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My sticker shock: Sixteen bucks for a movie, and it wasn't even in 3-D

June 2, 2010 |  2:01 pm

SOLITARYMAN

I went to see "Solitary Man" on Sunday afternoon at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood. As it is a small release (Millennium Films and Anchor Bay), I didn't bother buying the tickets in advance. Instead, I took my chances and figured I'd buy them at the theater.

As expected, the show wasn't sold out. What surprised me was the $16 ticket cost. This was an adult drama, after all, not some 3-D action-franchise-sequel aimed at teens. Evidently, I was going during "peak viewing" times (5:30 p.m. on a Sunday) -- as someone at the kiosk next to me explained when I verbalized my surprise -- and the ArcLight charges more for that privilege.

Arclight According to the ArcLight website, it charges extra to see movies on Friday and Saturday after 6 p.m. and all day Sunday. The price increases vary by neighborhood. In Hollywood, seeing a movie costs $16.00 in peak viewing times, while in Sherman Oaks and Pasadena, the peak charge is $14.50.

One of the perks of the ArcLight is getting to choose your seat, no commercials and limited coming attractions. Paying a few extra bucks for that is, in my opinion, worth the price of admission. But an additional charge to watch a movie on a Sunday afternoon -- a movie that attracted all of about 25 other customers -- strikes me as excessive. 

Theaters have long charged less for matinees and early morning screenings, but charging a higher ticket price to watch a movie in the film-going equivalent of prime time is a newer and less consumer-friendly trend.

One has to wonder how long it will be before other theater chains that don't provide ArcLight's amenities  adopt a similar pricing strategy. In Washington, D.C., the subway costs more to ride at rush hour than at other times. Parking meters cost more in some cities during high-traffic periods. Why shouldn't the movie industry operate the same way? Heck, why not even start setting ticket prices based on the budget of a movie?

One reason theater owners and Hollywood should think hard before going further down this road is that it gives people just one more reason to stay home. At a time when theater operators are worried about movies popping up sooner on DVD and video-on-demand and thereby undercutting ticket sales, making it costlier to go out to the local multiplex seems ill advised. We go to movies to escape the day-to-day drudgery of life, and that should include not being subject to silly surcharges.

By the way, the movie was good, but not $16 good.

-- Joe Flint

Photos: Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon in "Solitary Man." Credit: Phil Caruso; ArcLight by Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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