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May 10 at 8:30am

The Price For (Most) Cinema Should Now Be Zero

By Ted Hope

Ticket prices for movies in the US keep rising.  The LA Times reported that the average cost is now about $8.00.  That’s what I pay for Netflix where I get WatchNow! movies for no additional cost.  I have a typical NYC apartment where the width is about 15 ft wide; that’s enough to have a 8 ft projector screen and a good spread of sound.    As much as I love to watch films with a crowd and great projection it is hard to justify spending more money when I suspect the films are not as good as the ones I get for $0 directed by Godard and Kurosowa.

As filmmakers, the question we need to ask is: what is the added value that we can bring to the live cinema experience that justifies the additional cost for our films over the ones others can easily get for free. The films I get at home offer convenience, comfort, quality sound & image, affordable & personalized refreshments,  and no unpleasantries inflicted via strangers.  The films I get in the theater are new; is that alone really worth the price?  Can any price be justified just so they can get me out of the home and have another opportunity to sell me something?

I go to the movies far more often than most and pay 50% higher than the national average when I do so.  Why do I go?  I go to the movie theater for nostalgia factor and for political reasons (to support my industry and culture) — at least those are the reasons that make the most sense to me.  I go to the movies also because I like to get out of the house, and it’s patterned behavior, but that doesn’t justify the price point.

Is the price point for theatrical exhibition justified by  the distributors’ practice of manufacturing the desire and limiting the access for specific content?  If I can’t get it at home, would I trade an annual subscription to a magazine or a month worth of unlimited access to catalogue titles (via Netflix) for seeing it in a theater?  And since I prefer to see movies with my wife is the event worth two magazines or two months (or three if we want popcorn with those tickets)?  Forget about piracy; sure people can steal it or copy it, but even when you consider the legal alternatives, the price point of cinema these days is not justified when we consider the superior value of other leisure time alternatives.

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