Thursday, February 16, 2006
Variable Pricing at Movie Theaters?
In a way, movie theaters have been doing this for ages, with Saturday morning matinees. But, coming soon, some theater executives predict, will be a full-fledged program of "variable price structuring" at the country's top movie theater chains. What does this mean? It means you may pay more to see a movie on a weekend than you would during the week. Or you may even pay more for a blockbuster than you would for a flop. Does this make sense? Should you pay more for a ticket to see a film that will generate a longer line on Saturday than you would for the same film on Wednesday? Facing increasing pressure from TiVo, and Video on Demand options for viewers, theater owners seem willing to adopt this non-conventional approach to movie going. But I wonder if this is the answer. Should smaller films suffer a lower boxoffice intake? How does this encourage so-called art house film production? Is this a filtering process to make theaters the distributors of blockbusters alone? Yes, theater going has decreased 17 percent over the past three years. And, while I see the sense in making weeknight movies cheaper, I don't see how increasing the cost of weekend showings will help increase attendance. The theater-going experience itself has decreased in value, so it's not surprising that attendance is down as well. Some already feel (and with just cause) that it's too expensive to see a movie and buy refreshments for you and your date or you and your family. Movies, unlike live theater, have always been the affordable entertainment for the masses. (Even at the height of the Great Depression, people escaped to the movies!) This price restructuring seems to indicate that may no longer be the case. Here's what needs to happen: Prices need to come down across the board, for tickets and refreshments. If they do, I predict what the theater would make up, in volume, would more than justify such a move.