Would you pay $50 for a movie ticket?
Wait, before you answer, consider that you’d be able to see the film in theaters two days early and receive a digital copy once it reaches home video. You’d also get a movie poster, 3-D glasses and a small popcorn (sorry, no refillable buckets here). And if you’re the type to get thirsty, well, that’s on you. Is that worth fifty bucks?
Paramount and Regal Cinemas think so, and actually floated the concept in a handful of major markets last week by introducing the World War Z “Mega Ticket.” No telling how many fans jumped at the chance, but one online poll found that 86% of its readers wanted no part of this “premium entertainment experience.” Count me among them. Frankly, I find that most films aren’t worth the price we’re already paying. But some industry insiders are predicting that the future of cinema could indeed be a $50 ticket … or worse.
Earlier this month, mega-directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas spoke on a panel at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. They agreed that the motion picture industry, already battling to draw cinemaphiles away from their boffo home-entertainment systems and cheap snacks, is headed for an “implosion” that demands rethinking how they do business.
“What you’re going to end up with is fewer theaters and bigger theaters with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies will cost $50, maybe $100, maybe $150,” Lucas said. “The movies will sit in theaters for a year, like a Broadway show does, and that’s going to be what we call the movie business.”
If you find those prognostications a little scary, relax. This is the same guy who bet his future on Howard the Duck. With all due respect to Mr. Lucas, movies won’t sit in theaters for a year because, unlike live theater, the product never changes. It’s static. And over the past two decades, films have actually spent less time on the big screen. In this era of short attention spans and a restless media machine that needs constant feeding, the public has been conditioned to create big opening weekends, then move on to the next big thing. And if the next big thing isn’t coming from Hollywood, count on Netflix or Hulu to fill the void.
As for the fate of ticket prices, that’s entirely up to us. What if Hollywood released a $200 million tent-pole movie, charged $50 a head, and nobody came? The man with the big cigar might decide that filling more seats at $10 a ticket wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The movie-going public needs patience and resolve. If we take the bait, they’ll set the hook.
How will they do it? In addition to the World War Z mega-ticket bundle, Tinseltown is abuzz with revenue strategies. Among them is “tiered” ticket prices. As Spielberg suggested to the crowd at USC, soon we could pay $7 to see a movie like Lincoln, whereas a more in-demand seat for an Avengers sequel could cost $25.
Meanwhile, Worldwide Motion Picture Group CEO Vincent Bruzzese told Entertainment Weekly, “You can value tickets differently in terms of [charging] more for an opening-weekend ticket than for a second-weekend or third-weekend or fourth-weekend ticket.”
Would you take the bait? In the end, what are you willing to pay for a movie ticket? And if Hollywood changes its strategies, how will you change yours?