In the not-so-distant past, when you took a date to dinner and a movie, the dinner was the expensive part. But if you bought a so-called “Mega Ticket” to see Brad Pitt in "World War Z," you probably would have had to skip dinner.
Each “Mega Ticket” cost $50, which seems expensive even taking into account the extras: a poster, 3D glasses and a pre-order of a high-definition digital version of the film.
But if you believe George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg, the $50 movie is just the beginning.
“Going to the movies is going to cost you $50, maybe $100, maybe $150,” Lucas said at a recent panel discussion at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.
“Like Broadway costs today,” Spielberg interjected.
“Yeah, it’s like Broadway or going to, you know, a football game,” Lucas added.
Those prices are still a ways off. Nationwide, the average movie ticket is just under $8, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. But at the nicest theaters in big cities, it’s getting closer to $20.
Movie ticket prices keep rising, says USC professor Marty Kaplan, because theaters need to boost revenue at a time when audiences aren’t growing.
“They’ve used gimmicks like 3D and IMAX as one way to do it,” he says.
Some American theaters are also charging premiums for more comfortable seats. In Canada, the Cineplex chain is offering a “SuperTicket” for the premiere of "Pacific Rim."
“SuperTicket is actually the first ever bundle offering,” says Cineplex spokesman Mike Langdon.
Like the "World War Z" “Mega Ticket,” the “SuperTicket” bundle gets you a seat in the cinema as well as a download -- for $20 Canadian in addition to the ticket price. It’s a way for theaters to combat what may be the biggest threat to their business: the Internet.
The prospect of movie studios allowing customers to stream new releases on opening weekend, instead of going into a theater, is something theaters have resisted, according to USC’s Kaplan.
“They think that it cannibalizes their own revenue streams,” he says. “And they’re possibly right about that.”
If studios let customers stream movies on opening weekend, theater attendance is likely to drop. To make up for that lost revenue, theaters may have to raise ticket prices even more.