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Big screen just doesn't draw some

Box office revenue down as people balk at costs and find other entertainment

Box office revenue down as people balk at costs and find other entertainment

August 07, 2005|By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Even when it rained George Strine, 64, of Shippensburg, Pa., didn't go to the movie theater - an activity he usually saves for a rainy day.

This summer's box office slump continued last weekend with the release of "Stealth," which flew so low under the radar many people didn't see it.

Strine didn't make it to the movie theater during recent rainy days because he and his wife had company.

They've also been traveling, to Washington, D.C., Lancaster, Pa., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The last time they recalled going to the movie theater was to see "Because of Winn-Dixie" and "Sideways," the latter after it was nominated for an Academy Award, his wife, Anette, said.

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"Sideways" grossed her out, she said. "I thought it was a comedy. After we saw it, I thought it was a tragedy."

After seeing a trailer for "Sideways," she thought it would be a golf movie, but it was "about wine country and cheating before your wedding day."

While they enjoyed "Winn-Dixie," Anette Strine said she has been disappointed in the quality of the trailers or previews.

"You get hyped up for the movie and it's not what you expect," said Strine, 62.

There also hasn't been much out that appeals to the couple, she said. She is interested in seeing "Wedding Crashers," starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn.

Ann Brown said she goes to the theater less often during the summer.

Instead she's been doing more outdoor activities such as cookouts, getting together with friends and vacationing.

"During the summer months, we've noticed there (are) not as many good movies as during fall and winter," said Brown, 43, of Hagerstown. "For a whole summer, there's not a big variety."

Perhaps that's because the movie industry thinks people spend more time outdoors this time of year, said Brown, who last visited a theater to see "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."

People might be watching fewer movies because it is summer so they're doing more outdoor activities with their families, said Jesse Costello, 50, of Hagerstown.

That and a lack of enticing movies is why he has been to the theater less, said Costello, who enjoys biking.

Before seeing "War of the Worlds" with his son recently, it had been about six months since Costello had been to a movie theater, said his wife, Diane.

If that seems like a long time to go without seeing a movie in the theater, his son, Allen, hadn't been to the theater since "The Day After Tomorrow," released Memorial Day weekend 2004.

"I used to go a lot, like every weekend," said Allen, 16. Instead he's been hanging out and likes water sports.

"I thought going to the movies was overrated. Everybody goes," he said.

His father also thinks there are too many remakes, such as the recently released "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

He'd prefer something original.

Comfort of home

Several people are still watching movies, but they're doing it at home.

Jennifer Rude, 28, of Falling Waters, W.Va., rents movies.

In addition to having twins and another baby on the way to keep her busy, Rude said it's gotten expensive to go to the theater.

"Since it topped $8 to go to a movie, I haven't really been interested," she said.

Rude, who enjoys comedies and family movies, said she doesn't feel like she's missing anything because DVDs and VHS tapes are released so much faster.

Floyd Keadle, 20, likes to watch comedies on DVD on his home-theater system.

"I used to go to movies every week, every Friday and Saturday," said Keadle, of Falling Waters, W.Va. "My friends say they used to go. They don't go anymore either."

Darlene Montgomery, 64, of Hagerstown, watches movies on DVD at home because the DVDs come out so quickly and the theater is so expensive.

Just the food for four people was $35, she said.

"But you enjoy the theater experience more because of the surround sound," Montgomery said.

This isn't movie money

Tammy Nesbitt, 40, of Mercersburg, Pa., said her family still watches movies in the theater, but, instead of going to the bigger movie complex at Valley Mall, they go more often to the Star Theatre in Mercersburg because it's more affordable. A family of four can go there for $20 in tickets.

The Nesbitts used to see a movie whenever they came to the mall, said her son, Dale, 13.

Tammy Nesbitt said they also would eat dinner at the mall. Now they eat at home on movie nights.

"By the time we were done, we'd spend $100 for an evening whereas staying in Mercersburg cost $20," she said. They save on gas, food and ticket prices.

Wanda Ditch, 49, of the Cascade area, goes to the theater less often because of the cost.

"I think it's ridiculous, the price of the movies for the kids. It makes it difficult for a young guy to take a girl out," Ditch said.

Her family also has pay-per-view and rents movies from Blockbuster so they can watch movies at home with surround sound.

Something better to do

Arika Neal, 12, of Thurmont, Md., and Shawna Jordan, 12, of Hagerstown, have been spending much more time swimming in their grandmother's new pool this summer than watching movies in the theater.

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