In a long string of bad ideas, it’s hard to imagine something more out of touch and harmful to the health of movies as both an industry and art form than Regal Cinemas’ plans to vary pricing for different movies.
Since reading the news I’ve been struggling to come up with an idea that would do more to introduce even more class differentiation into the moviegoing experience and hasten the demise of theatrical distribution. I’ve been unable to come up with anything. Here are just some of the problems I’ve pondered:
It excludes poor people from big moments: Households struggling to pay bills for some reason probably don’t go to the movies, at least not the first-run houses, very often. Such trips might be saved for special occasions. Tentpole movies like the Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter or other franchise entries might fall into that category. If it’s already tough justifying the ~$60 it takes for a family of four to go see an evening show, it’s going to be harder when the price is suddenly $70 or $80. You’ve effectively made moviegoing into an elite activity.
They’re going to sell fewer tickets: While there are certainly other factors that contribute to the ever-falling number of movie tickets sold, the price has to be a big one. It’s just expensive and there are other options that don’t carry incremental costs. For $10 I can either see one movie in theaters or dozens for an entire month on Netflix. The price hike use dropping ticket sales as a point of justification, not acknowledging that it’s a self-defeating circle.
It creates less loyalty to the experience: Theaters of all kinds and sizes have been adding artisan menu options and luxury seating to try and create a unique experience that sets moviegoing apart from staying home with your increasingly nice setup. But you have to get people in the theater to begin with, and if you’re making that more difficult for the very movies that should be popular with the widest swath of the audience possible, you’re cutting off an opportunity to create any loyalty to that experience.
There are a number of other issues that could be enumerated. In short, this seems short-sighted and designed to create nothing but a wider cultural divide in the audience, not bring people together around something as communal as going to the movies.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.