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December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment" 
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Post December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
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Trying to keep the negativity in check...


Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:44 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
It's because of those prices that we hardly ever go out to see a movie anymore. Thankfully my youngest is too young and my oldest doesn't like how loud a theater is. Even so years ago movies that would be must see flicks end up something I watch much later and as of right now we only catch two movies a year in a theater.

And I'd like to think that we are conservative about how much we spend while there as well. In a lot of cases we want to buy the movies we see as well and with ticket prices and blu-ray prices where they are I can't justify nearly 100 bucks per movie I want to see (combined movie going experience and blu-ray) so usually it is just one or the other.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 2:13 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Movies do get pretty pricey if you're not in the habit of watching your wallet.

My girlfriend and I tend to go to $4 screenings. This means we have to plan on specific days that are discounted or special screenings of older movies. We also use movie club cards to net ourselves the occasional freebie. Ordinarily, tickets cost twice as much, and that's for the regular vanilla screenings. Forget IMAX.

And concessions? Forget that, too. The markup on food at the movies is shocking, and that's not even getting into how badly they fuck up the popcorn by loading it with oils, salts, etc. Popcorn by itself, or with a sprinkle of salt, is one of the healthiest snack foods you can get. Movie popcorn? Not so much. These things have turned us into inveterate snack-smugglers.

So that's usually $8 for the two of us. Still more than James' movies of yesteryear. I'm not sure how inflation factors in, but I doubt that fully accounts for the discrepancy, even with the bottom-of-the-barrel pricing that we pay.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:23 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
I'm a weekday movie goer. They increased the prices for weekend showings. So I quit going then. I visited my sister in St. Louis and it's even more there. But really the money is not a big deal for me, if they were making a lot more high quality movies, I'd go to the movies a lot more often.

As for baseball, if you're an out of market fan like I am, the $250 for the Extra Innings package is a bargain compared to movies. That averages out to about $1.54 per game. If I lived someplace with better internet service, I'd pay the $120 for MLB.TV instead.

Also I'm sure to eat lunch/dinner before I go to the movies. But I'm also sure not to drink very much.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:49 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Good thing the two theaters near me have relatively cheap prices, 7.50 for afternoons, 10.00 at nights(2 dollars more if it's 3-D). I've been seeing films in theaters for over 5 years now, and I have never once bought anything from the concession, I just eat something before I go see a film, and i'll bring my own drink if need be, I see no reason whatsoever to waste any money on food that is extremely unhealthy, even by my standards.

Though I do disagree about the quality of films decreasing, 2011 was a great year for me, and 2012 looks even better, there's dozens of films that I just can't wait to see.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:22 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
If I'm seeing a film that's not a matinee screening, it's either a date or a poorly planned social get-together.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:03 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Quote:
Using a pure inflationary calculation, that $3 ticket should cost $7 today. Know any place where you can see a 7:00 p.m. movie for $7? I don't. The cheapest around here is $9.50.


My local movie chain (Marcus Theaters) does indeed charge in that 9.00-9.50 range for your everyday evening show. However, I can't recall the last time I paid that amount.

They offer pre-paid ticket books. One is at a Silver level (10 tickets for $60, plus a few $3 concession vouchers) that allow you to see "regular" movies any day except Saturday. If it's a hot new releases or a release by a certain studio then these tickets may not be valid until 2-3 weeks after the opening date. They also have a Gold level (10 tickets for $70, plus the concession cash) which are good on any movie, 7-days a week (3-D surcharges do apply).

These tickets don't expire. While I have a bunch at home, I was thinking of stocking up big time as a hedge against inflation, since I have very small kids and I see a lot of movies in my future. The only risk would be Marcus canceling the program (which they said they wouldn't do) or the whole chain going out of business (they are the dominant player in Milwaukee and have locations throughout the Midwest and have been in business for 75 years or something...so I think that risk is small).

I can't remember the last time I paid "the going rate" to see a movie.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:55 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
It can be pricey to be certain, but your last point is the most important in my opinion: where are you going to find a cheaper family outing? And for you and some buddies, the $12.50 or so I pay is cheaper than heading to a bar, concert, club, sporting event, etc.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 6:11 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
When going to the movies, there are two theaters I usually patronize:

The first is the Regal. There, the prices are $8.50 matinee.

The other is Frank's Movies At Sunrise. $6.00 matinee.

You can guess which one I frequent more often.

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Wed Dec 14, 2011 6:29 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Quality of movies is an issue but by no means the biggest. I think availability is also something to think about; there are plenty of films that JB reviews here or that I hear about elswhere that never make it into the multiplex near me (Straw Dogs got about a week of showings). In addition, Vue really do go out of the way to make you feel 'unusual' for wanting to see a movie in 2D. When Avatar was first out, 2D showings were considered the 'special one off showings'.

Health wise, the food doesn't bother me. I regularly make my own popcorn at home and what the cinema sells doesn't really bother me much. I no longer pay the prices that they ask (I haven't had THAT much disposable income for the past 3 years) and now that I am employed again, I just can't bring myself to do it. This coming from a person who is normally very conservative about playing by the rules in this sort of situation.
The problem is that, at least on one occasion, I've seen people have anything other than a handbag (or purse) get searched on the way in... which stops you smuggling in anything larger than a can of drink and a tiny pack of crisps or something. Fucking hell.

I'd be fully prepared to boycott cinemas altogether, if I thought it would really help. Right now I can only think of a couple of movies that I'm definitly going to see (Sherlock Holmes 2, Avengers and The Hobbit). Possibly even the totally unwarranted Dragon Tattoo remake, since a friend of mine shares my liking for the original but doesn't want to see the new one by himself. I think other than The Hobbit, I could happily wait for the rest to arrive on BRD.

Also this 'fake' IMAX thing... do people really buy into that? I mean all you're doing is paying more to see a movie that isn't as good as it was to begin with (assuming the original was filmed on 35mm, but then I'm just being picky). Ah well.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:18 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Quote:
Using a pure inflationary calculation, that $3 ticket should cost $7 today. Know any place where you can see a 7:00 p.m. movie for $7? I don't.


I happen to live in a rural area (our county seat, Tell City, Indiana has 8,000 people, and the entire county has fewer than 20,000.) We have a four screen theater, privately owned (not a chain) and they charge $4.00 for matinees (before 5 p.m.) and $6.00 for evening films ($4 for kids) with a $5.00 senior discount. Snacks aren't bad either: a "King Combo" (two medium drinks and a large popcorn -- in an actual bucket, not a leaky bag, and WITH refills!) -- costs $8.25, and if you join their "movie club" the coupons they offer knock that down to $7.25. So my wife and I can go to a Saturday night showing of a film and have soda + popcorn for $19.25 ... so trust me, I don't complain that it sometimes takes longer for non-mainstream films to come here ;) If I want to go see a movie like Sherlock Holmes, for example, I can do so here in town, a two mile drive, and spend less than $20, where if I drove to Owensboro (Ky) or Evansville (Ind.) it'd cost me twice that much. And if I want to watch an Oscar movie, I can either wait for it to come here in March (once its run is almost over) or pay the higher cost to go to Evansville, where it becomes a treat (take the wife for dinner out, then see a movie in a bigger theater).


Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:16 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
jksander wrote:
Snacks aren't bad either: a "King Combo" (two medium drinks and a large popcorn -- in an actual bucket, not a leaky bag, and WITH refills!) -- costs $8.25


Nice! Though I pay a reduced fare to get into the joint, the price of snacks is crazy. A large size popcorn and a large drink I think would set me back about thirteen bucks. I usually smuggle in my own Milk Duds, but I justify that to myself because I usually wind up shelling out about 10 or 11 bucks for a medium popcorn and soda.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:55 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
johnny larue wrote:
jksander wrote:
Snacks aren't bad either: a "King Combo" (two medium drinks and a large popcorn -- in an actual bucket, not a leaky bag, and WITH refills!) -- costs $8.25


Nice! Though I pay a reduced fare to get into the joint, the price of snacks is crazy. A large size popcorn and a large drink I think would set me back about thirteen bucks. I usually smuggle in my own Milk Duds, but I justify that to myself because I usually wind up shelling out about 10 or 11 bucks for a medium popcorn and soda.


The manager does a good job making sure they get movies which will draw crowds ... movies become events during the summmer and at Christmas, and it's not unheard of for shows to sell out on a daily basis at night if the movie's the right fit. When Titanic came out the theater only had two screens, and Titanic sold out EVERY SHOWING for weeks ... it stayed in town for at least two months. So they know how not to ream their audience with horrible prices. Keeping a reasonable ticket price / concession price keeps people coming back regularly rather than movies being a special occasion deal.

I think more theaters could do that kind of business if they were smart about planning and if they knew their neighborhood / region.


Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:45 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
I hardly go to the big blockbuster films anyway; I prefer not to give my money to the studios if I can help it.

And back in the day, my friends and I were the Harry Houdinis of sneaking food into the theaters. We did it all; chips and candy, hoagies, pizza, Chinese, McDonalds, a six-pack of beer. Those were the days.

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:47 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
And back in the day, my friends and I were the Harry Houdinis of sneaking food into the theaters.

This just makes me think that you guys swallowed the food, smuggled it into the theater in your stomachs, then barfed it back up once inside so you could eat it again during the movie.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:55 am
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
To be honest, I find this to be very exciting. What movies need right now is something akin to a market crash, something to really traumatize those who control the industry. My ideal scenario is for executives to suddenly realize the damage Avatar might have done in the long run, to the point where they no cancel its sequels. But oh well, it's a pipe dream. Something slightly more plausible? One of the Avatar sequels flops hard. Now THAT would be exciting. Something like that will happen eventually, it's only a matter of time. I can't wait.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:33 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
My parents pay for my movie tab (although I can't go to blockbuster any more because I ran up a 100 tab...yikes!), so I don't really notice it that much.

JB has it right though, movies are going down the toilet in terms of quality. My parents tell me that there were just as many crappy movies in the past as there are now, but since only the good ones last, we only remember them and not the crappy ones. That's true, but I see a TON of movies. And believe me, the lack of quality in the new releases is pretty scary.

As I see it, there are a number of problems that are causing this decline; some are easy fixes, but others aren't.

Problem number one: Emphasis on visual quality over character and plot.: Everyone who knows anything about movies mentions this as a main reason why movies are going down the tubes. From a business perspective, it makes sense. Foreign viewers are a huge market, much bigger than US viewers. The problem is that not every culture identifies with the same plots or characters. Consider how many people reacted to "Drive." It was well recieved by critics, but those who were expecting a traditional action movie were in for a surprise when they saw a movie that was really meant for the arthouse crowd. Therefore, the studios tone down the personalities of the characters and the complexity of the plot so that foreign viewers won't be turned away, and amp up the visual style because everyone loves something pleasing to the eye.

That's all fine and dandy for getting people into the theater, but will they want to revisit it? Not likely. There's no one to latch onto. No character worth revisiting. No story that's worth going through twice. I saw Immortals a few weeks ago. It was fun, but I doubt I'll get the Blu Ray unless I can get it for dirt cheap, and even then I won't watch it that often. What's really interesting is that foreign audiences feel the same way: Fun once, but who really gives a damn? It's the jack of all trades, master of none. But unfortunately for moviegoers, that's how the studios get the big bucks.

Problem 2: Take the money and run In general, there are really three types of actors that I see in Hollywood: thespians with talent (Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Day Lewis, Tom Wilkinson, just to name a few), tabloid kings and queens whose only assets are their looks and their vapid fans who only care about their looks or what they read about them in the tabloids (Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, etc), and character actors with talent but no break (Temura Morrison, Campbell Scott, Johnny Whitworth, etc). The first group brings in big money, but the temptation to make a stupid movie for big bucks is too alluring to resist (how else does one explain the unending parade of sequels). The second group brings in MEGA MONEY, at least for now. I wasn't surprised when I read that Taylor Lautner cried at the end of Breaking Dawn part 2...once this franchise wraps up, his career is essentially over. He may make a few more movies, but he doesn't have the talent to keep him on top once his fan base moves on to the next talentless-but-photogenic star whose well marketed. The final group is probably the saddest case. They've got the skills, but they're constantly passed over. Therefore, they slug it out with whatever they can get (Temura Morrison in "Tracker." I rest my case.) and pray that they make it, or fall by the wayside.

The solution is two-fold: scripts need to be better so that actors with talent will see something worth putting effort into, group two needs to be replaced with equally photogenic actors who have talent, Group 2 needs to be replaced with actors who have talent (there are seven billion people on this planet and counting...there are probably a thousand equally attractive guys who could do the Twilight roles justice)...and be replaced with Group 3. Of course, that's not how things work, so this is wishful thinking.

Problem 3: Hollywood is only paying attention to fringe markets: Again, I’m making generalizations, but you’ll see my point. If you really think about it, there are only three types of movies out there these days (not counting Best Picture contenders, but I’ll get to that later): superheroes, Twilight-ish movies, and hipster movies. Superheroes make big money because they have built in audiences. For a while, the public was open to the idea. It was new and different. Now after 10+ years, the novelty has worn off. We get the formula, and no amount of visual pizazz or one-liners is going to change that. Like everything, superheroes have their diehards, but there are plenty of people who are getting bored with them. What studios like in addition to the built-in audience is that the movies are pretty much storyboarded to begin with. Sure, there are some changes, but the groundwork is there (this leads me to my final problem, but that’s for later). That means less risk of it being rejected as a wannabe’s bad LSD trip. The “Twilight” movies and their clones are a travesty to filmgoers, and most people regard them with disgust like every other sane person on Earth. But their primary market, tween girls, are just as undiscriminating about the quality of their movies as tween boys. Who cares if they can act as long as they look good (or in the case of boys and the “Transformers” movies, if there’s a lot of action (what’s adrenaline?)? I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this in some respects, but even if my fantasy celebrity was in Twilight I wouldn’t watch it unless I had to. Finally, there is my least favorite group: the hipster genre. Initiated by the utterly obnoxious and narcissitic “auteur” Wes Anderson (and subsequently carried on by the likes of “Juno,” “Eagle vs. Shark,” and “Gigantic”), these movies are defined by a few things: characters who are depressed, antisocial misfits, characters who delight in their own nihilism and rejecting anything mainstream, and dressing in the most odd clothes they can find (and appearing to shop ONLY at Urban Outfitters…clothes and coffee table reading included). Suffice it to say that this is probably the least populous fringe group, but in some ways the loudest. I remember complaining on iMDb when I heard that Wes Anderson was adapting a Roald Dahl book (Wes Anderson’s style and themes definitely do not make good material for children in my book), I was torn apart. Literally.

Hollywood goes after these markets because they are easy to identify and target, and they make their movies profitable. The problem is that they’re fringes; not everyone likes superhero movies (even tongue in cheek ones), “Twilight” or Wes Anderson. Mainstream audiences are extremely difficult to please because they are so diverse, and with so much money at stake, they want to be as sure as possible that they’re going to be profitable. But more and more mainstream audiences are turning away, and that’s troubling. Ditto for adults, who want something a little more mature (raunchy comedies being excepted). Adults used to love going to the movies. Now they stay away because they don’t belong to any of these movies, and they love their blood and gore & sex and nudity (you know, the real pleasures of movies), which eliminates the PG-13 crowd.

Problem 4: Inflation. JB got it right when he talked about inflation hitting the consumer hard. But they’re also hitting Hollywood hard, which drives up budgets and thus ticket prices. In order to attract actors to sequels and bland projects, studios have to offer their stars absurd amounts of money. Take Robert Downey, Jr. in “Iron Man 2.” Because Downey was making a comeback, his salary for the first one was a relatively slim 500 grand. For the sequel, he was paid $10 million. You’d have to be a lunatic to turn that kind of a change down, and that’s how they bring big names to movies people go to only because they feel a sense of obligation (water cooler talk, fan of the original, etc).

Problem 5: lack of surprise. We go to movies to be told stories, agreed? But every movie these days has an audience so built in that you know exactly what to expect. Sequels, remakes, reboots, movies based on bestsellers/classics. Even if we haven’t seen the originals, they still feel derivative. What’s the point of going if you already know what it’s going to be like and what’s going to happen? People go because these movies are more aggressively marketed than unique and original movies like “Girlfight” or “Black Book.” If people knew about them, then a lot more people would spend their time watching these kinds of movies as opposed to another sequel or remake.

Anyway, that’s my essay (I'm going to ignore 3D and its surcharges and the dimming of the bulbs and theater sound because they have been done to death). Thoughts?

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Last edited by moviemkr7 on Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:00 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
My problem with movie theaters is the non-movie noise. I've been really sensitive to this for a while, but I cannot STAND it when someone near me is loudly munching on popcorn, nachos or what not, or is sniffling up a bunch of mucus. Especially these days when theaters are so cramped and tiny, those noises become magnified tremendously. I used to love going to movie theaters, but it's so bad now that I dread going. I love it when I'm essentially the only one there.

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:04 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
MGamesCook wrote:
To be honest, I find this to be very exciting. What movies need right now is something akin to a market crash, something to really traumatize those who control the industry. My ideal scenario is for executives to suddenly realize the damage Avatar might have done in the long run, to the point where they no cancel its sequels. But oh well, it's a pipe dream. Something slightly more plausible? One of the Avatar sequels flops hard. Now THAT would be exciting. Something like that will happen eventually, it's only a matter of time. I can't wait.


I hope for this too, but it's likely not going to happen. Studios are risk-averse. Always have been, always will be. With so much money at stake, who can blame them? This being the case, they'll always find another way to push the bar ever so slightly. And forget about an Avatar-ish movie flopping. Studios are too careful for that to happen. Look at Battlefield Earth. That was a mega flop, and only one of the subsidiaries closed up. Nothing changed. Ditto for "Cutthroat Island."

Sad but true.

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:09 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
It's not really surprising that the media always report box office figures - that way they can have numbers that are always bigger than the old ones. If they reported ticket sales, they'd have to admit that people just don't go to the movies the way they did when Gone with the Wind was a new thing.

But my main point is to look at the other entertainments James mentions - yes, they all cost more, but they are all essentially live performances. To see sports or a play is to be watching the actual stars present in front of your eyes; they can't be doing what they're doing anywhere else at the same time. With a movie, it could be being shown to tens of thousands of people at once; the only people who need to be there to make it happen are the projectionists, and as we've seen that's probably one apprentice to run the whole megaplex.

So perhaps the question should be not "why are films relatively cheap compared with live performances" but "why are films so expensive compared with television, radio, and media for use at home or on the move".


Thu Dec 15, 2011 7:58 am
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