I’m sure someone can even make an environmental case for lighter paper. But it makes me sad.

Before long, theaters may not print stubs at all. There is a huge push for mobile ticketing. Near field communication technology and supporting software like Google Wallet are looking to turn your smartphone into your wallet, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards, and ticket stubs. While I find this trend very exciting (and very much look forward to having an app document every movie I see so I do not have to anymore), I mourn the death of the ticket stub. I will have less than a decade of stubs to share with my children before ticketing moves into the cloud. After that, who else cares? There’s nothing novel about a digital list.

Film Friday: Power to the Theaters

A Certified Fresh logo.In the good ol’ days, content was king. Producers and publishers thrived off of the complexity, scarcity, and cost of generating and distributing entertainment. Very few people could publish a book, record an album, or produce a theatrical feature film. Times have changed. Through the commodification of consumer production tools and publishing platforms, content generation and distribution are easier than ever. The result? Far too much noise. Public discourse is completely cluttered by personal voice. To whom should you listen?

Ears and eyeballs are in high demand. Seth Godin said, “We don’t have an information shortage; we have an attention shortage.” Content is no longer king. Attention is king. Those who command the respect of the masses command the value of entertainment product. Content Producers are less powerful than ever. Content Curators, like companies and critics who drive discoverability and promote entertainment traffic, are taking the cake. Warner Bros. demonstrated a progressive value in discovery platforms through the purchase of Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes. Systems like Netflix, Pandora and YouTube that navigate consumers through targeted entertainment are dominating the market. As the library of public content continues to grow, so too will the value proposition of these companies.

Platforms are the near future. Traditional theaters need to wake up and smell the opportunity. As it stands, film exhibitors are little more than the leashed pets of the movie business – completely at the whim of their masters. If theaters take liberties to curate, program, and leverage alternative product against the studios, their value to the average consumer will increase tenfold. The quality of entertainment will increase, revenues will increase, and cultural sophistication will increase. Theater owners know their communities well and should play an active role in curating entertainment. Curator Exhibitors (theaters) need to earn the respect of local audiences by consistently screening top-notch entertainment and communitizing outside Hollywood.