Been to a movie in 2009 yet? Better bring the debit card or a little extra cash. As our economy continues a slow grind to lethargy, theater owners and the corporate executive offices that control them are raising ticket prices. Time to do some shopping and maybe a bit of rethinking if you're enough of a movie fan to be concerned.
On a recent trip to the movies here in frost bound NJ, a trip to see Doubt in a badly maintained and not-so-state of the art movie theater (a 12-plex) cost each ticket buyer $10.75. Aside from being up by about a buck over a few months ago, that price turns out to be one of the highest in the area. A quick scan at Fandango revealed an average evening ticket varying from 10 bucks to the $10.75 I forked over on Saturday night. For those keeping score, the lowest of three major theater chains I checked was Lowes, averaging $10., Regal came in 2nd at $10.25 and Reading was the culprit - with the $10.75 price, the not so great sound & picture, and the dirty, sticky floors thrown in as a bonus. Forget the snack bar, of the four of us, no one paid a visit.
A year ago, reports were being published that the price of corn (of all things) was pushing up the price of a movie ticket. Not so incomprehensible when you begin tracing out the chain of profit for theater owners. The snack bar, both a traditional source of profit for the theater and piracy for the customer, was credited with keeping those ticket prices down. Whoops... Willie Nelson fills up his pickup with bio-fuel, farmers begin selling off acres of crops for ethanol and theater owners are paying more for popcorn. Guess what? They'll make it up on the ticket. (You'd think those $4 cokes would do the trick.)
Now, with the economy tanking, studios want a bigger cut to cover expenses, theater owners have to cough up more money for more weeks with each new release and... guess what? They'll make it up on the ticket.
Without getting into the dream that 3D will descend from the entertainment heavens and somehow so dazzle audiences that they won't see the extra two or three bucks added on an already rising price, let's just stick to the cold two-dimensional reality for now. A consumer/seller rule of thumb... when you don't feel like you're getting what you paid for, you stop buying. The important part of that last line? - the . As in period, end of story.
Here's a fact colder than hard cash... I can buy a DVD new release, practically anywhere without benefit of sales or promotions, for $19.99, less than the price of two movie tickets. Kick in new release Tuesday sales and that price drops to $14.99 to $17.99. Go online for a digital download and you're at $14.99 to as low as $9.99. Chuck owning for renting and you're at $3.99. Get extravagant and rent in HD for $4.99. Take a date to the movies, let alone take you're family, and this math gets brutally simple. And the brutal side starts to fall squarely on theater owners, who right about now are looking as ignorant as they look greedy.
This stuff's been discussed before. If you want to compete with home video, 50 inch flat screens and living room surround sound, not to mention all of the great ways to make gourmet popcorn right out of the microwave, you've got to deliver value for your ticket price. No matter what that price needs to be. It's amazing how quickly the above argument disintegrates when the theater is completely state of the art, crystal clean, stocked with smiling staff, fresh gourmet coffees, reasonably priced candy and plush roomy seating. Yeah, 3D will be fun but let's not forget the basics. Get your act together. We love going to the movies but we'll be the one of the first to jump on the soapbox to tell you to shutter your doors if you think for a minute your audiences are anywhere near as dumb as your next Adam Sandler movie. In the meantime, you should be thinking about lowering, not raising prices.
Think the last movie you saw at a theater was worth the price? Is going to a movie anywhere near the value of buying or renting DVDs? Will digital rentals close theaters? Will 3D save the day? This and more as Moviedozer Dailies continues into 2009. As always, let us know what you think.