A popular misconception about the movie theater industry is that fewer people are going to the movies and ticket sales are struggling. According to the website “The Numbers“, ticket sales for movies have remained pretty constant from 1995 (1.22 billion tickets sold) to 2013 (1.29 billion tickets sold so far) with a spike in sales in the early 2000’s. However the amount of revenue generated from ticket sales has nearly doubled from $5.29 billion (1995) in a year to $10.53 billion (2013 so far).
I’ve personally held a great love for the activity of “going out to the movies”. I love sitting in the darkened theater in front of a huge screen with powerful sound and the crowd of movie fans laughing when I’m laughing, cheering when I’m cheering and jumping from scares when I’m jumping. It’s an event and a fun escape with friends or even by yourself.
The two top movie theater companies in number of screens and locations are Regal Theaters, with over 7,000 screens and nearly 600 locations and AMC Theaters with nearly 6,000 screens at nearly 500 locations (as of December 2009 per the National Association of Theater Owners). I had decided to do a side by side comparison of the websites of these two national theater chains and show the differences in approaches to selling their services and providing information on their constantly changing selection.
On the main page of AMC Theaters, you can see the site was designed using a tab system and the company’s red and white color scheme with baby blue accents. A lot of white space is incorporated into the design with grey highlights separating each section. They also use a standard font for the tabs of the tabs of the hero image section that matches their logo. The primary navigation bar creates drop down menus when the cursor hovers over each tab. The hero image section has three primary tabs featuring the films currently showing, a section for advance tickets and another section for films coming soon. Each film is represented by the movie posters and when you hover your mouse cursor over the images the poster slightly enlarges and is clickable. Below that are additional tabs showing the current promotions available, such as upcoming movie marathons and any specials offered at the concession stand and at the bottom, the most recent movie-related news articles.
On the right sidebar, you can enter in your local zip code and select a favorite theater to show a constant listing of the films and showtimes for that day. A promotional image featuring an upcoming “Thor” movie marathon and a widget featuring recent AMC Theater-related tweets. The footer of the site contains all the corporate links and other assorted miscellaneous information.
Clicking any of the featured movie posters brings you to that film’s dedicated site with a summary of the film and a listing of the running time, genre, director, cast, release date, showtimes and what formats (IMAX, 3D, etc.) it is available in. The movie poster images offers a look at the film’s trailer when you hover the mouse over it. Below this information there is a widget collecting tweets directly referencing the specific film and to the right of that–a listing of all the latest movie news and showtimes at other nearby AMC theaters.
The design for the Regal Cinemas website has a strong grid-like structure featuring tiles and “blades” on their main page. The appearance gives it the feel of a website that was designed to be for tablets, but the design is not responsive to changes in size. The color palette for the site is red, black and gold with sans serif fonts and little white-space is used as the grid is tight with images and tiles.
There seems to be two different navigation bars on the main page with the first appearing at the top of the site with 4 choices of seemingly directed at a more business-centered client with selections for “About Regal, Investor Relations, Group Sales and Private Screenings”. The second navigation bar of the site are 4 large tiles in the shape of red and gold movie ticket stubs which are more directed towards the average consumer and allow you to browse the movies available, view the nearby theaters, get information on their “Regal Crown Club” loyalty program and purchase gift cards and/or get information on their corporation.
The hero image section is a collection of five blades that slide over each other in intervals of time. Below this, you can enter in your zip code and see a selection of films available in your area (represented as movie posters). On the right sidebar, you have 3 tiles that are clickable links to the latest deals at their concession stands, how to purchase advance tickets and gift cards. In the footer of the site, is the standard navigation panel for any and all additional information including corporate links, how to apply for job opportunities and their social media links to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Although AMC Theaters is the second ranking movie theater chain, I believe its website design is far superior and easier to navigate. Most of the same information is provided by both, but AMC seems to have a much more airy design to it where Regal has a lot more information neatly organized and tightly packed together. I believe Regal’s strength lies in the organization and ease of access to its information.
Individual Film Information
On the AMC site, hovering the mouse cursor over the film posters makes them slightly larger, but on Regal’s site, hovering the cursor provides a box of information including “rating, runtime, release date, cast, genre, links to “tickets & showtimes” and a link to the trailer for the film. This makes it quicker to reference important information that AMC requires you to click the link and leave the main page to collect.
The individual film’s page for Regal has a large video widget to watch the trailer for the film whereas AMC has the poster that contains a hover link to view it. Both contain a synopsis of the film but AMC includes the information such as running time, rating and cast on their page instead of the hover-link that Regal employs to allow you to stay on the main page. Both websites provide showtime listings with highlights of the showtimes that are still available; and they both offer sections for customer comments (AMC has a widget that provides “tweets”).
Overall, Regal’s individual film pages offer more information in sidebars for different offerings they provide, such as Bollywood films, Cinema Art, On-Screen Events and their “Summer Movie Express” program. Regal also provides a listing of the current top box office and how much they have made so far.
It is important, when providing a browsing experience for those who may know specifically what they want to see that you not make them travel across multiple pages when it’s not necessary. AMC Theaters has a sidebar on the main page that gives you a constantly updated listing of all the movies in your “favorited” theater location, whereas Regal requires you to click their “Explore Theaters” tile to leave the main page and see the theater listings.
I think most people already have an idea of what they are looking for, but sometime, they may simply be in the mood for a specific genre, such as a horror film or a comedy. While browsing AMC’s site, I could find no way to filter through their selections by genre. They have the genre listed in each film’s individual site, but no way to see only a listing for comedy films, horror films, etc. Regal does have this option when you click their “Browse Movies” tile in the navigation bar. You can filter the choices by release date, category and even by ratings (PG, PG-13, R, etc.), you can also change the view of the listings from poster icons to a more detailed text listing.
With all of the movie posters and large tiles and sidebar images and advertisements, I believe that the Regal Cinemas website can appear cluttered and even a little confusing. They employ a background image behind the main page, but it is not static and when you scroll down it disappears, leaving simply black bars on the sides. The background image is nicely made but it is unclear what it is advertising unless it is being viewed on a 1920 x 1080 monitor. I have a secondary 1440 x 900 monitor and the design of the images causes the text at the top left “Share the Love” to simply show up as “The Love” and the top left’s “Join the Club” to only show as “Join the”. The “Regal Crown Club” logo isn’t visible unless you scroll the window, and even then you can only see about 2/3 of it. It appears that Regal designed it specifically to be viewed on larger monitors at higher resolution. Scaling the website to a smaller size in the browser does not effect the content and in order to view it, you must “bar-scroll” over.
AMC Theaters, however, has employed responsive web design that allows the content to scale down and the content to shift according to the size of the window viewing it. This makes it much easier to view the content with various monitor sizes, tablets and cellphones (although both companies have separate downloadable “apps” available for their customers. In the area of design, I believe that AMC edges out its competition by designing with various alternate browsers in mind.
One aspect in which both websites were strikingly similar was in their use of grid structure. Both sites had their primary navigation on the top header area of the page with their main content in a large black are taking up approximately ¾ of the page on the left and both sites had sidebars on the right of the page with very similar footers on the bottom.