Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's up with movie tickets? The price, that's what!

Last week while doing research for How to Train Your Dragon I went onto Fandango to check out the times for the show, plus I had head some prebuzz about just how good the 3D was for the film. The film was showing in regular 2D, Real 3D and IMAX. Well, IMAX Lite as my local Regal Cinemas don't have the full size IMAX. Suprisingly the only place on Oahu to see IMAX is at the Polynesian Cultural Center and they show mostly enviromovies. My mouth dropped when I saw the prices.

For the privilege of seeing a film in 3D, my local theater was doing an up charge of $2.50 per movie. The price would fluctuate between an evening time and the matinee time in the late afternoon and earlier. For IMAX Lite, it was $15 regardless of the time of day. Regular movies were $8.25 for the matinee prices. I really couldn't tell you what the regular price of the movie was as I hadn't paid full price in a long long time. Over at Consolidated Theaters big Ward Center complex, I almost never go there. One of the reasons is that on the weekend they bump up the prices on all showings plus they don't have a rewards program.

SO, I thought I'd splurge and see the 3D version of Dragon. When I looked at the price on Fandango, my jaw dropped open. The ticket price had gone up to $12.25 from $10.75. A 14% increase in price, but when you look at where the increase was, it was the 3D up charge, now an extra $3.75 for seeing a 3D film. The regular matinee price is now $8.50 up $0.25 or a modest 3%. Seeing a 3D movie as compared to a regular movie is now 44% more expensive. The real shock is when you look at the up charge by itself. $1.75 is a HUGE increase when you consider that the old base was $2.50. In other words, they, meaning the movie companies, think that a 70% increase is OK. On top of that, they ask you to recycle the glasses and if you bring your own, you don't receive a discount for being environmentally aware. Bummer.

Now movies are fighting for IMAX lite and 3D theaters because they think people are willing to shell out extra money for the experience. I personally don't think in most cases that the 3D in the movie is really adding much. Most of the movies that are going 3D now are not shot in 3D with two cameras to create the stereoscopic images needed in order to produce the effects. Most of them are now shot with regular cameras and then post processed for the 3D effects. Personally, I would love to seem them invest in digital projectors. In the last two movies that I saw there were issues with the projection system. Many times I see movies on opening day at the first show of the day. This should be the pristine print. I can't tell you how many times I've had to get a hold of the manager to let them know about scratches in the film or there are color problems especially around the end of the reels.

In past depressions/recessions people flocked to the movies as a release. Same is happening now. After all, taking a family of 4 to the movies on a per person basis is cheaper going to let's say, a Disney park. But, when you add in the extras it still gets expensive and people would probably go to the movies more often than a Disney park. I didn't check the prices at the concession stand. The prices for snacks has been high for some time. I've found that if I don't eat before I go to the theaters that I have a tendency to purchase the food. Luckily where I go there is a five minute walk to the Costco. For $1.57 I get a really big hot dog AND a drink for less than anything that the theater has to offer. The only thing the same price is the flavored salts for flavoring the popcorn. Getting that beef or polish dog really hits the spot and keeps me from buying the expensive stuff! So the theater is not getting my concession money due to the cost of their food and most of the ticket price does not go to the theater.

Even though the prices are going up I don't want to give the theater any more money than I have to. Luckily for me, at Regal they have a loyalty program and with the price of the ticket now $8.50 they round up to give me 9 points instead of just 8. That allows me to get the freebie rewards sooner! When I get my free small soda, I pay $1.00 extra to move up to the large and for $1.50 the popcorn moves from small to large when I receive that as a freebie. Unfortunately, with the free movie ticket, they won't apply the cost of the free ticket against the cost of a 3D or IMAX Lite movie so if I ever want to see those movies, I don't have any discounts available.

Why did the price of the tickets go up? According to CNN and Wall Street Journal, after the success of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland the movie companies and theaters think that you're willing to pay out the extra money. But a 70% increase for 3D....that's a bit excessive in my book.

My suggestion to combat the rising prices is to let your local theater manager know. Also let them know that the rise of the ticket price has affected your ability to purchase any of the food from the concession. I don't know if this would work at your theater but at mine, inspection for items like soda and snacks are not conducted. Having said items in plain sight they will say something, but if in your cargo pants pockets or back packs or handbags make it in just fine.

I'm just sayin'.