Hollywood: Biting the Hand That Feeds It with Higher Box Office Prices
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Hollywood: Biting the Hand That Feeds It with Higher Box Office Prices

Or, for short, simply Hollywood Bites.  Can it possibly be true that in the middle of a long and dreary recession, with record unemployment figures, Hollywood is giving itself a RAISE?

During the years of the Great Depression and the long hard climb out of it, Hollywood movies, showcasing glamour that “regular” people could never hope to see anywhere else (well, not much has changed about that), and offering storylines that were uplifting at best or at the very least offered escapism to the beaten-down masses, movies became a welcome and reasonably-priced diversion.

Box-office prices have just taken a hike, about 4% for your run-of-the-mill movie, but about double  that increase for the current slough of 3D movies--over 8%.  IMAX is going for a 10% bigger bite.  AND, this comes at a time when even in the face of the recession, as more and more people lose their homes and jobs, overall box office sales for 2009 were up on average by 10%.

This is especially painful for families with children, particularly since the once-meaningful savings of attending an economical daytime matinee has shriveled up to an insulting pittance. New box-office prices of $10-14 per seat have families--and even couples--selecting one movie to see out two or three, and “waiting for video” for the others that are showing at the same time.  If you were thinking of refreshments, you can double the total, at least.  (Bring your own, and leave the wrappers on their floor.)

It occurs to me that this will now be one less “good clean fun” option for dating teenagers, many of whom don’t have  the typical “high school jobs” that were once available, as those are presently being manned by otherwise-unemployed adults. Unless their parents can “help them out” on date night, that keg party at the beach (or something worse) may become the best entertainment they can afford.

These elevated movie ticket prices may create a windfall in new subscriptions for Netflix, particularly since box-office runs are short enough that blockbuster movies usually become available within a matter of weeks.

With the conversion last year to HDTV, many households have already invested in basic cable packages that include many non-premium movie channels, as a more frugal means of family entertainment; and of course, if your package does include some premium channels and/or Pay Per View, their relative value for your entertainment dollar has now gone up in relation to the newly-inflated box-office prices.

Take the time to fully explore your cable package; some include children’s movies on demand, for free. If you have young children, it doesn’t matter if the movie is old as long as the entertainment is good; remember, it’s still new the kids.

And for heaven’s sake, if you find yourself unengaged by the latest box-office smash and shifting impatiently in your cushy, rocking theatre seat half an hour into a movie that stinks, go to the manager, demand your money back--and leave. Voting with our wallets is the only thing that seems to work.



© Katie Kay, April 4, 2010

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Comments (5)

Even matinees are no longer cheap. Used to be able to see a matinee for $3.00 but it's like $8.00 these days and $12.00 or more at night. Even the Indie theaters have raised prices.

I know! Would each actor really be that impoverished if they capped their pay at, say $10 million a film, and left the box office alone? Well, you can't get blood from a turnip. People's discretionary income is diminishing, and most of them are probably going to go for several dinners on the table instead a movie.

Very interesting and well said. Thank you Katie.

There's no current movie I absolutely have to see at those prices. True, movies did huge business during the Great Depression.

Thank you, Francois. To William - also, during the Great Depression, movies in general had an uplifting "moral to the story," some reason to allow the viewer to go home feeling better. The many dark, violent movies of today might provide some escapism if you like the genre, but I hardly think they put people in a better frame of mind.