The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Killing the golden goose: Exhibitors raise 3-D ticket prices sky-high

I heard this was happening last week, but I have to admit that I couldn't believe my ears. Why would exhibitors, now that people have been flocking to see movies in record numbers, largely thanks to the soaring popularity of 3-D movies, want to kill the golden goose by raising prices for 3-D films, some by increases as much as 26%?

According to an in-depth story in the Wall Street Journal, a 3-D Imax movie at New York City's AMC Loews Kips Bay will now cost $19.50, up from $16.50. At an AMC theater in Danvers, Mass., a Boston suburb, 3-D ticket prices are going up 20% from $14.50 to $17.50. Ticket prices at local L.A. theaters are also going up, often by at least as two extra dollars a ticket.

3d According to the Journal, prices will take effect today at many of the biggest theater chains across the country. Why the steep price hike? Exhibitors say that film tickets are a bargain. One exhibition vet that I spoke to said that, adjusted for inflation, ticket prices aren't much different today than they were in the 1980s. He compared that to the ticket prices for sporting events, in particular Major League Baseball and NFL games, which have skyrocketed in recent years, as have tickets for Broadway shows, which now average close to $100 a pop.

On the other hand, the business of overpriced Broadway tickets is hardly worth emulating, since Broadway theaters are littered with the corpses of shows that quickly opened and closed, unable to generate sufficient ticket sales at such steep prices. As for Major League Baseball, the top tickets have skyrocketed in price, but the lower-end tickets have remained relatively inexpensive, allowing for fans to still see a baseball game without having to mortgage their home. At Coors Field in Denver, for example, my wife and I took our son to a game and sat out in the center-field Rockpile bleachers when we had a few hours between plane rides. The total ticket cost? $9. We might have been far away from the action, but it cost us less than you'll pay to see "How to Train Your Dragon" this weekend, that's for sure.

For now, I suspect the prices will be accepted by most moviegoers, since we're still in the "shock and awe" phase of 3-D moviegoing. But if Warners' "Clash of the Titans' " quickie 3-D conversion turns out to be a bust and moviegoers start becoming more wary about the tidal wave of 3-D films rolling into theaters over the next year, I fear that the price hike will create a backlash.

In the long run, I think it's always better to have customers who think they're getting a great deal than customers who think they're being ripped off, even if the ones who think they're being ripped off are paying an extra 20% at the box-office window. After all, the customers who start believing that they're being ripped off are customers who won't be coming back as often.

But what do you think? Are you willing to pay another extra $2 or $3 to see a 3-D movie? Or are you going to be a lot more willing to pick and choose which films you see? Let me know in comments below.

Photo of 3-D moviegoers by Alex Berliner / Berliner Studios/BEImages.

 
Comments () | Archives (29)

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Most 3D movies play on 2D screens as well: That's where I'll be headed with these hikes! I saw Alice in 3D (my first 3D outing since Coraline) and it was nice, I guess...somewhat made up for the bland story, but at the end of the day 3D is a novelty not crucial to the enjoyment of most films. I won't shell out close to $20 to see cheapy conversions. If the film is actually filmed in 3D and it adds to the movie going experience (as I heard was the case with Avatar) then I might consider it.

This is a classic case of vendors jumping the gun and shooting themselves in the foot. They could have ridden this 3D wave out for a while and reaped the benefits at the current prices, but to raise them now will kill it's popularity. I'm 30, so going to the movies isn't putting a big dent in my pocket, but where do they expect kids taking their girlfriends/boyfriends on dates to come up with close to $40 for a movie outing alone? And to compare it to a sports game or live performance of any kind is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

But good, I hope this kills 3D because at last glance Hollywood is releasing everything on 3D in the next year or two (and most is faux 3D) just so they can glean the extra $3 we're already paying to see such films over their 2D counterpart.

Give me something worth watching in 3D and I will, otherwise Netflix works fine for me.

I will not watch anymore '3D' movies that were not filmed in real 3D. I will opt for non 3D if possible, if not I will not go to the theater and wait for the blue ray release.

Avatar worth the extra money. Alice in Wonderland, great movie, but fake 3D. They will not get me again.

Hell NO! The only IMAX 3D movie I've seen recently, really worth the price,
is AVATAR.

Will NOT pay more money for Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titan...etc. in 3D because I will see them in DVD at home. Nothing great about these refried movies...moneywood simply wants to take avantage of the 3D craze and is going to put out junk for a while.


Saw "Avatar" in 3D and, although I enjoyed it, didn't find the extra cost for the 3D, nor the uncomfortable glasses I had to wear, to be worth it. I'll stick with 2D until they figure out something really impressive...like extending the image on the sides and roof of the theater to totally immerse the viewer in the experience! Now that is something I might pay more for, well, at least if it still tells a good story!

Hell, no, I'm not willing shell out that much extra for the priviledge of getting a headache.

These guys have a lot of balls. 3D is in it's infancy. Even the best 3D movie ever made, Avatar, is primitive. Contrary to the hype, it is not an immersive experience. You are aware at every instance that you are watching 3D. When the 3D is so subtle that it's like 3D in everyday life, THEN maybe $20 bucks a ticket will be worth it.

But I'm not holding my breath. I won't be seeing ANY 3D movies anytime soon...unless James Cameron announces another major technilogical breakthrough. Maybe.

Even at $14.50 a pop, it makes me think twice ( maybe 20 times) before I choose what movie I will see, back then I would go at leas once a week, now, maybe twice a year ("The Dark Knight"), because I know for sure I'm being rip off, so I think that with the prices they charge at their concession I should be able to enter the theaters for free and get a free pass to Disney Land.

This price increase is absurd, at about 20$ a ticket. This movie goer would rather stay home and watch movies on Netflix. Better yet, I will spend 10$ on Dodger's tickets for less and have better entertainment. I hope others stand up as well, or else this increase will be the first of many.

I suspect I am like most folks. I watch as many movies as ever, but I watch many of them on DVD or On Demand. As I live in a town with a good rental store, Netflix isn't a valuable option for me -- tho many probably use this as an option as well. The movies I see, I tend to often see an early matinee for $6 or similar (for example, I did see Alice for $7.50 - and if I had been asked to pay more, or much more, I would have refused and waited to see the 2D version on DVD) -- I doubt, in the case of Alice -- or CLASH and many future "converted" movies that I will actually miss much of anything by not paying these prices. Some folks won't care about the premium, in this economy -- many will.

I'll put it this way. I was all excited to see How To Train Your Dragon . then someone told me they'd raise the 3D price (already?!?) and now I changed my weekend plans. I'll be seeing a regular 2D movie (just as thrilling if the movie is any good) instead. If I'm going to pay exorbitant prices I expect to see live actors sweating it out on the stage in front of me.

Absolutely higher ticket prices makes a difference to me! 3D is just the new CGI, emphasizing effects over story, plot & character development. And now studios want me to pay more for junk......

And they wonder why illegal downloading & piracy is on the rise.

 
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