The cost of going to a first run movie is roughly the same as tickets to the nosebleed section of a professional sporting event – especially if you get popcorn and soda. The high cost of movie tickets is a better small talk conversation topic than the weather. Some people like rain, some like the heat, but everyone feels that movie tickets are too expensive.
For well under $1500, you can get a great home theater system, including the 65″ television. The subwoofer will shake the house, the floors aren’t sticky, and you can can pause it when the baby cries or you need to pee.
Those of us who pay extra to see a movie in the theaters do it because we love the experience. The smell of the popcorn, that moment when the lights dim, the bad red robot moving through the grass – often the movie itself diminishes the experience. Nobody wants to see the end of theaters. In fact, we want the ceremony of the theater experience to be greater than what it is.
Over the past 20 years, theaters have increased efforts to make the experience that is worth the premium price. Megaplexes have added stadium seats, cup holders, cuddle seats, and even tables with group seating in some hipster venues. The results have kept the industry alive, but they have also muted the nostalgic red curtain experience.
When discussing films, friends often provide opinions of a given movie by declaring it to be worth seeing in theaters, a rental, or wait for it to come on Netflix (or worse television). This is a confession that the theater experience still offers something significantly more special than all of the the amenities of home viewing.
The problem with the current movie theater business model is that it is too rigid. The most avid Adam Sandler fan will pay $20 (including the snack – maybe) to see Grown Ups 6 on opening day. After that week goes by, Sandler begins competing with Avengers 9. Avengers will likely be well attended, even on week nights, for two or three weeks while Grown Ups will barely fill 50 seats all day on the weekends.