The topic of movie theater ticket prices is discussed over and over, almost to the point where it reaches “beating a dead horse” territory. Yet, every once in a while a new angle crops up and begs to be talked about. This time, it’s the idea that movie tickets should cost more for popular, hit films (like “Hunger Games”), whereas flops (like “John Carter”) should cost less. Basically: Put ticket prices on a dynamic pricing scale.
The reason? So movies will make more money, even the flops.
The Los Angeles Times has a piece on this very thing and has some interesting quotes from Todd Juenger, a senior analyst at Bernstein Research.
The analyst claimed that with higher pricing ”The Hunger Games” could have grossed $250 million worldwide on its opening weekend, compared withthe $219 million that the Lionsgate release actually collected. “I also submit that [the costly flop] ‘John Carter’ could have eked out more total revenue, especially post-opening weekend, by lowering prices,” he added.
Sure, that makes sense. “Hunger Games” fans would likely have paid a considerable amount more to see the movie, though everyone has their limits. And sure, more people might have seen “John Carter” if prices were cheaper.
But the idea of dynamic pricing, which Juenger compares to DVD prices and airplane ticket prices, is already in place, and it’s called dollar theaters.
When a movie is on the tail-end of its theatrical window, it goes to the dollar theater. If a movie isn’t performing well, it’ll get pushed out sooner than normal, as was the case with “John Carter.”
On the other side of the coin, some theaters have a kind of variable pricing in place, like at the Moore Warren Theatre. You have general audience ticket prices, then there are pricier tickets for the Balcony and Director’s Suites. While those two areas are for 21-and-older patrons, the ticket prices are close to double what a normal ticket costs. There are perks, however, to paying more, with reserved seating being the biggest one.
Theaters as a whole, however, shouldn’t adopt dynamic pricing unless they offer perks. The Warren Theatres have a good system, and more and more chains are adopting similar systems. Raising ticket costs 20 percent but offering nothing in return might cause mutiny.
Theatergoing is an experience, and that experience shouldn’t be hampered by increased ticket prices “just ’cause.” Give us something in return and we’ll consider it.