Even today, when we can watch movies on our iPhones while we're on the bus or order DVDs and videos on demand right from our sofa, we still like to get out of the house and sit in a dark room with upwards of 100 other people to see the latest films on the big screen. But have you ever really thought about how movie theaters work? If you haven't and you find that you are now curious, just read the rest of this article on the basics of the big screen.
One appeal of the big screen is that most movies that studios hope to make money on are released in movie theaters before they appear on your video on demand lists. This helps bring people out of their homes to see it because they're too excited to wait. Once there, the theater wrings everything they can from the patron, including charging exorbitant prices for concessions and advertising all movies that are coming soon in the hopes that they'll come back.
Each theater receives its films on reels in big metal cases from the studios. Often they are labeled falsely, such as "Johnny Searches for Money" to disguise big name movies that might entice people to steal them in transit. When they arrive at the theater, the projectionist loads them onto the projector, which uses a light to shine through the cells on the reel, which creates a huge version of the tiny photo on the screen below in the theater. With an IMAX movie, special projectors are used that accommodate the larger film size.
3D movies are different too. They require a special projector that switches back and forth between images for the right eye and images for the left eye by repeatedly reversing the polarization of the light image coming through the projector. To view a 3D film, special glasses with the correct polarization must be worn or the image will look as blurry. Because of these special needs, 3D films generally cost about $3 more per ticket.
Even though most theaters charge upwards of $11.50 per ticket, most of them don't make much money off of these films. Most of the ticket money goes to the studios that made the films, which leaves theaters to make their money on advertising (such as letting companies like Coke use their projectors and audiences for advertising) and concessions, which have a huge markup.