How Families Can Spend Less at the Movies: Are Movie Ticket Prices Too High or Are the Movies That Bad?

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The beginning of December saw record low attendance and revenue from new movies. The Seattle Times reports that attendance hasn’t been this low since the aftermath of 9/11. Revenues haven’t been this low since 2008. So why are people staying away from the Cineplex this holiday season? A plethora of explanations are being offered.

Record High Ticket Prices

Earlier in 2011, theaters raised the price of tickets to new levels averaging $7.89 per person. Ticket prices have increased by 5% over the average in 2009. Over the last ten years, costs for a trip to the movie have inflated 46% from the average ticket price of $5.39 in 2000.

Distracted Americans

Cineplex executives argue that pricing is not the problem. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, when ticket prices are adjusted for inflation, 1970 ticket prices were higher at an average cost of $8.71 in today’s dollars. Instead, family commitments, college finals and sporting events were cited as the cause.

Poor Quality of Movies

My personal take is that there is nothing worth watching at the theater for $7.89/ticket. Enough said.

However, regardless of whether you fear shuningn personal responsibilities, spending record amounts on a ticket and/or believe that the quality films lately is poor, there are plenty of ways to lower the expense of a trip to the movies.

Don’t Buy Concessions

Cineplex revenues are a built around the idea that you are going to spend a great deal of your money on the inflated prices at the concession stands. A two litter of soda costs a little more than a dollar in a grocery store, but one litter in the movie plex can easily run $5 or more. I won’t even go into the costs of buying stale popcorn at the movies.

Eat before your movie starts and skip the concession stand. Come fashionably late if it means avoiding the food registers.

Stick with Good Ol’ Fashioned 2-D

Some theaters are charging extra for this new movie format called 3-D. Of course, 3-D has been around for decades, we are merely suffering through the latest iteration of a viewing concept rejected by each successive generation since the baby boomers. Are the glasses and subsequent headache worth paying extra?

The Drive-IN

The most comfortable seat I’ve had at the movies was on a mattress in the back of a flatbed truck. Most drive-in theaters charge less for tickets since they don’t have to foot the bill for buildings and heating/air conditioning. Additionally, theaters tend to show double headers allowing you to see two movies for the cost of one.

However, extra legroom is also a big selling point.

Discount Theaters

I don’t know how popular these are in the US, but locally we have a discount movie theater. When most flicks are leaving America’s theaters, our local discount operation is just opening their doors. Even though movies are three months old, they are usually still ahead of DVD releases and the tickets are about a quarter of the price of new releases. At the same time, you get the full movie theater experience, complete with ear ringing sound systems.

Ticket prices make going to the movies an expensive family activity. However, you don’t have to stop going to the movies. There are many ways to spend less at the theaters.

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