Joe Russo Is Not Wrong That Movie Theaters Are Expensive

(L-R) Anthony Russo and Joe Russo attend Netflix's "The Gray Man" Los Angeles Premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre on July 13, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Netflix)

The Gray Man filmmaker Joe Russo is not wrong when it comes to his recent comments that movie theaters are expensive.

The average cost of movie tickets keep going up and up. I remember a day when tickets were well under $10 for an evening showing and even cheaper for both matinees and the first showing of the day. Times are changing but increasing ticket costs is not going to help win viewers back during the pandemic. Moreover, the fact that the exclusive theatrical window is shrinking to 45 days means audiences are more likely to wait it out for a film to hit streaming. When it comes to bigger studio fare like Marvel, audiences will get to theaters as soon as they can. One factor in this is largely because of the spoilers that make their way online within hours. Otherwise, when audiences are trained to wait, they will. Blame the pandemic for shrinking the theatrical window.

I value the theatrical experience. There’s nothing better than getting to have this shared communal experience. But outside of the bigger studio films, the mid-majors seem to be giving up on theatrical press screenings. I can understand Amazon Studios sending out links for their films. Their films go straight to Prime Video and might have a theatrical release, too. They could use their money to develop a smart TV app for their feature film screeners. Moreover, Bleecker Street Films seems to have given up on theatrical press screenings as a result of the pandemic. I’m sorry but I’m not about to watch an almost 2-hour movie on my laptop to TV via HDMI cable and turn it into nearly three hours with the buffering. It isn’t fair to me or the filmmakers. What does it say when indie studios are only sending press screeners and not holding press screenings?!?

Both Anthony and Joe Russo were discussing their feelings in The Hollywood Reporter.

As the industry continues to find its way post-Pandemic, what is some ingrained thinking that you would like to see changed or shifted?

ANTHONY Everything. (Laughs.) I hate to be juvenile on that level. We love everything about classic cinema, but we’ve never been precious about that in any way, shape, or form. What has always excited us most is [the question], how do you move it forward? This is part of our philosophy in terms of not being precious about theatrical distribution. How do you get away from the old models? How do you reach audiences that haven’t been engaged before? That’s all the most interesting stuff to us.

JOE Auteur filmmaking is 50 years old at this point. It was conceived in the ’70s. We grew up on that. We were kids, it was really important to us. But we’re also aware that the world needs to change and the more that we try to prevent it from changing the more chaos we create. It’s not anyone’s place to reject the next generation’s ideas. We’re in crisis right now because everyone’s at war with each other. It’s sad to see, as guys who grew up loving film. A thing to remember, too, is it’s an elitist notion to be able to go to a theater. It’s very fucking expensive. So, this idea that was created — that we hang on to — that the theater is a sacred space, is bullshit. And it rejects the idea of allowing everyone in under the tent. Where digital distribution is valuable, other than what I said earlier about how it pushed diversity, is that people can share accounts; they can get 40 stories for the cost of one story. But having some kind of culture war about whether there’s value in that or not is fucking bananas to us.

The comments by the longtime Captain America and Avengers filmmaker came during the recent press tour for their new Netflix action thriller. Could I blame him? Certainly not. While I do not think that moviegoing is elitist just yet, he’s not wrong about tickets being “very fucking expensive.” I can see why Russo went with “elitist” since it’s a phrase that implies that somebody is rich. When you look at the dictionary meaning, it focuses on one being superior to another.

Let’s look at how much tickets cost in larger cities. An evening showing at an AMC theater in NY and LA costs nearly $20. In Chicago, the same ticket is just shy of $15. Take a smaller market such as a Cinemark Tinseltown theater in Louisville, Ky. and tickets come back down to earth at $11. Thank G-d for AMC’s Discount Tuesdays because the rising ticket costs are hurting the industry.

Take away press screenings, film festivals, and other press perks and I’ve only gone to the movie theaters four times since being vaccinated: The Lost City, Elvis, Lightyear, and a repeat showing of Jurassic World. I had promo codes or re-admit passes for three of the four films. Of the only one I had to pay out of pocket, I used my AMC Stubs rewards to take $5 off of the ticket costs. The good news for many movie lovers is that AMC recently brought back their Discount Tuesdays. Unfortunately, it’s for a limited time only. When I miss screenings, I tend to wait for Discount Tuesdays because they’re the affordable showings. Those days seem be a relic of the past.

I’m just one person and don’t even have an A-List subscription. The fact that my local AMC only resumed being open for longer hours only helps to an extent in going to the theaters. However, I’m not going enough outside of press screenings. The average cinephile might be going weekly but this isn’t the case for families with children. In many cases, a family of four is going to cost $40 or more and this is before you get to the concessions. The costs only increase for families with more children. It’s just way too much money to spend–it’s cost-effective to just wait for streaming. In other cases, they might leave their kids at home and hire a babysitter. Throw in all the extra costs and it’s no wonder that they might not be returning to pre-pandemic movie habits.

In short: Make Movie Theaters Affordable Again.

EDIT: The word that I initially focused on was “elitist” when I should have focused on “expensive.” This has been rectified. But the point still stands: it should not be “very fucking expensive” to attend a movie.

The Gray Man is now playing in theaters. Netflix will start streaming the film on July 22, 2022.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.