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Cinema ticket prices: Should cost vary depending on the film? (Updated)

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July 2, 2013 by Craig Sutherland


Cinemas charge a flat rate for all films regardless of whether or not the film is a small independent or a massive studio production. Is this fair?

Would lower ticket prices on smaller productions give them a better chance of appealing to a larger audience? Furthermore, could a film like Avengers Assemble afford to charge a little more for it’s opening week and would people pay it?

Paramount pictures have invented a way to get people to pay top dollar to watch World War Z: The Mega Ticket, At $50 a pop, this provides an early screening in 3D at select theaters AND a digital download of the film once it hits retail. To quote a blog that said it far more eloquently that I could “Now, let’s not kid ourselves by acknowledging for a minute that $50 is a heck of a lot of money for a film that audiences have not decided they would even like yet. Sure, it also comes with a gimmick set of 3D glasses and a full-size, limited-edition poster…but what if you are a family. Are they seriously going to have to pay for multiple copies of a digitally-owned film? To that end there are significant questions as to whether this would be worth it in the end after alienating a significant chunk of the movie’s fanbase. The biggest question of course being whether or not this could be an effective ploy for every blockbuster out there.” (Source: screenfury.com)

With ticket prices the way they are (Odeon £9.30, Vue £7.80, Cineworld £8.80*) many people won’t risk a small indie film that they might not like versus a large production with good reviews. At the same time, Cinemas sell out many screenings of huge films like Les Miserables and The Dark Knight Rises.

Could it be a good idea to even things up a little? If cinemas had a tariff system in place for ticketing could it improve sales for smaller films, improve gross takings for blockbusters and increase cinema admissions overall? If brand new releases of  ‘Blockbusters’ cost close to £10 a ticket would you still get your ticket for it in the opening week? Similarly, if you were in the cinema on the off chance would you be inclined to see a small indie that had been out for three weeks that was the lowest tariff? (Something like 40% off newest releases)

Putting my cards on the table, I have a Cineworld Unlimited Card, I watch all the films I want for £15.90 a month and I get discount off food and drink and I get invited to preview screenings of films at least once a month. So, in reality, the price of a peak ticket has no real bearing on me but i still find it interesting and there are some people out there who are not blessed with a Cineworld on their doorstep.

I posted this question of ticket pricing on my FB page and got some interesting replies ”If you increased the ticket price for the big budget films, John Carter would have done even worse if you can imagine that…” -Jamie Hughes, This is a great point, Films that have a lot of money spent on them are not always guaranteed to be box office smashes and having a bad blockbuster in the highest tariff would impeded it’s performance even further. What and Who would actually decide if a film deserves Tariff One status? Would studios try to manipulate what tariff their picture falls into?

In the end it seems unusual that for decades theatres have set prices on the expected demand for a production based on critical response, how much the production costs and how long the production will run for but cinemas just charge the same for every film they show, they have cheap days and price reductions for matinees (Like theatres), but is this enough? Should we pay £8.40 for Avengers Assemble (Cost $220 Million) and Moonrise Kingdom (Cost $16 Million)?

Notes: *All ticket prices at peak time, right as of 02/07/2013, Cineworld offer tickets Discounted to £7.46 if booked online)

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