Discussion: Would You Pay $20 to See a Movie in 3-D?
by Alex Billington
March 30, 2009
Last Friday, in order to write my review, I decided to see Monsters vs Aliens for a second time in digital 3-D at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks. My ticket cost a grand total of $15.50, which is pretty expensive, especially considering I don't often pay for tickets at all. But then I heard from a friend in New York that her individual ticket was $20 total. Jeffrey Katzenberg announced in December that he would charge more to see DreamWorks Animation films in 3-D, but I didn't expect one ticket to cost upwards of $20! Being a 3-D naysayer, I've got to ask: Is it really worth it? Did anyone else pay $20 to see Monsters vs Aliens?
Obviously, the studios and theaters will say it's worth it, as they've made a considerable amount of money. According to Steve Mason on SlashFilm, Monsters vs Aliens ended this weekend with a box office total of $58.2 million, which ends up being the third biggest opening in March. Of that, roughly $25 million was generated specifically from digital 3-D and IMAX 3-D theaters, meaning that the per screen average for 3-D theaters was $11,700 versus only a $4,780 per screen average for 2-D. If you think about the price increase (an extra 1/3 per ticket), the film would have made only $16.6 million in those theaters if they weren't 3-D.
The pricing scheme for the $20 ticket was explained as this: $12 for a normal ticket, $16 for a normal IMAX ticket, plus the 3-D increase makes it $18.50, then a Fandango fee, and it's roughly $20. When I was younger, the price was $7.50, and I'd go to the early bird special to catch the $4.75 showings. Nowadays the normal price has been pushed to $10, but I can't imagine paying double that for a ticket, even if it is in 3-D. Of course, everyone has stories about painful price increases, but I'm wondering how long we'll keep letting Hollywood game us and trick us into paying more because we think it's a "unique experience."
I'll argue that the only way to see movies like Coraline and Monsters vs Alien is in 3-D, but I'm irritated that Katzenberg thinks he can charge more for tickets and get away with it. No one is complaining, and the box office totals are enough proof that this was a good idea and that audiences don't mind. What if 3-D really is the future, and we see at least half of all movies every year in 3-D, will it still be a premium experience? At that point, it's no longer premium, but rather just the norm. We'll have continued to pay $20 for so long, that Hollywood will be comfortable charging that much, or more, for the tickets to every last movie.
Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe people do like paying $20 if they know they'll get something more out of the experience. And maybe 3-D is enough "more" for them to pay that high price. But if this keeps happening (and not just once or twice a year), I think people will start to get frustrated. My philosophy has always been to charge less but sell more, which is the opposite of Katzenberg. Technically, less people saw Monsters vs Aliens compared to other films that also made $58.2 million. What if they had done a better job marketing, and gotten more people in theaters, at a slightly lower price. They could've made more money, right?
I've made my claim about 3-D and yet Monsters vs Aliens had a stellar weekend. Though, I'm curious how many chose to see this in 3-D. How many of you paid $20 for a ticket? How many paid $15? How many went for 2-D and paid $10 or less? Will a ticket price of $20 be something you'll pay from now on?