The Price of Going to the Movies: An Open Letter to the Theater Chains

dollar.jpgDear good folks at corporate head offices around Canada and the U.S.:

They say that the movies are magical. They extend our imaginations and at the same time bring our imaginations to vivid life for our very eyes to see. They move us, compel us and inspire us. In the midst of 2 hours they can make us laugh, make us cry, make us happy or sad. They show us the world as it is, was or even could be. Yes, the movies are truly a magical thing. Each one of us experiences the magic in different ways. But we all share in one common experience… the magical trick of watching our money disappear when we come to one of your theaters.

I’m not that old (just in my 30’s) and yet I can still easily remember as a teenager going to the show on $2.50 Tuesdays at my local theater here in Hamilton Ontario. That was half price! What a deal! Yes, $12 could get tickets for me and a date (not that I had many dates), a large popcorn and a couple of soft drinks. That was a little steep, but the movies were worth it.

Last week I went to my local Famous Players – Silver City theater on a Friday night. A single ticket was going to cost me about $14.00. Let me repeat that. A SINGLE ticket was going to cost me about $14.00! For those of us who are mathematically challenged, that was about $28.00 if I had a date (as I already mentioned, something that doesn’t happen that often). Having lightened my load of all that money, I was easily able to lightly walk over to the extortion , errrr‚Ķ I mean Concession stand to get some popcorn and a couple of drinks. I noticed on the menu board that there was a combo DEAL. The word DEAL was a welcome sight to my now impoverished eyes. Here was the DEAL. 2 regular sized soft drinks and a large popcorn for‚Ķ $12.00 after taxes?!?! $12.00 was the DEAL?!?! You do realize that I could have bought a 2 Liter of Coke and a 10 pack of Microwavable popcorn for $5 right? I nearly passed out when the girl at the counter told me a small bottled water would run me $3.

So far I would have spent $40 for a night at the movies. Lucky for me I didn’t have to pay for parking.

I still remember not that long ago when after sitting in my seat, the only thing between me and my movie (which I had paid for) was a couple of trailers. Not anymore. Today we are forced to sit through 4, 5 sometimes 6 commercials before even getting to the previews. How does that work? We pay to get in! When we watch free TV we understand having to sit through commercials… but when I pay for a pay-per-view movie, I expect there to be none. $28.00 for a couple of tickets and yet I still have to sit through all these tediously annoying ads?

Now, to be fair, the movie going experience has improved by leaps and bounds over the years. Bigger screens, better sound, more comfortable seating, bigger theaters, ect. We all understand that stuff has to be paid for. We as consumers are not an unsympathetic bunch. A friend of mine who works at Skywalker ranch recently commented that the public just doesn’t understand the cost of operating a movie theater these days. And perhaps that’s true. Perhaps you are not the money grabbing thieves I’m making you out to be. So I have a suggestion for you‚Ķ

A few years ago when gas prices started getting higher, my local gas station put up a big sign at every gas pump with a pie chart showing where the price of gas comes from. What percentage of the price went to crude oil expenses, what percentage went to taxes, what percentage went to refining‚Ķ and finally how much went to profit for the company. These signs helped us as consumers at least understand a little bit about why things were costing what they were. While we still didn’t like paying the amount we were for gas, we understood, and directed a little less ill will towards our friendly neighborhood gas station. You see where I’m going with this?

If you think I’m being unfair by insinuating that you are collectively gouging and taking advantage of us, perhaps it’s time you did a little public relations work and help us (the movie going public) understand why a $0.50 bag of popcorn must cost us $5.45. Help us to understand why we have to pay over $25 for 2 tickets. Help us understand why we have to sit through 10 minutes of commercials‚Ķ all while paying your friendly, hard working staff minimum wage. Because right now, we don’t understand at all.

So there it is. I humbly request you show us what it costs for you to put on a movie for us to watch. Then perhaps I won’t feel so bad about dropping $40-$50 for a night at one of your establishments.

Oh, and one more thing. Who do you think you’re fooling with these ads claiming that internet piracy is the cause of smaller tickets sales? The reason people go to fewer movies these days is because they can’t afford to take out a second mortgage to go to your theater geniuses. Just had to get that off my chest. Cheers!

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