Editorials,  Movies/Entertainment

5 (Hypothetical) Ways Studios Could Offset High Ticket Prices for Movie Goers…

Sure seems like going to the movies these days almost requires one to take out a loan. While everyone, I figure, is now aware of the increase in 3D ticket prices we can safely say that all across the board, movie tickets and going to the theater just doesn’t cost what it used to. Further, what’s the drive to see something in cinemas when it’ll be out on-demand or to own in less than 90 days? So that got me thinking. Just how much money would be “too much money” to the average movie goer? And what could be done to keep people going to the theater instead of waiting for it on Amazon/Netflix?

I suppose that, like anything, cost increase was inevitable but these day’s it’s like getting robbed right at the ticket booth. What I see happening, aside from normal (some would call it abnormal) inflation is that the ticket price increases have been slight enough that we are gradually getting used to the lunacy of a movie going experience. What is to keep people from saying, “Fuck it, I’ll wait until it comes out to rent” and instead spend that money on a nice dinner. I’m starting to lean that way.

So I think in order to make going to the theaters worth it (since the environmental/venue situations don’t seem to be improving), the studios have to come up with something to motivate me and keep me coming back. Since the window between the theatrical release and home viewing is getting smaller, it is still not small enough for the vast majority of people in the world who are getting more and more accustomed to immediate gratification and instant digital satisfaction…basically people don’t want to wait anymore. Theaters could be an unnecessary middle-man that, if conditions don’t improve all around, could (and I stress “could”) become as unnecessary as land line phones.

While not every film can be Avatar, The Dark Knight (or something similar) that truly is a worthy experience that you HAVE to see in the theaters, in my mind there’s something that can be done that make movie going worth it. The issue that really worries me is that seeing a movie in the theaters costs almost as much as it does to own it for home use. That’s the thing I don’t think people are realizing and it should really be addressed by the studios. Why would their audience pay two times for the same movie? I would so hate to pay $20.00 to see the upcoming Iron Man 2 and then pay another $20.00 to get it on Blu-Ray at some point. So because of recent events, I racked my mind to come up with these 5 suggestions of devices to use that should keep people interested in seeing a movie in the theaters and keep people in the seats.


1. Certain percentage off the purchase of a home copy –

In order to get we the audience to buy the movie on the back end, we should be given some enticement. Notice I didn’t give a “numbered” percentage. The reason behind that is, sure the studios want to make money, but I feel that the more money the movie (and therefore the studio) makes, the more of a reduced percentage the ticket holder can redeem with their ticket stub. Further, the studios can cut deals with major retailers (perhaps exclusives) that when the movie comes out, certain retailers will honor the ticket stub for a reduced price.


2. Digital download included with ticket price –

Sure, pretty much every movie is starting to come replete with a digital copy. But how do you get ahead of the game? You get ahead of the release date with an exclusive “Digital Download”. Studios could offer the option (for ticket stub holders) to reclaim their digital copy of the movie an entire month before the home release date. That would certainly get me excited.


3. “Two” Viewings for the price of “One” –

Printed right on the back of the ticket reads: “Redeem for 2nd viewing after 14 days. Good for 60 days“. Now fairly enough, this idea does have the capacity to backfire something terrible (i.e. counterfeiting). Yet if it is handled correctly, with say, bar coded ticket stubs, this could get people more keen to paying $15 bucks. That way, if they know that if they use stub again, the movie really only costs $7.50. It does take the idea of supply and demand to a whole new level, and the theaters would have to plan for and estimate that the proceeding weekend’s viewers might be repeat (stub redeeming) patrons. But on the plus side for theater economists, a repeat viewer could potentially buy more concessions and fill up a theater that was already pretty empty. For any uncertain studio execs, the good news for you is that like any coupons/gift cars etc, there’s a good amount of people who just don’t use them.


4. Free Movie ticket(s) with DVD/BD purchase –

Yeah, I know they’ve already done this idea to death with stooopid re-releases of X-Men and Spider Man which were horribly named X-Men 1.5 and Spider-Man 2.5…but how about something waaay cooler?? And not just in some poorly packaged re-release. What might be more intriguing would be to throw in something like an actual celluloid frame from the film, an autographed lithograph/concept artwork, or a free digital copy of the score/soundtrack, etc. No one wants some lame content or extra behind the scenes footage bad enough to buy the same movie they (maybe) already own just to get a free movie ticket. Also, this is what would make me buy a DVD/Blu Ray…throw in 2 free tickets! That’s more fun when you can go with a friend or a date.


5. Ultimate Collector Grade Swag!!

Now this is the idea I like most of all. I’m not a crap/junk collector but I do like quality cinematic memorabilia. Japan has crazy ticket prices but they do provide each ticket holder with some really fine promotional material. It’s kind of like a press kit but reads more like a literary special features with exclusive behind the scenes photos, stories and the like. To certain viewers this may seem desirable (i.e. ME!!) but I admit, it’s probably not for everyone.


Sure would be neat to get one of these along with my $7.50…

Like any tangible product, there has to be a market and like any manufacturers they have to find ways to get continued interest in the product. So to keep emotions from running high, it would make sense to appease the consumers with something so that they believe they will find value in their purchase…even if the asking price is considered rather effen high.

Those are my humble suggestions for a crazy price inflated movie ticket world. Any thoughts from the viewers at home? Has anyone seen a recent 3D movie think the 3D was worth the price? Do any of you find the current ticket prices off-putting?


  • Castor

    Good post Mark. I do think however the economics of movie making and distribution would make most of those impossible. First of all, movie theaters work on a razor thin margin. The reason why the food at the concession stand is so expensive is that this is where movie theaters make their profit. Obviously, the movie theater keeps only a fraction of the box office sales and a single movie theater projector light bulb can cost $1000-1500 and has to be changed regularly. Add in expense for an army of ushers and you can see how they don’t have much room to move.

    I do think however, a free movie ticket with a DVD/BRD purchase would be a potentially good idea but let’s face it, Hollywood is not straining for customers at this point.

    • Marc

      Thanks for the input Castor! While I agree I don’t think any are truly possible it sure is nice to dream. Since the free ticket thing is something that they’re already doing (though I doubt people are taking full advantage because it means they have to by a DVD/BD to get it) why not throw in the second one? Also I still think the digital download ahead of time could work…hell even if it is just a rental download through Amazon.

  • rtm

    Hi Marc, wow these are all great ideas. I especially like the first one and that’d definitely a good incentive for me to get the dvd. But like Castor said, it’s highly unlikely they’d do any of this because it’s all about the bottom line in Hollywood. Btw, I’m a sucker for #5 also, especially for movies I’m a die hard fan of. I’d buy pretty much any collector dvd for Ben Hur for example, oh and Gladiator, in fact I did get the 4 disc-set even though I already owned the 2-disc set!

    • Marc

      I too am a big fan of collectible stuff which makes #5 one of my top choices. Still don’t know why they don’t include more stuff in a DVD though. I would forgo content for some cool collectible stuff like I wrote about. I’d love a frame cell from the film…but since not many people shoot in film anymore, it’s probably not an option these days.

      Also,I bought the BD version of Gladiator (actually they call it the Sapphire Series) even though I had the previous special edition. There’s more than a day and a half of content on that…no way I’ll ever get to watch it all. Sometimes I claim I will not play that game an re-buy a movie I already own…but then I end up spending money on something I swore I didn’t need. Sure would be nice if the studios did something to reward their loyal consumers:(

      • GooGoo

        Great start-up article, Marc. You’ll see your ideas (and derivatives) in less than 5 years.

        @Jon: on.the.spot.

        • Five Tacos and a Taco

          Nice article. I think #1 would be feasible if theaters began stocking the DVDs themselves. If the theater could offer a $10 discount off the retail price of a blu-ray dvd or say $3-4 off the purchase of a digital copy, I might be swayed to make that purchase. Most theater chains have a website that would allow hosting of films for purchase and it would be fairly easy to print a coupon code on the ticket. If studios wanted to placate the theaters further, they could make the downloads available to the theater sites earlier than iTunes or Amazon to encourage the purchase.

          You could also sell movie swag (posters, press-kits, etc) from the theater site and offer discounts on that as well.

          • MarcC

            Sales is all about negotiating so why is that with movies (one of the biggest industries ever) we aren’t given more choices or negotiating power. If we’re given all this media how about some creative ways to get people to get it legitimately and make it worth it.

            Totally, that’d be a killer incentive to access digital copies through the theater before everyone else!!

            And there’s lots of dead space in a theater lobby, a swag booth would be a perfect promotion and it provides way more buzz than a trailer alone!

  • John

    Okay, but you didn’t really explain why movie studios would be interested in making less money in the first place.

    • Max

      Well, their is an ecuation that higher prices can have a negetive input on the income. For example in Sweden the cost for cinema movies is around 16 dollars for a non 3D film.

      If the price would be higher I’d go to the cinema maybe 2 times for every time I go to 3 movies now. So if the price is 20 dollars the cinema would get 40 dollars instead of 48 (not including the snacks I may buy there, if this really is the main income for cinemas then you can see how they loose big on that)

      • Scuzz

        I completely agree,
        Just last week my girlfriend and I went to see Thor together and after 2 tickets popcorn and 2 drinks we came close to 45$.

        Now had I waited rented it for 5$ add a bag of popcorn and some drinks I might of spent what 8$?
        It was a nice night out since it was our first night without our baby but still when I look back at the waste of $$, it is getting harder to justify going to the theatres.

        • Tim

          Great ideas, I would go see more movies if I knew I would get some swag, or a digital download.

          I think theaters need some innovation too. Theaters should have special showings, midnight showings, trilogies all at once.

          I went to an Evil Dead 2 midnight showing a few years back. The place was packed! Everyone had a blast and it was cheap, maybe $3-5,. They did one or two more featuring other movies and that was it. It had to have been profitable for them. I’d love to go see all the Indy’s, BTTF, Batmans or Star wars on the big screen again.

          I love the few theaters that have Bars. That’s gotta be profitable too! Nothing is better than a good beer, popcorn and a great movie!

          • MarcC

            With all the problems I hear people bring up about theaters, I (aside from cost) just don’t know why there’s not incentives to get people in the seats.

            But Tim I agree with your last comment completely. If you’re even in Texas, check out a series of theaters called Studio Movie Grill. They’re insanely popular and makes so much money on concessions because they have a full bar and a full menu. Great way to see a movie and one instance of getting something beyond your inflated/overpriced ticket:)

        • MarcC

          @John…Wasn’t the point of the post. I’m a consumer so I suggested consumer based ideas….however impractical they may be to the studios:P

          @Max…Yeah, its getting tougher and tougher on theaters and in the end if moviegoers get mad, it only hurts the theaters by not going (or buying concessions) Real pity:(

          @Scuzz…Right there with you. I guess the only way to beat the guilt of the outrageous prices is only go see the movies you can be sure will be worth it.

          Example…a Christopher Nolan movie = MUST SEE! Anything with Channing Tatum…you can wait to rent or skip completely:P

  • Scott R. Lucado

    Here’s a thought–how about if studios made movies that are actually worth the price of admission.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • Christian

      I like your ideas, but I think part of the answer is as simple as extending the gap between theatrical release and store/online availability. The industry has the power to, for instance, tell the Netflix’es of the world that they’ll have to wait 6 months for it.

      • MarcC

        That would probably create unfair exclusivity to some retailers if an outlets couldn’t have it for that long but I like the idea. Remember when we had to wait 2 years for the VHS to come out?:P

        Although, I think one of the reasons for initially shortening the theatrical/home release gap (aside from the ease of digital transfers cutting down production time) was the money studios were losing from bootleg and pirated copies of the film. Granted it’s probably not very much money lost but if people liked/loved it in the theater its fair to assume a good number of people would be jonesing to own a copy soon after leaving the theater making for guaranteed sales later on. But again can’t imagine the figures being super high for that either.

      • Castor

        The industry is moving toward shorter time between theatrical showings and DVD release. If you look at the box office, even big blockbusters don’t make much money after only 3 weeks in theater. There is no point for the studio to extend that period beyond 4 or 5 weeks for the vast majority of movies as there is an opportunity cost money to do so (using a screen to show a movie that doesn’t make money instead of a new release)

        • MarcC

          Yeah good call Castor. Even the big dog films just don’t hang around like Titanic did all those years ago. It’s the advent of DVD/BD and the plethora of media outlets available following the theatrical run.

          Yeah, why keep it in the theater when you can get so much more money on the back end.

          Hmmm, maybe I should take a theater economics class at night school:P

  • Mark

    Stop pacifying stars with $10,000 a month, two stories high, 1,500 sq foot trailers while also paying for their $25,000 a month temp home in the filming city….all the while, paying for the actors “second” trailer filled with gym equipment. (Go to a local gym.) Now you know why ticket costs are so high??

    I’m sure an actor “requires” in his contract these outlandish amenities…..and I’m sure the studios are NOT going to eat that cost…so, it’s passed onto Joe Moviegoer

    And by the way: # 3 is a GREAT idea
    3. “Two” Viewings for the price of “One” –

    • Brad

      What the actors make have almost nothing to do with the movie ticket price. Look at Monsters, or Paranormal Activity, or any other indie movie out there where the people who made the movie got paid scale, the ticket prices were still the same amount. If a movie’s budget was 15,000 or 150 million and ticket prices are still the same how can you single out the actors? Blame the studios, the advertising companies, the distribution houses, the tv shows that drive higher costs for advertising passing the expense onto the products we buy everyday. The idea that’s just because of what the actors get paid is silly.

      • MarcC

        @Mark…If you think about it, most actors are nothing more than just a face and a name and just being on screen doesn’t make them gods or anything. So why the huge salaries. Not like they have any tangible talents outside of reading a script. Can they operate on a brain tumor? Can they decipher math codes? Can they understand tax law?

        Also I like #3 myself. Think of this: You see a movie. Then you tell your friend how awesome it was. You go back with him/her. You get in free, he/she buys a ticket and more than likely you’ll both buy some concessions. There’s going to be some money spent and that benefits the studio and the theater…

        @Brad…Good point Brad but like anyone at the top drawing a huge paycheck actors are easy targets but not totally inculpable. There’s so many unseen trades/middlemen associated with the creation and distribution of a film. You have so many moths to feed. But I don’t even want to get in to supply chain economics here:P

        • Gina

          I love the ideas of 1 and 2. Someone mentioned a points-based system – that would be fantastic. “Movie Rewards Points” – similar to the Diet Coke rewards that I input into the computer that come printed on the inside of a case. After a certain number of points, I get free stuff. For what I would think would be a nominal amount of written code, one could have an alpha-numeric code that could be printed on your ticket stub, and then put in your account. Once you have a certain number of points, you can buy digital downloads or a percentage off the DVD.

          That way, if you watch a movie and it sucked, you wouldn’t be forced to use your points to buy that particular movie when it was made available for download. You could save your points for another movie that you really liked.

          I could totally get behind something like this. I took my girls to the movies a couple of months ago, and after 3 matinee (yes matinee) tickets, 3 small popcorns and 3 small sodas, it was almost $40. Reasons like that are why I never go to the theater. I have a giant home theater system. 99.7% of the time, I just wait for the DVD release. My popcorn is cheaper, my soda isn’t flat and I don’t have some idiot sitting two seats down, talking on a cell phone.

  • Dr. Torgo

    I would pay nearly twice the going ticket prices in order to watch the movie in a venue where people actually go……….. to watch the movie. No rolling vendor carts selling pizza and nachos. Cell phones must be left in a locked cabinet in the manager’s office. Oh, and the movie should start at the time printed on the bloody ticket, with any previews (or……….. God help us…….. commercials) running BEFORE the movie start time. I miss going to the movies. It used to be a wonderful thing.

  • Abby

    I almost exclusively go to movies that I get movie cash for by buying BDs. Seriously. Then again, I have a massive video system and hate sitting with a bunch of idiots, so I’m more than willing to wait for video.

    But- there are movies we’d like to see (like First Class) that have movie cash, but only discs we don’t want or already have. A better system would be something like Disney has where we could earn Sony/Warner/MGM/Lionsgate/whoever points by buying their discs and cashing them in on movie tickets or other disc purchases.

    They could still bias it to unload the titles they’re trying to unload (like the crappy old Predator disc) by making them worth more points. This would be better than having to buy certain specially marked copies of certain titles at certain stores.

  • Vince

    Hello I am from France and I now live in LA and as a moviegoer it is indeed hard to go see every thing when paying 12 to 17 bucks for a ticket.

    What really works (been in place for 8 years now in France) is to subscribe to a theater chain like AMC.

    Let me explain: For a monthly fee (25 dollars in France if I do the conversion), you get illimited access to the theater.
    Now, don’t think it is a steal. Most people only go see a movie twice a month. Only a few will have the time to see 20 movies a month a get to a point where a movie cost 1 dollar. It is like gym membership. People pay for it, but don’t really go every day.
    So instead of having people not going to the theater, AMC gets the price of two tickets per month. In the end they are not loosing, they have people paying every single month. It is a steady income. Of course, once you subscribed, it is for one or two years minimum. And believe me, it works. After 3 movies a month, you made the membership profitable.

    • MarcC

      Wow, didn’t know about that Vince. Thanks for the info. Great correlation between it and a gym membership.

      I could have used that about 10 years ago when I’d see 4 or 5 movies every 2 or 3 weeks (yes I was a rampant movie hopper on the weekends:P). Still I might consider doing it now. All I go to are AMCs (well that and Studio Movie Grill) and there’s a lot I’d like to see but skip because of ticket prices. I look into it. Thanks for the comment!

      • Cannillo

        I think a free repeat viewing of the same movie two weeks later is a brilliant idea. This would seem to be a very good way to fill empty theaters. Sell some concessions. This really appeals to the hardcore movie theater guy. Maybe a free 2D showing for paying to see a 3D movie. I did this with Avatar and preferred the 2D.

  • Duder NME

    The ONLY way tickets could possibly be redeemed for any of these suggestions is if official studio websites offered print-out stubs with unique barcodes which can only be used once, but then that requires a consumer base with net/printer access, and even then the practice could be corrupted by worthless hackers. At this rate, the only way theaters can minimize prices across the board is to operate during weekends only, since the same amount of overhead is wasted during weekday lulls, but try finding a studio that’ll back up that model. Entropy… gotta love it.