$50 Movie Tickets?


 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?

Who wrote this?

Senior Editor for PLUGGEDIN.COM. In addition to hosting the weekly "Official Plugged In Podcast," Bob also writes reviews, articles and Movie Nights discussion guides, and manages areas of this website. He has served at Focus on the Family for more than 20 years. Since 1995, Bob has penned "High Voltage," a monthly column that answers children's entertainment questions in Clubhouse magazine. He has co-authored several books, including Chart Watch, Movie Nights, Movie Nights for Teens and, most recently, The One Year Father-Daughter Devotions. Bob is also co-host of "The Official Adventures in Odyssey Podcast."

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Katarina Rorstrom More than 1 year ago

--This also seems to kinda spoil the notion of going to the movies with someone for the average person as well, especially families. Why would we want more than one digital copy if we were a couple or a family? The local movie theater here has finally thought a bit and lowered movie prices to bring in the numbers, and it's working!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

--Can't see that working for all movies, but for select ones, say The Hobbit, the next Star Trek film, Disney's first Star Wars movie, etc. It would be a fun experience for true fans of the franchise to get together, perhaps it could be treated like a mini convention?  

Mike Theemling More than 1 year ago

--Let's do the math here:

- Regular movie ticket: $9

- 3-D glasses and extra effects: $3

- Digital Copy (essentially the same as getting a DVD): $20

- Move poster: $7 (assuming a smaller version)

- Small popcorn: $5

Total: $44

So basically, you pay an extra $6 for seeing it two days before anyone else.  Not a bad deal, but definitely not a steal in my opinion.

What interesting about the movie industry in regards to ticket pricing is that ticket prices are THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT REGARDLESS OF THE MOVIE.  Whether the movie is a $25 Indie or a $250M Summer Blockbuster the ticket costs the same.  Regardless of whether it's a movie no one is interested in seeing or is high anticipated doesn't affect the price either.  No other performance/show industry that I know of works this way.  Broadway/live action tickets, concert tickets...they all base their prices on select seating and how popular the show it (and how much performers demand).  Maybe what we will see is not that every movie costs $50, but rather some will charge $25 and some only $5.

Personally, the prices for tickets are near my balking threshold right now.  I will almost NEVER pay for a full fare, and even matinee prices are approaching my tolerance, especially when I know in about 6 months it will be on Redbox for $1.20

Charity Bishop More than 1 year ago

--Yeah... no. I already wait until a Blu Ray goes under $20 to buy it, and that's so I can watch it over and over. I don't love any movie that much!

The studios aren't considering piracy, are they? As others have said, no one's gonna pay big bucks to watch an old movie then can watch online for free. Maybe the solution for Hollywood is make fewer but better movies that rely on plot instead of CGI?

Angie Frazier More than 1 year ago

--once again goes to show how out of touch these directors are with the average American.  and their gross lack of basic economic understanding is quite unbecoming.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

--My husband loves big movies and opening weekends. I will do opening weekends only if it's a movie I am REALLY excited to see and have waited months for (such as, The Hobbit!).  If they took to charging "premium prices" for opening weekend, even my husband would wait, as we both already hate the prices they ask now. As for having a movie sit for a year, Mr. Lucas has apparently forgotten about video piracy.  Virtually no one will shell out big bucks for last year's movie when they can find it and watch it for free on some pirated site.  I'm not saying that is an ethical response, I'm saying that it's possible and a lot of people who are simply unwilling to pay the money will still see it (vs. those of us who won't pay AND won't find a way to see it).  Going to the theatre, with live actors and musicians, is an entirely different experience than the movie house, where being THERE in the room with the performers is half the fun.  Saying "I saw  Famous Actor X on the big screen at the metro!" could never equate to "I saw Famous Broadway Actor X playing (the role that made their career) at The Fifth Ave!"  NOT the same thing.  Lucas forgets that some of us value live actors, even at the expense of fx. ;-)

Alex Clark More than 1 year ago

--the mega ticket idea doesn;t really sound that bad to me in theory.  I mean we *already* do stuff like that with extra special limited edition DVDs and stuff.  An anime series I really like just announced a big expensive blu-ray set with the entire show and tons of extras like books and CDs and stuff.  its certainly not unprecendented in that view.  My problem would mainly be that A) its still more expensive than just waiting and buying the blu-ray (they better give us some *good* extras besides a copy of the movie if  they want us paying that price) and B) I'd have to know ahead of time that I want to own the movie before I'd commit to that kind of price, and with a few rare exceptions, I almost never know wether I'll want to buy a movie before I've actually seen it.