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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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  • Prices ARE different (Score:5, Informative)

    by bonch (38532) * on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:36PM (#38579420)

    I've gone to see plenty of big films whose ticket prices were higher than the other films playing at the same theater in my town. I get that this is supposed to be a ~Big Evil Movie Industry~ article, but the premise isn't true--especially with Avatar, which the article acknowledges as an "interesting exception."

    • by JDAustin (468180) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:40PM (#38579470)

      Prices are only different within the same cinema complex when there is a premium involved or a across the bored discount. This is normally IMAX or 3D for the premium or matinee prices for the discount. Otherwise prices are uniform.

      • by TheABomb (180342) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:47PM (#38579570)

        Oh, if only I got a discount for every time I left a cinema bored ...

        • by formfeed (703859) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:57PM (#38579718)

          Oh, if only I got a discount for every time I left a cinema bored ...

          That's actually easy. Put an infrared led on your jacket. If the movie sucks, activate it.

          • by Bucky24 (1943328) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:05PM (#38579804)
            Forgive my ignorance, but what does that do?
            • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:10PM (#38579866)

              They will accuse you of video taping the movie, be rude to you, rough you up, possibly call the cops, and all the while you don't have a camera.

              You point this out.

              You get the "please don't sue us" discount.

              --
              BMO

              • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:25PM (#38580030)
                Plus you get your photo on the "refuse service" wall like a local celebrity!
                • Plus you get your photo on the "refuse service" wall like a local celebrity!

                  The kids at the box office won't care about that, and the managers will be too busy to notice. In a sufficiently busy theater there will be a rent-a-cop who also doesn't care because he is too busy watching for theft, vandalism, and aggressive teenagers.

                • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @11:12PM (#38581240)

                  Which means you then have help in avoiding giving your money to the theater industry in the future. Hell, you can buy the damn movie and watch it at home, in comfort, with better food, all for cheaper than paying for two tickets, a couple drinks, and a bucket of popcorn.

                  • Which means you then have help in avoiding giving your money to the theater industry in the future. Hell, you can download the damn movie for free and watch it at home, in comfort, with people whose company your enjoy, with a cool beer and your favourite topping pizza, and you can pause it to go for a pee any time you want, you don't need to pay for parking or wait in queues, and you've lost nothing if it's a POS or the best bits were in the trailer, and you can buy the DVD / Blu-Ray release for better quality if you enjoyed it.

                    Who goes to the cinema anymore?

                    • by omnichad (1198475)

                      I do. I just went to see a movie in IMAX 3D. Try reproducing that cheaply in your living room without a 3D TV or binoculars.

                    • by omnichad (1198475)

                      The IMAX I went to used some kind of tinted anaglyph 3D instead of the polarized RealD method. Most of the 3D was inward past the screen instead of sticking out toward you. A lot less likely to cause a headache than most 3D films I've seen, since you're looking far away instead of up close. I've had mild headaches from 3D, but only when things are so close to you that you have to cross your eyes to view it properly. A lot of trailers for kids movies are the worst at this. Surprisingly, the IMAX 3D di

                    • I went to see The Dark Knight on release day in IMAX. The screen was so big I couldn't take in the whole scene without moving my head. Maybe that's just the poor design of my local IMAX cinema, but I'll pass.

                      If I want to reproduce that effect, I'll press my face up against my TV screen.
              • by aix tom (902140) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:41PM (#38580110)

                Sounds definitely more interesting than a couple of the latest movies that have come out.

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:40PM (#38579480) Homepage Journal

      really? I've never seen a price difference for the same filming type at the same cinima:

      price difference breakdown:
      3d more then 2d
      new run and longer runs the same price at the same cinema
      older movie cheaper at less quality cinema's.

      I have never seen 2 2d movies at the same cinema at different prices.

      • by CapOblivious2010 (1731402) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:51PM (#38579628)

        I have never seen 2 2d movies at the same cinema at different prices.

        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.

        It occurs to me, however, that determining the optimal price might be rather difficult: it probably varies from cinema to cinema, movie to movie, time of day, and "age" of movie (that is, the optimal price for a new movie is probably different than that same movie a month later). Since most of the money is made in the first couple of weeks, there's not much time to gather statistics, analyze them, and do all the necessary number-crunching.

        Also, in many cinemas it would be fairly easy to defeat the system: buy a ticket for the cheapest movie listed, then sneak into the theater for the movie you actually want to see. Policing this might cost more than the additional profit.

        • You could probably create a decent algorithm by comparing new movies with old ones, by matching genres, directors and reviews from critics.

        • 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.

        • by ancientt (569920) * <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @09:08PM (#38580340) Homepage Journal

          Gas prices that change every few minutes or food prices that change every few minutes are also perhaps both possible and optimal by the same theory. It may be that we'll see those, but people like being able to predict without effort what the cost of a ticket will be. Likely my local favourite theatre could make more money on a few tickets, but mostly I suspect people who are considering the value of the individual ticket would often pass on the same price they purchase now.

          If you go to the grocery store and see milk priced at $8.95/gal when you saw it the day before at $1.98/gal, then you'll remember that higher price vividly. If it happens often enough for something you planned on purchasing, then you're likely to start shopping for milk somewhere else, even if the average is a little higher, because the security of being able to make the planned purchase is worth the higher stable price.

          I have a couple choices of theatres to choose from, and if they were pricing some tickets at $18.50 and others at $9.48, then I'd be more likely to look at alternatives, considering the potential value of the movie rather than basing my purchase on my preference of theatre.

          Movie tickets aren't really where the profit is anyway, profit comes from people like me who purchase the experience including overpriced (but surprisingly tasty) food and drink. I really enjoy the dining+bar+movie experience much more than the movie alone, else I'd be waiting until the movie was in the local $1 theatre.

        • by LrdDimwit (1133419) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @09:23PM (#38580476)
          I can't remember where I heard it, so I have no proof, but the story I heard goes like this:

          They tried, years ago in a trial run somewhere. Customers hated it. Why? A few reasons: One, marking down the price sends the message "this movie sucks!" whether it's true or not, and nobody will go to see it. Two, people will feel like you're extorting them by charging more for the good movies (just like Coca-Cola found out when they decided they could add thermometers to Coke machines and charge more when it was really hot out).

          Three, people LIKE it being predictable that a movie always costs X; it turns out in fact people don't like having to do complicated 'well would movie A be worth $10, or should I see movie B instead for $%' calculations. This makes the decision-making much more complicated than "which of these movies do I want to see".

          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.
          • 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.

        • Since most of the money is made in the first couple of weeks, there's not much time to gather statistics, analyze them, and do all the necessary number-crunching.

          You can bet your ass that statistical analysis goes into planning for the larger movie theater chains. There are always surprises, but statistical estimates are used to schedule film rentals, showing times, and staff scheduling.

          Now, applying that to ticket pricing... that just sounds like a lot of complexity for very little gain. If a movie d

        • by arkhan_jg (618674)

          In the UK at least, the prices are set by the distributor, not the cinema chain. The distributor also takes almost all the money; 90% of the ticket price for blockbusters in the first week, then it drops slowly over time. The cinema gets more percentage of the ticket from longer running films, and smaller brand films, but of course ticket sales are lower for smaller films and ones at end of run, so they barely if at all cover their running costs for projecting the film.

          Cinemas aren't in the film showing bus

      • by icebike (68054) *

        Really? No price difference?

        I suggest you go on line to the theaters near you and check out prices for seating time that are near the same time of day for Alvin and the Chipmunks and Mission impossible. 7.25 for the former, 10 bucks for the latter in most areas near me in the same complex.

        • Really? No price difference?

          I suggest you go on line to the theaters near you and check out prices for seating time that are near the same time of day for Alvin and the Chipmunks and Mission impossible. 7.25 for the former, 10 bucks for the latter in most areas near me in the same complex.

          I did that, and no price difference here. There all the same, time and "Ds" being equal.

      • by Zocalo (252965)
        It happens, but it's usually the independant or certain premium entertainment complex type places that offer it, and even then only on some screens. I don't know of any big chains that do this (heard good things about Alamo picture houses, but haven't been to a US city that has one yet - anyone have details?). First place I found that did this is the Odeon run Printworks in Manchester, UK, but I've since been to several places around the world that do this.

        Typically they have standard entry tickets whe
        • by Matheus (586080)

          I've seen these in a few places... It seems many of the theaters around here have remodeled to have VIP section. (Minneapolis)

          The best one I was in was a theater in Dubai tho... Picture the fine leather seats of an expensive automobile... all the movement toys... personal volume control in the seats (augmented vol) extremely tasty, diverse menu.

          The VIP at MOA is barely a perk... the seats are only slightly better and you are basically paying $3 more to have the luxury of paying WAY too much for better appet

    • by Endo13 (1000782) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:46PM (#38579552)

      I get that this is supposed to be a ~Big Evil Movie Industry~ article

      Actually, that's just to grab your attention. If you read the whole article, you'll see at the end he explains why uniform pricing exists. He doesn't say it's a good or bad thing, but the way he presents his explanations implies he considers it at least reasonable, if not good.

  • Scale (Score:2, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745)

    Economy of scale.
    However it is probably a good time for the cinemas to approach the movie industry about trying this.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Economy of scale.

      I don't think so. I think it is because, to the theater owners, supply is more or less infinite and demand is fixed. When they stop filling the theaters with one movie, they rotate to the next. Of course I am simplifying... there is definitely a shortage of blockbusters, not an infinite supply... but they can pretty much account for average attendance and price accordingly.

      Variable pricing would piss off people and mark certain movies as failures. I'm pretty sure it would work like wine - people would avoid

      • by Oswald (235719)

        I'm pretty sure it would work like wine - people would avoid the cheap ones.

        At Longhorn I avoid the cheap wines. At real restaurants I avoid the expensive ones. How does that figure into movie pricing?

      • Re:Scale (Score:5, Insightful)

        by corbettw (214229) <corbettw AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:50PM (#38580192) Journal

        I'm pretty sure it would work like wine - people would avoid the cheap ones.

        I see a serious flaw in your reasoning. Bronco Wines (makers of Two Buck Chuck) sell more wine than any other California winery, especially ones like Opus One and Silver Oak; Yellow Tail Wines sell more wine than all other Australian wineries combined.

    • by TWX (665546)

      Only if they can do it right. One problem with attempting to price anything based on supply vs. demand is that it's easy to get it wrong on the micro scale, and since people usually don't "consume" the same movie more than once when they're in the theatre, if they get it wrong they'll either drive away movie-goers with too high a price, or lose on profit by pricing too low. Then there's the problem of the blockbuster that would theoretically see much, much higher prices on opening night or day depending o

      • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:42PM (#38579496)

    On the contrary, it should be more expensive to see a bad movie since the production cost (+ profit) has to be payed for by fewer viewers. While massively successful movies should cost a dime due to economies of scale... the problem is that you don't know beforehand how the movie will do, so the price should change from day to day depending on its success... which of course would be complicated and thus it is easier to just pay the same for all movies.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      On the contrary, it should be more expensive to see a bad movie since the production cost (+ profit) has to be payed for by fewer viewers.

      So Poop-In-A-Bun should cost more than a McBurger, and a Tata Nano should cost more than a Ferrari?

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @10:24PM (#38580914)

      Like so many before you, you're making the mistake of thinking that prices are determined by the manufacturer's costs. They're not. They're determined by what consumers are willing to pay. As you decrease your asking price, you'll get more and more people who are willing to pay, but you'll lose out on money from those who would have been willing to pay even more.

      Here's an oversimplified example:

      Let's say no one is willing to buy your widget for $100
      At $99, 100 people will buy it.
      At $98, 200 people will buy it.
      At so on, down to 9900 people buying it for $1.
      In this case, it is trivial to prove that the optimal price is $50, at which 5000 people buy it, for a total revenue of $250k.

      Using the same logic to show a comparison between a blockbuster and a bomb:
      Let's say the blockbuster and bomb both cost $10 million to make and $1 per viewer to distribute. The blockbuster will draw one million people for every dollar below $20 on the ticket price. No one's particularly eager to see the bomb, and even those that are will wait for it on DVD if the ticket costs more than $15. So let's say the bomb will draw only 200k people for every dollar below $15 on the ticket price.

      The blockbuster's optimal price comes out to $10.50 at which it draws 9.5 million people, for a revenue of $99.75 million, with costs of $10M (fixed) + $9.5M (distribution), resulting in a total profit of $80.25M.

      The bomb's optimal price turns out to be $8, at which it draws 1.4 million people, for a revenue of $11.2 million, minus $11.4 million in total costs, ending with a small ($200k) loss.

      But if the bomb tries to charge the same as the blockbuster ($10.50), it only draws 900k people, for a revenue of $9.45M, minus $10.9M in costs, ending with a much larger loss of $1.45M.

      In real life the relationship between price and people willing to pay isn't linear, but it is still monotonic (i.e. if you get a million people willing to spend $10 on a movie, you won't have two million wanting to see it for $15), so the same logic applies just with harder math.

      • by Zenin (266666)

        "Like so many before you, you're making the mistake of thinking that prices are determined by the manufacturer's costs. They're not. They're determined by what consumers are willing to pay. As you decrease your asking price, you'll get more and more people who are willing to pay, but you'll lose out on money from those who would have been willing to pay even more."

        And like so many before you who have not worked in the arts, you're making the mistake of thinking people think rationally about the price of art

  • Video Games (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:43PM (#38579516)

    What I've found interesting is that video games actually DO follow the rules of supply and demand, even at Best Buy, and this surprised me! Skyrim was on sale for a whopping $60, some less-popular-but-still-new games were in the $50s, and my brother and I got a good laugh when we saw poor Duke Nukem Forever sitting there for a measly $15.

    • by TheABomb (180342) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:50PM (#38579616)

      But when DNF was supposed to come out, $15 could fill your gas tank AND have enough left over for a pack of cigarettes.

      • But when DNF was supposed to come out, $15 could fill your gas tank AND have enough left over for a pack of cigarettes.

        I think you meant pack of gum.
        The Duke's been out of gum for a long time.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        But when DNF was supposed to come out, $15 could fill your gas tank AND have enough left over for a pack of cigarettes.

        You also earned less then you do now. I really hate this argument as it never takes into account the rise of wages. $15 in 1998 != $15 in 2012 as it fails to account for changes in wages, purchasing power, inflation, cost of living et al. Yep life cost less dollars in the past but we had _a lot_ less disposable income.

        Aslo

        When DNF was supposed to come out WE HAD NINE PLANETS IN THIS SOLAR SYSTEM.

    • I'm pretty sure that at least around here DVDs do too, it's just movie theaters.

  • False supposition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dynedain (141758) <[moc.nilcmynohtna] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:47PM (#38579576) Homepage

    If demand is supposed to move prices...

    What a bad place to start your argument. In classical economics, demand shifts affect pricing if supply is a factor. When it comes to movie distribution, supply usually isn't an issue.

    Also, profits of Mission Impossible to to cover the losses of the gamble on Young Adult. Essentially, movie ticket prices are aggregated and normalized across movies to mitigate risk. Do you really want to spend $40/ticket on Mission Impossible so that Young Adult would cost only $3?

    The actually hard-costs to the theaters (staff, electricity, rent, etc.) is pretty much the same regardless if 5 people are in the theater or 500, and is relatively minor in their overall operations. They pay back to the studios based on how many watchers they have, which where most of their expenses actually lie. They have to pay back the same amount to the studios regardless how how many tickets they sell, so why would they implement variable pricing?

    • Re:False supposition (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dynedain (141758) <[moc.nilcmynohtna] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:53PM (#38579652) Homepage

      They have to pay back the same amount to the studios regardless how how many tickets they sell,

      oops, that should have read "...pay back the same amount per ticket to the studios..."

    • You're absolutely right that supply isn't a factor. However, the way it is, studios are allowed to spend what they want and normalize it by charging us all regardless; so I end up paying for trash films that I would never see, and would never want to help finance. I guess here in America we have a very buyer beware culture, the cinema can do whatever the hell it likes and you just have to make the best of it, if you don't like it, don't see the movie. But that isn't exactly fair, and isn't exactly ideal eit
      • You got it backwards; more people are seeing Mission Impossible. So even though MI cost more money to produce, its MI that would cost $3 to see, where Young Adult would cost $15. Since Young Adult is less popular, though, this seems accurate. You pay more to get something harder to come by. Less people are going to see that movie, so you have to pay more per person to make it worth showing that movie in the theater.

        That makes no sense. If many people want to see MI, chances are your sessions are booked - so you can increase the price without losing viewers. Young Adult's, on the other hand, are half empty, so each seat you can fill without having to show more sessions is pure profit.

        • by Dynedain (141758)

          Theaters don't pay back to the studios based on per-session of the film. They pay back based on per-ticket to the film. The ratio of viewers/session doesn't impact their costs significantly (minor changes to physical overhead only).

    • by sqlrob (173498)

      Supply is sort of an issue, at least from the consumer's point of view.

      Not all movies are in all theaters.

    • When it comes to movie distribution, supply usually isn't an issue.

      That's obviously not true: you have a finite amount of screens which can show a limited number of sessions. Supply is definitively a factor. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have had to travel to a neighbor city to watch Essential Killing, since none of my local movie theaters were willing to supply it.

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      When it comes to movie distribution, supply usually isn't an issue.

      That's just how it works today. If a studio wished, it could restrict supply of copies and thereby keep prices high for a while, then lower prices gradually in order to keep the theaters full.

      Do you really want to spend $40/ticket on Mission Impossible so that Young Adult would cost only $3?

      I would be happy to wait a couple of weeks for the cost of Mission Impossible to drop from $40. Sometimes, I might even pay the $40 if it means I don't h

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      They have to pay back the same amount to the studios regardless how how many tickets they sell

      Here's some reading [themovieblog.com] for you.

      That's not actually true. Most of the big distributors vary the contract per film. They also have variable lengths and variable percentages. An expected blockbuster may have 3 weeks where 100% of the ticket goes to the distributor, and after that the house gets to keep a percentage. A less anticipated movie may have a more equitable split, or only a day or two at a high percentage.

      If

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      supply is absolutely a factor. There is a very limited supply of seats available. Not only that but some seats are more premium than others. Some screens are more premium than others. Some times are more premium than others. Airlines take all these sorts of things into account when pricing tickets.

  • 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.

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      Actually, it's the other way around. The largest chunk of the ticket price goes to the studio, and that amount is fixed by contract. Physical overhead costs are relatively small.

  • Not the same... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twotacocombo (1529393) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:51PM (#38579622)
    It's not like buying a car or computer. Nobody says "Hey, I REALLY want to see this movie, but for $3 less I'd settle for this other one, even though I won't enjoy it quite as much". Not only are you spending your money on a movie, you're also spending time. Given the choice between a horrible, free movie, or a $15 supremely kick ass one, I'd rather invest a little in my life and actually enjoy it. In other words, people don't watch shitty movies because they're shitty, not because the price was too high.
    • by Toonol (1057698)
      Right. Take this same reasoning and apply it to books. Pretty much all paperbacks are the same price... and if I buy one, it's because I want to read that book. A discount on a book I'm not interested in is not going to seduce me away.
  • It's the studios (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alpha830RulZ (939527) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:51PM (#38579626)

    Ticket prices are the same because the studios mandate the minimum price for ticket prices. The standard agreement between the theatres and the studios specifies what percentage of the gate receipts the studio gets (can be as high as 90% of the ticket price) and that the theatre will charge a certain minimum price. There are exceptions to this, but that is a default situation. Ticket prices therefore don't float in response to market demand because the enitity charging the prices, the theatre, is contracted to keep them fixed above a certain minimum.

    Theatres would give movie tickets away in some circumstances if they could, in order to get you to come in and buy the concessions, which is where they make the bulk of their money. Studios counteract this behavior by mandating the high prices in the film rental contracts.

    I know this because I used to support a software system that managed theatre accounting for a chain of movie theatres.

    • Re:It's the studios (Score:5, Informative)

      by VinylRecords (1292374) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:16PM (#38579942)

      Ticket prices are the same because the studios mandate the minimum price for ticket prices. The standard agreement between the theatres and the studios specifies what percentage of the gate receipts the studio gets (can be as high as 90% of the ticket price) and that the theatre will charge a certain minimum price.

      Actually it can be as high as 100% in some instances. Some studios will want to keep 100% of ticket sales for the opening weekend of a major blockbuster and force the theaters to make their money selling foods and drinks. If you have something like a new comic book movie or major action film coming out then you know that the theaters will be packed tightly for that first week.

      So for example, Star Wars Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Revenge of the Sith took 100% of ticket sales from my local theater during the first week according to the manager. Meaning they only made money off of candy and soda and nothing from ticket sales for the first week.

  • Which remains constant. And playing a bad movie is still better than having an empty theater.
  • Theaters will often have announce "no passes" on their listings for any new releases that are expected or (have been already shown) to be big draws. This does not apply to paid passes, of course... it typically only applies to the sort of passes that are offered as promotional material during special events, or the type of passes that you sometimes get with a cereal box.
  • by The End Of Days (1243248) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @07:52PM (#38579644)

    This is Slashdot, the only acceptable price for a movie is 0 because it doesn't cost anything to copy it.

  • For some like Mission Impossible series the haul is inevitably big but for most movies is is not known before-hand how well it will do at the box office.

    Also I for one would not be happy if I paid $13 dollars for a movie and the next say it went down to $10.
  • What you're buying isn't a ticket to watch a specific movie, you're buying a ticket to sit in a particular theater at a particular time--they just happen to be showing a movie at that time. Thus, the response to low demand for a particular movie isn't to lower the cost for seeing that movie, it's to show more showings of a movie that *is* getting butts in those seats. And you'll notice that's what happens. The poor performing movies fade from theaters much more quickly than more successful ones, which often

  • by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:01PM (#38579760) Journal

    I think a good answer is "because people would be pissed off if they had to think too much about the price". Or perhaps another way of putting it is that "the market is more efficient when the price of the movie is fixed and other factors are allowed to fluctuate".

    The producers know that their product will sell for a fixed price, and they aim to sell as many as possible. It's easier that way. Consumers know that there is one price at any given time, and they adjust it by waiting longer if they want to lower it.

    Perhaps the best answer is, "this is the social contract, and everybody is happy enough with it".

    • by Waccoon (1186667)

      "because people would be pissed off if they had to think too much about the price"

      This suggests that the movie industry is just like the candy rack at the supermarket... an impulse market. I'd like to disagree with that, but I used to work in retail, so I know better.

      When I worked in a camera store, I was amazed at first how many people just walked into the store and wanted to buy... anything. They relied almost entirely on my recommendation. I was also told never to show the customer more than 3 options at a time because it would confuse them and take longer to make the sale. It did

  • people are wary of buying crap, and low prices are perceived to be a signal of this. so far, not too bad. however movies aren't fungible. if i mildly want to see X, and it's half the price of Y (which i don't want to see), i might well conclude that X is garbage after all and stay home. this assumes that the prices are somehow published in advance of getting to the theatre, which is its own problem but seems absolutely necessary to avoid appearing to be a bait-and-switch. people really hate feeling like the

  • Dates (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chysn (898420) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @08:31PM (#38580052)

    Movies are popular attractions for dates*. You can take a date to a bad movie, and won't necessarily reflect poorly upon you. But if you take a date to a bad movie because happened to be cheaper than a putative good movie, you're just not getting laid**.

    * A social activity with a potential or established romantic goals.
    ** Sexual intercourse.

  • $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?
  • by catbutt (469582) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @09:14PM (#38580398)
    You are assuming the supply of each movie is fixed. They can change the supply by modifying the number of theaters each is shown in. Movies that are unpopular play for shorter periods.

    I think it would be smart if theaters did variable pricing, but it wouldn't necessarily mean Mission Impossible would be more expensive (since it would probably play longer). But in the most efficient world, there would be lower prices in play to lessen the number of empty seats, which could be considered waste.
  • Perceived value (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @09:25PM (#38580494) Homepage

    Movie prices are all the same because the studios/distributors set them to be the same; it's not up to the cinema owner to decide, because the box office goes almost entirely to the distributor.

    So why do the studios set them the same? A big part of it is "perceived value". If they priced Young Adult at half the price of Mission Impossible, a substantial segment of the market would conclude that MI was a "better" movie than YA. It would be perceived as a demonstration that the studio doesn't have faith in YA and figures that they only way they can get people to see it is by "bribing" them with a lower price. In a market where opening-weekend sales are critical to a movie being financially successful or not, studios need to hype each product as "the best". (It's the same reason why the top-grossing half dozen movies each weekend are further hyped as "#1 gross-out comedy in America" or "#1 action dramedy" for the entire following week.) With variable pricing, you'd also have studios trying to use higher prices as a selling point. Suppose you have two CGI action films to choose from, one priced at $14, the other at $11. The first one must really be good if they're charging that much for it! And even if the cheaper film has 10% higher attendance, the more expensive film still outgrosses it and gets the bragging rights for the weekend.

  • by sdnoob (917382) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @06:27AM (#38583244)

    from tfa...

    This practice -- known, wonkily, as uniform pricing -- isn't specific to movies. It's true for sports, where I pay the same price for a football ticket whether the Redskins are playing the New England Patriots or the St. Louis Rams.

    not true.

    it is, perhaps, in the nfl (what tfa references.. washington redskins football) because of the limited number of regular season home games per year (eight)..

    but in other pro sports in north america with a lot more home games per season (41 in nba/nhl, 81 in mlb, in a full regular season)... higher prices for ''premium'' or ''marquee'' games is very common:

    example:

    the nba's lakers base ticket price ranges from $25 (nosebleed seats on an end) to $280 (lower bowl, courtside).

    when the lakers host houston, charlotte, portland, minnesota, or new jersey this season, tickets start at only $10 ($10-265).

    but when chicago, new york, dallas, okc, or san antonio come to town the prices go up to $80-450.... and when it's miami or boston, better put a second on the house (or stay at home and watch on tv), tickets jump to $150-900.

    this isn't exclusive to the nba either.. major league baseball and national hockey league teams do this too.

  • by WillyWanker (1502057) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:55AM (#38584744)
    Y'know, this has never occurred to me, but it's a really great point. There are a lot of movies that want to see but simply won't due to the cost, mostly "smaller" films that don't benefit from the big screen. But if I could see them for, say, $3-5 instead of $8-10+, well then I think there's a much greater chance of me going to the theater. Toss in reasonably-priced popcorn and soda and it would be a no-brainer. Alas you're dealing with a dinosaur industry that doesn't seem to understand it needs to adapt if it wants to survive. So sadly I don't really have any hope of the system changing any time soon.
  • by jcgam69 (994690) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @11:45AM (#38585332)
    I went to see MI4 Saturday. My first trip to the theater in more than a year. After paying $20 for 2 tickets and $15 for concessions, 15 minutes into the movie a family sat down behind us and proceeded to talk to each other and to crunch the loud snacks they smuggled into the theater. We moved, but we could still hear them. Totally ruined the whole experience for me and I won't be going back any time soon.

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