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Movies The Almighty Buck News

Why Do All Movie Tickets Cost the Same? 464

Posted by Soulskill
from the dollars-and-sense dept.
gambit3 sends this quote from The Atlantic: "Like tens of millions of Americans, I have paid money to see Mission: Impossible, which made $130 million in the last two weeks, and I have not paid any money to see Young Adult, which has made less than $10 million over the same span. Nobody is surprised or impressed by the discrepancy. The real question is: If demand is supposed to move prices, why isn't seeing Young Adult much cheaper than seeing Mission: Impossible?"
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Why Do All Movie Tickets Cost the Same?

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  • by icebike (68054) * on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:51PM (#38579620)

    The fixed price has more to do with the requirements of running a theater than is has to do with the cost to produce or the popularity of a movie.
    You have to run your physical plant, your concessions, pay your property taxes, employees, cleaning crew (theoretically), and make payments to your mortgage. The price you pay to the studio distribution chain may or may not vary (I honestly don't know). But in any event it is a fairly small component of the overall ticket price.

    The reality is that the less popular shows will hit the video release channels much sooner, as theater owners can't fill their seats. When theater owners can't attract an audience, the stop showing the film and it sooner or later ends up on video/dvds, along with the inevitable price drop to just a few dollars or 99 cents or whatever. The less popular movies often show up on TV well within one year.

    With that move to video, the price to view will fall for the average viewer, in spite of the fact that some paid full price to view it in a theater, but more waited to view it at home.

    The average viewer may not be interested in some movie at (insert theater price here) PER SEAT, but will spend $3 bucks or less, PER HOUSEHOLD.
    The theater manager can't afford to let in an entire household (who bring their own popcorn, sodas, squalling kids and yaking on the phone) for 3 bucks.

    The mistake here is assuming the movie is the only thing being purchased in the theater.

  • Re:Scale (Score:4, Interesting)

    by norpy (1277318) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:02PM (#38579770)

    so patent it!

    But seriously, there is no reason this won't happen. In fact as margins get tighter and tighter it is more likely to happen, just like airlines crunch numbers to extract the maximum amount of money they can out of a jet cinemas could do it with tickets.

    The problem is that a jet from dallas to chicago going for fire-sale prices is not going to take business from a dubai to london flight, but a $3 ticket to some shitty Adam Sandler comedy might make some people decide not to see the blockbuster at $50 per seat. So to make it work you would definitely have to do some modelling and behaviour analysis.

  • by Bucky24 (1943328) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:05PM (#38579804)
    Forgive my ignorance, but what does that do?
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:17PM (#38579954) Homepage

    Yes, but why not? For any given movie, at a given cinema, at a given time, there's an optimal price that maximizes profit: charge a little more, and you discourage enough people that you end up with less profit; charge a little less, and while you may get more customers, you still end up with less profit.

    If it were practical to determine this optimal price, any rational cinema would charge it.

    You've hit the nail on the head. A rational cinema might charge that price, true. But the cinema business is not strictly rational, any more than any other media business is (think: "agency model" pricing for ebooks).

    Some in the UK may remember when the founder of EasyJet proposed to do just what is suggested. He wanted to create a chain of theaters that priced seats based on demand, in much the same way that EasyJet prices airline seats. Theoretically, you'd be able to see a first-run movie for as little as £0.20, depending on time, date, and how well the screening was showing. He couldn't do it, however, because he couldn't reach agreement [guardian.co.uk] with the film studios over a flat-rate pricing scheme that would allow him to set his own prices for seats.

  • Re:False supposition (Score:2, Interesting)

    by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:22PM (#38579998) Homepage Journal

    By the way, if it weren't for watching "pirated" downloads, I'd never buy a DVD. I don't buy a DVD unless I enjoyed the download first. I'm a media hound -- I collect media of all kinds. But that doesn't mean I'm willing to part with my hard earned money for a CD I've never heard or a movie I've never watched. The harsh reality is I've felt ripped off more often than not when I did so.

    Should the *AA succeed in their attempts to completely block torrents, they'll find people like me don't return to the theater or start buying more CDs and DVDs -- we'll just stop consuming their crap AT ALL. The "lost sale" doctrine assumes the content was WORTH PAYING FOR IN THE FIRST PLACE.

  • $2 Theater (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:50PM (#38580188) Homepage Journal
    A couple of places I've lived in the past had $2 theaters where you could go watch a few-months-old movie for $2. You just had to wait until it hit the $2 theater. I miss having a nearby art theater too, closest one to where I live takes about an hour to get to. Most of my favorite movies, I saw in art theaters. The one near where I used to live had Akira one time! How cool is that?
  • Re:Scale (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @09:15PM (#38580404)

    Then there's the problem of the blockbuster that would theoretically see much, much higher prices on opening night or day depending on the draw. When the Star Wars movies came out there were lines and lines, for days, just to buy tickets. If the prices were supply and demand, those initial showings would have had 10x the cost, with $100 a ticket, not $10, and there wouldn't have been lines.

    You say that like it's a problem; If it's $100 a ticket, the, uh, "enthusiasts" can work a job for days instead of standing in line for days, and blow that money on a ticket. The cinema makes more money, whatever work they're employed for gets done, and nobody is freezing his arse off in the rain. It looks to me like everyone's better off....

    (If you're talking about the case where they raise prices too high, such that there are not only no lines, but half-empty theatres. then it's just the first problem you mention -- which is a big one, but no double-counting.)

    I also don't want to see a commodities-trading type of purchase experience. I don't want the theatres to all link up for a market, where a movie is announced at a certain price, and then demand in ticket sales versus the supply of seats in the theatre causes a minute by minute fluctuations in price. It would leave some theatregoers paying little if a movie isn't quite sold out but they want to fill an auditorium, but might also leave some customers slammed in that magic 20 minutes before show timetable, when the bulk of the audience buys their tickets.

    Why don't you want that? Is it worse, if the seats are 90% sold, to turn some people away because they don't want to pay the premium for the last few seats. than to turn a similar number away because they got there last? And can you propose a better way to communicate varying degrees of "almost sold out, hustle!" than rising prices?

    To me, the problems with a true commodities-trading-like ticket market are the buy-and-resell action of brokers, and the inevitable derivative transactions constructed from it, but there's no reason ticket reselling has to be permitted at all.

  • by PsyberS (1356021) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @09:59PM (#38580732)

    A great many media have discovered more or less the same thing. DVDs, books, audio CDs, movies, video games ... they tend to have standardized prices. Such a practice would not be so common if there weren't very compelling reasons.

    You clearly don't shop at actual stores that sell these products. Go to a Target or Walmart some day and take a look at the DVD section. There are sections of $5 (or sometimes less) movies, then $7 movies, $10 movies and of course the new releases (which are generally 'full price'). It's all about the demand and older movies have lower demand and thus (generally) lower prices. Especially the crappy, old movies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @04:23AM (#38582790)

    And the auto-focus systems of most cameras use IR LEDs.

    How did this get modded up to +5??? Only active auto focus systems use IR to determine focus. The vast majority of camera auto focus systems use passive techniques such as phase detection and contrast detection and have nothing to do with IR.

  • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @08:25AM (#38583770)

    It got modded up because it sounded plausible, and because you don't need any technical expertise to get mod-points.

    The real reason why an IR-led will be mistaken for a camera is that the camera-detection kits work with IR. They are based on the fact that any focused lens with a ccd behind it acts as a corner-reflector, so if you place a light-source close to a camera, other cameras will show up as bright spots in the picture. Obviously you can't shine visible light at the audience while they're watching the movie, so they use IR instead. Hence an IR-LED will look just like a focused lens to their detector.

    Using a round piece of reflective tape would be cheaper and less suspicious than a LED, though.

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