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3-D movie boom leading to 3-D ticket price hikes

March 24, 2010 |  4:27 pm

3DWenders With 3-D movies such as "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" burning up the box office, theaters are betting that consumers are willing to shell out more to put on glasses to see "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Clash of the Titans."

Analyst Richard Greenfield of BTIG surveyed 10 theaters in different major cities across the country and found that, on average, they are raising ticket prices for 3-D movies by 8% this weekend. The price of a movie in 3-D on large format Imax screens is going up even faster, rising an average 10% for adults and 12% for children.

2-D ticket prices, meanwhile, are going up 4% on average for adults and 3% for children.

The average surcharge to see a movie in 3-D is now $4. For Imax 3-D, it has gone up to nearly $6.

Although BTIG's survey is not nationwide and includes only major metro areas and not small towns, it's a clear sign that, despite the economic downturn, movie ticket prices continue to rise, with 3-D leading the way.

"Avatar" has grossed more than $737 million domestically so far and generated more than 80% of that revenue from 3-D-equipped theaters. "Alice" has taken in more than $270 million and did about 70% of its business from 3-D-equipped theaters on its opening weekend. Imax screens have proved even more lucrative for both movies than regular-sized digital 3-D screens.

Greenfield estimated that about one-third of the 10% rise in box-office revenue so far this year is due to higher prices for 3-D movies, and two-thirds is due to higher attendance.

"How to Train Your Dragon" this Friday and "Clash of the Titans" next weekend are the third and fourth 3-D event movies, respectively, in a growing wave coming to theaters this year.

--Ben Fritz

Photo: Director Wim Wenders wears 3-D glasses at the premiere of his short film "The Flight" in Italy on March 19. Credit: Fabio Campana / EPA.