Posted on: March 11, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Movie theaters took a hard hit financially due to the pandemic. Though theaters have been open again for a while, people have gotten used to movies being released on streaming platforms, and some may prefer their own couch over theater seating. This means that movie theaters need to find a better way to make money fast.

Rosie Finnegan

Opinion Editor

With the release of “The Batman,” AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron announced that the chain will be charging extra for tickets to the new film as part of a variable pricing experiment. At this point, “The Batman” is the only movie currently held to this new standard. In Los Angeles, adult tickets have been raised by $1.50.

I have seen quite a bit of outrage from people when they discover this new tactic, and I’ve heard many say they will be going to other theater chains to avoid the extra charge. However, according to Aron, AMC has been using this pricing strategy in its European theaters for years and even charges based on premium seating, similar to a concert venue or sports game. 

Though Europeans are used to the idea, movies were not often being released straight to streaming platforms before the pandemic, so it seems like variable pricing was successful only because people really had no other options. We are already seeing production studios favor streaming platform releases over theater releases, as with Pixar’s new “Turning Red.”

Now, lower-income households are more likely to wait for a streaming release so they can buy microwave popcorn and enjoy the film on their couch rather than spending almost $20 per ticket for viewing in a theater.

I feel like there are two well-defined sides to this coin. On one hand, a lot of people would rather wait an extra month to see a new film on a streaming platform, one that they likely already pay for. And on the other hand, there are enough people who genuinely love visiting the theatre that an extra $1.50 wouldn’t deter them. 

Personally, I am not a fan of the increase or pricing by popularity, but it’s easy for me to go to a different theater or see a movie that is not being heavily affected by increased pricing. However, not everyone will be willing to go out of their way to visit a different theater chain, so in the long run, AMC may be hurting itself.

This experimental pricing that AMC is doing is all part of a larger conversation of whether movie theaters will be around for much longer.

According to the New York Times, in November, 49 percent of people were no longer buying movie tickets. Some of this had to do with a desire for a mask mandate, which wasn’t in effect then and was highly requested mostly by female patrons. Another reason was that lower-income families were no longer interested due to the increase in concession costs.

When I go out to a movie with my friends, I can expect to pay about $30 for the whole experience. That usually includes the ticket, popcorn, and a drink. If I were to watch a movie at home with my friends, paying $30 would likely get a full meal for at least two people to share, rather than a snack that will leave me hungry when the film ends.

Clearly, staying in to view new movies is the more cost-effective way to do things. Theater chains are starting to raise prices higher than they ever have been, and that may be the final straw for those who still enjoy attending. 

If a movie theater is your happy place, enjoy it while it lasts. Soon, a regular movie theater may be just as hard to come by as a drive-in theater.