Movie Theaters, Ticket Prices, and Streaming

AMC Theatres.

This week’s CinemaCon means that leadership from AMC Theatres and other theatrical chains are discussing ticket prices at movie theaters.

I feel like I write a variation of this piece maybe once a year. Tickets keep rising and it gets frustrating especially with inflation. Speaking for myself, I haven’t seen a substantial change in income in several years. At least, nothing that enables me to live comfortably. I ended the last year on a spending freeze

The rising costs of movie tickets will continue to prevent a substantial number of people from watching many movies per year. I mean, yeah, they could do A-List but that’s not always the case. I personally do not subscribe to A-List because of seeing the large majority of films ahead of time. However, there are times where I miss a press screening or they take place at the same time with no alternative option. Throw in streaming prices and it can be cost-prohibitive for many filmgoers.

There are a number of films that do manage to bring in a substantial amount of butts in seats. Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour are among them. Depending on franchise fatigue, the likes of Marvel and Star Wars can be reliable performers. Family friendly films from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar could perform better but they are hurting because of Disney+ training families to wait. But outside of the blockbuster films, how often will those people return to movie theaters? I hear it all the time in my circles–they might see five or ten films a year. My parents tend to go every weekend. They rarely see multiple films during a weekend, which means a substantial backup once we get to multiple films releasing each weekend during awards season.

Variety spoke with the leadership of both major and minor theatrical chains in the US. The following excepts are just about movie ticket prices.

AMC Empire 25, AMC Theatres
AMC Empire 25. Photo by Danielle Solzman.

AMC Theatres Chief Content Officer Elizabeth Frank on ticket prices being a factor:

Price is a factor for some, and price is a factor for some peoplesome of the time. We saw that for big new movies, our most frequent moviegoers were seeking out higher-priced formats and Saturday night screenings even though we offer a matinee value. We serve a broad audience of Americans. When you look at our loyalty program, more people have household incomes under $40,000 than people who have incomes over $120,000.

Santikos Entertainment CEO Tim Handren:

The cost of everything has gone up… labor, supplies. Nobody is in this business to not make money. We are continually experimenting, whether it’s the cost of movies or concessions. The question is how permanent to make them. It’s far cheaper than going to a sporting event or a Taylor Swift concert. 

Speaking to how things are locally, the increase in labor means opening later in the day. In pre-pandemic times, I would take advantage of Discount Tuesdays and go to a lunchtime matinee. That is, if I were to miss a press screening. The first showings of the day on the weekends used to be the cheapest at AMC. As such, I would almost always go to the movies during those showtimes. These days, not so much. In fact, I rarely see something outside of press screenings. Independence Day is one of the few days in which I do leave and see a movie. Otherwise, I would be spending the day doing absolutely nothing. But again, tickets are even higher now. I waited for the Taylor Swift concert to launch on Disney+ because I could not justify paying $19.99 for a ticket.

Outside of awards season, what I end up doing if I miss a press screening is wait for films to make their way to a streaming service because it can be very tight on my budget. If rumors are true that Hulu will no longer be comping press for their streaming service, I will probably have no choice but to drop Hulu from my streaming services because of price. That’s a shame but it should not be costing as much as cable for all the streaming services. A number of services will comp press but not all of them. I have already had to let one service lapse because of budget. People in my non-cinephile circle will cycle through the services depending on what they want to watch. At the same time, streaming services are also becoming more expensive as they start experimenting with advertising.

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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.