The Empty Pocket Experience: The Price of Movie Tickets Reaches an All-Time High

I go to the movie theater about once a year. I do my research —  reading countless reviews based on the films I like. I narrow it down and choose one film that I desperately want to see and go all out. I get dressed up, buy my tickets in advance, show up early, get the largest container of popcorn and coke that is available and sit down for the amazing two hours. Why do I do this? Why do I only pick one film a year and milk it for all it’s worth? Because going to the movies is expensive. As a matter of fact, Deadline Hollywood reports that movie ticket prices are at an all-time high.

The same data shows that the average cost of theater tickets is $8.61. That means that an average family is spending $35 before they even get to the concession stand. In short, the price of movie tickets is completely outrageous and utterly ridiculous. The simple truth is that ticket prices are so high that many families have forgone going to the movie theater at all, putting many theaters in a catch 22 situation — their prices are too high, so people don’t attend as often, so the theaters raise their prices again to make up for it. The question is, why are the prices so high to begin with?

Because of the convenience of in-home streaming through services like Netflix, fewer people make the trip to the theater. Since their numbers and revenue are dwindling, theaters must compensate for this by raising prices. They don’t make much money at all from the ticket sales once all the royalties are paid off. As a matter of fact, research shows that a movie theater will make no income until the film has been out for over a week, so they raise ticket prices, but their real money comes from raising the price of concessions. This leads many individuals to stop purchasing concessions at theaters. Many have resorted to sneaking in snacks and many theaters have cracked down on such activity.

I love the movies. But the question we have to ask ourselves is: how much longer can movie theaters sustain themselves? With the price of tickets the highest they’ve ever been and continuing to rise, will we see a day when the price reaches a point that people won’t pay? Will the cost of going to the movies outweigh the experience you get?

Since many theaters have realized that moviegoers are paying for the experience more than the film itself, they are coming up with more innovative ways to capitalize on that fact while still bringing in revenue. A solution that seems to be rising to the top in popularity is to serve full, reasonably priced, meals during the feature. This adds an element of class to the movie-going experience. Other theaters have added old-fashioned style ice cream and soda shops into their lobbies for patrons to enjoy. Whatever the solution, it seems that although they may be scrambling, movie theaters are here to stay, and for now at least, the public is willing to pay cost for the benefit of a night at the movies.

Tim Martin

Tim Martin is from central Kansas where he briefly attended film school before coming to CCM. He grew up watching mostly silent films, classical cinema, and researching film history, Tim has a unique perspective on film for someone only 21 years of age, one that lends itself well to his roles as a writer and producer. When he’s not working, Tim enjoys reading, taking walks in the wood, and watching horror films.

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