Blockbusters, new technologies cause increased ticket prices at theaters

What is being hailed as potentially the biggest summer movie season ever is well underway and Weststates Theater’s Movies 5, Unversity 6, and Stadium 8 have made some changes for the blockbuster season. One of which was a .50-cent price increase in ticket prices raising the cost from $5.50 and $7.50 to $6 and $8. Add an additional $2 surcharge for 3-D films and a trip to the theaters can be a costly expenditure.”I hate it, they’re too high” says Brett Reynolds, 18. “I use to be able to go to the movie theater and be able to spend a couple bucks and even take a date but now it’s like I have to work all freaking day just to be able to go see a movie,” he says. “I only go to a movie about once every few months now.” The increase in prices was an inevitable decision for Tony Rudman, owner of Weststate Theaters. “It’s an expensive proposition to be in the movie business right now,” he says. “I’m not getting rich off this running a movie theater.” New technologies like 3-D and digital releases means theaters must upgrade to stay in business. Weststates recently invested $1.5 million in their Cache Valley properties to meet distributor’s “requirement to have digital and 3-D” and this hurts when a substantial amount of ticket revenue goes back to Hollywood. The distribution of money reads like a math problem. The film companies take 70% of the standard ticket price, Rudman explains. “It’s $10 to go to a 3-D movie so you’ve got $7 to the film companies and $3 stay with us.” That remaining $3 must be stretched to cover the overhead of employee wages, insurance, taxes, utilities, and maintenance fees.Rudman feels the ticket price increase is reasonable. “It’s not like we’re getting that .50 cents,” he justifies. “I personally don’t feel like a 6% increase in five years is substantial but I understand how that hurts.” Consumers across the nation have tightened their belts in response to the slow economy. Wallets are thinner than they used to be for entertainment as gas prices continue to rise and unemployment remains high. Hollywood, too, has been affected as fewer people visit the theater. Attendance has been decreasing on an average of 4% since 2005 and the 2010 attendence levels were the 2nd lowest of the decade. 3-D has become the metaphorical savior for movie companies. The craze is an easy cash gimmick for the movie industry. Movie distributors can charge more for the added dimension which means added expense for moviegoers that is out of the control of local theaters. “They want you to book 3-D,” Rudman says. “In many cases before they allow you to have a non 3-D print they require you to book a 3-D print.” The extra $2 surcharge has not only frustrated thrifty moviegoers but theater owners as well. “We don’t make money off of 3-D anymore than non 3-D.”Still, a few grumblings about a higher price has not affected movie attendence in Cache Valley. With 12 sequels to popular franchises hitting theaters this summer Richard Davidson, Northern Regional Manager of Weststates Theaters, can compare local attendance of the Hangover, Kung Fu Panda, and Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sequels to their predecessors to get a clear indication of current attendance trends. “Hangover 2, Kung Fu Panda, and Pirates are about the same,” Davidson says. The sequel to smash-hit rated R comedy Hangover exceeded the original and Kung Fu Panda 2 beat the national attendance average. Both Rudman and Davidson confirm there are no plans for a price increase in the near future and are excited about the improvements. Stadium 6 will be an all-digital theater which means eliminating bulky film that ruins easily. “Film gets dirty. Film fades,” says Davidson. “If you’re not paying attention you can scratch film. So once we go all digital, the way the movie works, the very first show is the same as the very last show.” “I hope people up in Logan are excited when we get the University all done digital,” Redmond says. “It’ll be fun to run a midnight movie of Harry Potter on all six screens at once.”Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2 will be released in theaters on July 15.

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