An attractive diversion during the recent month-long heat wave has been the movie theater. Families have been flocking to some forgettable films just to get out of house and blaring sun. Could there be any other reason “The Smurfs” tied at #1 this weekend, pulling in more than $36 million?
The traditional family summer excursion has become more expensive though. I was stunned when my four-year-old was charged $9 at the Gallery Place Theater to see a “Winnie The Pooh” matinee (I was charged $9.50). My friend with twins had to shell out the equivalent of a Kennedy Center ticket to endure that on-screen snoozer.
It turns out that movie ticket prices have hit a new high across the country. Prices vary by chain, by region, and by movie — Imax and 3-D tend cost more. The average is now $8.06, the highest ever, according to the National Association of Theater Owners, as reported last week in the Hollywood Reporter.
Of course in higher cost-of-living regions like ours, the prices are higher still.
Measured over time, ticket prices are a bit like a pot of water and we the audience are the frogs. In 2010, the average price was $7.89. In 2000, it was $5.39. Meanwhile, the number of admissions has remained relatively steady over that time with between about 1.3 and 1.5 billion Americans buying tickets annually.
Besides “The Smurfs,” “Cars 2” earned $68 million and was the #1 movie on its opening weekend this June. It seems families are willing to pay.
At what price are we not? What’s too much before we say we’ll wait for the video: $10? $15? $20?
Or will we keep paying higher and higher prices because it doesn’t seem like summer if we can’t let our kids enjoy it with some popcorn and escapism?