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David Poland

By David Poland

Are Ticket Prices Soaring?

Crazy Nikki has been headlining “Movie Ticket Prices Are Soaring” for days now… which someone must have told her and which she clearly didn’t bother to look into at all.
The ticket increases, which seem to be limited to a small number of theaters and to a $1 increase, seems to be a minor story that is being hyped by a hyper. There does seem to be a story in some increases in the cost of popcorn at the theaters… based on increases to the cost of corn.
Specific inaccuracies –
1. “Movie theaters are raising ticket prices by a dollar or two this summer because popcorn is more expensive. “
In the Kansas City Star, Robert Butler is reporting that there will be $1 increases in tickets… after 4p on weekends… from $9 to $10. In his piece, he says the increase is, “partly because of the rising price for popcorn,” but there is no specific about cause-and-effect. Butler confusingly connects a March LA Times story on popcorn price issues with ticket sales, even though AMC specifically denied the correlation on the record.
I can find no reference anywhere to any $2 ticket increases. And keep in mind, the studios have a vested interest in keeping prices sane, even though 55% of that revenue is theirs.
A USA Today story on increases in corn costs included AMC, but didn’t mention ticket price increases at all.
2. “The profit margins at theaters which rely on concession sales for as much as 45% of their revenue are desperate to make up the difference.”
Same as it ever was. Gross revenue, however, is irrelevant at a theater. In terms of net revenue, concessions are more like 80% of the net. Perhaps the 45% figure comes from the percentage theaters keep from ticket sales.
3. Also, major theaters in cities are starting to charge the same for children as adults.
This has been an issue for years. As reported in USA Today , Clearview Cinemas in Manhattan dumped children and senior pricing last year, which raised those tickets to the adult price of $12 from $8… but they also report that the decision was reversed and the $8 ticket is back for seniors and kids.
You will not find many theaters that do not offer senior and children’s pricing… and when they do not, it is usually on weekend evenings.
Of course, the rise of popcorn prices by 25 cents isn’t much of a story. And the annual summer raise of prices by 25 cents or 50 cents has been going on for more than a decade.
As far as I can tell, there has been no change of ticket pricing in Los Angeles, for instance, where it’s still $12.75 at The Grove, still $10.75 in Culver City, and still just $11.50 for AMC’s Century City multiplex.
The spin from Nikki on all of this is, “The result is that Indy 4’s totals, and Paramount’s bragging rights, can surely benefit even if it does hurt the finances of filmgoers who increasingly feel ripped off.”
Utter bullshit. Even assuming a uniquely high average ticket price for this weekend’s blockbuster release, a $1 increase in ticket prices would only lead to an increase of under $15 million to the weekend total.
This spin was likely placed there by someone other than her pal Brad Grey… someone at another studio that wants to devalue the Indiana Jones success…. like someone who might be worried about a certain web-slinger losing position on the history charts. That’s not happening, of course. Indy will fall short of those numbers. But all is spin in war and movies.

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13 Responses to “Are Ticket Prices Soaring?”

  1. Oddly enough, the price of tickets in LA for regular theatres (AMC, Regal, etc) has gone up enough to the point where it’s actually the same $11.50 to catch a weekday evening show at the Sherman Oaks Arclight as at the local AMC Burbank (AMC Woodland Hills is stil $10.50). Even on a weekend, it’s only a buck more.

  2. doug r says:

    Could we all remember that each Indy movie made about $200 million? $300 million is very reasonable.

  3. cheaplog says: published an article a few days ago, with some more facts, apparently based on a study by “Ricard Gil, a University of Santa Cruz economist who studies the business”. Mr. Gil claims that “You’re going to see a one- to two-dollar increase in the price of a movie ticket. And that’s being conservative”.

  4. Tofu says:

    My AMC has raised prices this weekend from $8.50 to $9.00 for general admission, and discontinued student ticket pricing altogether.

  5. movielocke says:

    Dave I’d love to see you run the numbers on the myth that ethanol is causing rising food prices (fact: food is transported, and the increased cost of transporting food great distances is what is causing the rise in food prices.) Corn derived ethanol is a tiny section of the corn marketplace (and this is feed corn we’re talking about, not niche consumer markets like sweet corn and popcorn, and they are niche because they are so very very tiny in comparison to the amount of corn grown for other purposes) and the corn processed for ethanol is still kept in the food chain as distiller’s grain, a highly prized high protein feed. Additionally corn derived ethanol is merely a stop gap until the much more profitable cellulosic ethanol plants come on line, starting with, iirc, the one in Macon Missouri this summer.
    Corn based ethanol isn’t causing deforestation in brazil, the logging industry is, they log because it is profitable, oppurtunistic farmers move into clearcut areas after them and plant with soybeans until the soil is depleted for that crop, they move on and other farmers move in and plant corn, but the logical jump that because deforested lands in brazil are eventually planted with corn therefore rising corn prices in the US (due to ethanol) are to blame is foolish and assumes the brazilians are economically stupid (clearcutting just to plant corn) it’s much more complicated than that, correlation doesn’t mean a causation is present.
    food prices are rising because fuel prices are rising. fuel prices are rising because there is greater demand in addition to the bush administration’s policy to pursue a weak dollar with fed rate slashing.

  6. lazarus says:

    And the Vista still has $5 matinees, and evening shows for $7 or $7.50, right? With no commercials?
    Yeah. Enjoy your gourmet theatres.

  7. LexG says:

    Vista’s eight at night, but, yeah, it rules.

  8. Feathers McGraw says:

    Remember in the last recession (early 1990s), when theater chains helped boost viewerships by offering things like twilight prices (for the poorly attended weekday late afternoon shows) for bargain-savvy moviegoers? I think they’re making a big mistake by going in the opposite direction this time around, especially with people getting squeezed by gas prices.

  9. christian says:

    The New Beverly is SEVEN DOLLARS.
    Get more out of life — go out to a movie!

  10. jeffmcm says:

    20% of the corn crop is going to ethanol. That means there’s an increased demand for the product = higher prices.

  11. LexG says:

    Tangentially related to rising prices:
    The other day I got caught up reading reviews of area theaters on Yelp. You know what the most common comment is from lay moviegoers in their reviews of theaters?
    Not bad audience problems, texters, talkers, projection issues, customer service mishaps, or even, really, ticket prices.
    No, the number one comment that recurs is TASTE OF POPCORN. Seriously, check out reviews on Yelp or similar sites. All Joe Six-Pack Moviegoer seems to care about is the freshness of the fucking popcorn.
    If there are, say, 100 reviews of a given movie theater, like 90 of them will feature a remark to the tune of “the popcorn was/wasn’t yummy.”
    And the seeming second most common was comfort of the seats.
    “The popcorn was yummy and the seats were comfy.”
    Putting aside the fact that anyone who uses the words ‘yummy’ or ‘comfy’ oughta get their clock cleaned, that’s what we’re dealing with.
    The majority of people who go to movies are just killing time and looking for a particularly tasty bag of popcorn and a cozy seat.

  12. Occasionally when my friends and I have a DVD night we’ll drive to the cinema (it’s only 10 minutes away) on our way home from the Blockbuster and buy popcorn. Because we can, and that powdered butter stuff they use is impossible to replicate at home.
    Also, it feels strangely naughty to be doing it. And then it just makes watching Raise Your Voice or Bring It On 4 just that much more palatable.

  13. RyanK says:

    The cost of popcorn rising forcing ticket prices up is a crock. If your movie theatre sells those plastic pails of popcorn, usually printed with the latest blockbuster key art on the side, the cost of that bucket of popcorn for the movie theatre is approximately 12-15 cents. The bucket is paid for by the studio promoting the film, and the popcorn itself is 12-15 cents.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon